The End

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“He came in, and with a pale countenance and faint voice said, ‘We have gained a great Victory’. ‘Never mind your victory,’ I said, “My letters – give me my letters’ –  Capt. Whitby was unable to speak – tears  in his eyes and a deathly paleness over his face made me comprehend him.  I believe I gave one scream and fell back, and for ten hours after I could neither speak nor shed a tear – days have passed on and I know not how they end or begin – nor how I am to bear my future existence.”

Lady Hamilton, in a recollection to Lady Foster

 Trafalgar

Lord Nelson, before the Battle of Trafalgar, wrote a codicil to his will, leaving everything to Emma and his daughter, Horatia.  He entreated the government, in the event of his death, to arrange for Emma’s financial security. Even, in his final hours, he pleaded for his nation to care for his family.

Lord Nelson fulfilled his duty.  His government did not.

The funeral was the most lavish in British History.  Lord Nelson had requested that Emma sing at his funeral.  They had plans to be buried side by side. Emma was shut out entirely, a foreshadowing of what was to come.  There was no government assistance for either Emma or Horatia, despite Lord Nelson’s sacrifice for his country.  Emma passed away on January 1815, in Calais, France, her daughter at her side.

Horatia lived a long life and found true love with Reverend Philip Ward.  They had ten children, three girls and seven boys.  She lived to see her children grow and find their own way in the world.  Her epitaph includes:

“…Here rests Horatia Nelson Ward, who died March 6th. 1881, aged 80, the beloved daughter of Vice Admiral Lord Nelson and widow of the above-named Revd. Philip Ward.”

Horatia never publicly revealed or recognized that she was the daughter of Emma Hamilton.  Indeed, over the years, many scholars have marginalized Emma’s relevance in Lord Nelson’s life.  How foolish.

In the end, Emma had the best of all outcomes.  She was loved, passionately and irrevocably by England’s greatest hero.

Lord Nelson

 

If you are interested in learning more about Lady Hamilton (and there is much more to know) I recommend reading: “England’s Mistress – The Infamous Life of Emma Hamilton” by Kate Williams

 

A New Century

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“England expects that every man will do his duty.”

Horatio Nelson

The Victory

Sir William was enormously fond of Lord Nelson.  Both men held each other in great esteem, enjoying the camaraderie of close friends.  Lord Nelson, Sir William and Lady Hamilton united in their resolve not to allow Naples to fall into the hands of Napoleon.  They called themselves “Tria juncto in uno.”    Under these perilous circumstances, Lord Nelson could see the strength and courage in Lady Hamilton.  Love between the two was inevitable.

By the end of 1798, the French invasion was imminent.  Lady Hamilton, a close friend and adviser to Queen Maria Carolina, wife of Ferdinand I of Naples, was at the Queen’s side as plans were made to flee. The “Tria juncto in uno,”   along with the royal family and those with means, escaped to Sicily.  Yet, England was beckoning.

Nelson was recalled to Britain and Sir William, whose health was failing, longed for home. The three set out, taking the long route through a Europe grateful for Lord Nelson’s recent victory at the Battle of the Nile.  Britain gave Lord Nelson a hero’s welcome. There was great jubilation.  It was 1800, the dawning of a new century.

Instead of a long life together, Lord Nelson and Lady Hamilton were given six years, much of that time spent apart.  They had one daughter, Horatia in 1801.  Sir William passed away in 1803, a heavy blow to both Emma and Lord Nelson.  And then destiny intervened.

On October 21, 1805, Nelson’s fleet gained the victory over a joint Franco-Spanish naval force at the Battle of Trafalgar.

“Now I can do no more.  We must trust to the Great Disposer of all events and the justice of our course.  I thank God for this opportunity of doing my duty.”

Horatio Nelson

Naples & A Wedding

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“First gain the victory and then make the best use of it your can.”

Horatio Nelson

England

Emma was famous. Sir Charles Greville did not relish being the “lesser half” of a power couple.  He was also in need of a huge injection of funds.  Ever a schemer, his goal was simple.  He would marry Henrietta Middletown, an eighteen-year-old rich heiress.  As well, he was newly involved with  Lady Craven, a playwright and daring socialite. The Emma “problem” would be easily solved by persuading his uncle, Sir William Hamilton, British Envoy to Naples, to take Emma on as a hostess for his Naples home, known for its excellent hospitality and elegance.

Sir William, fourth and youngest son of Lord Archibald Hamilton, was the Envoy Plenipotentiary to Naples. Known for his extravagant lifestyle, he mingled with the leading aristocrats in England.   A recent widower, he had returned to England to finalize his late wife’s estates.  By all accounts, his marriage was happy and successful, even though his late wife suffered from bouts of depression.

Emma was enchanting, Sir William acknowledged. And he did have need of someone to organize his household and arrange for the elaborate banquets and soirées.  Keeping the childish King Ferdinand of Naples and his demanding Queen Maria Carolina (sister to Marie Antoinette) was a difficult task at best. Emma would be ideal. Alas, poor Emma did not know of the secretive machinations that swirled about her.  Sir Charles simply lied. A short holiday to Naples, she was told, along with a promise that he would come for her.

Sir Charles, in his devious and selfish way, released Emma. Naples embraced Emma with open arms and showered her with fame, fortune and title.   Yes, she was distressed by Sir Charles’s rejection, but she grew to love Sir William.  They were married on September 6, 1791.    She became Lady Hamilton.

The French Revolution, which began in 1789, was creating instability and alarm in all of Europe.  Before long, Lady Hamilton would be embroiled in the politics of Kings and Queens.

“Throw your dreams into space like a kite, and you do not know what it will bring back, a new life, a new friend, a new love, a new country.” 

Anaïs Nin

All The Players

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“All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players: They have their exits and their entrances; And one man in his time plays many parts,”

William Shakespeare

English Countryside

Amy Lyon, 15 and without family support, thought only of survival.  Even so, her life unfolded seamlessly, with all the players coming together for a purpose, one person leading to another and another, each with ascending import.  First, it was Sir Harry Featherstonhaugh who hired her for several months as hostess and entertainer at a lengthy retreat at his Uppark country estate.  There, she became friends with Sir Harry’s guest, Charles Greville, second son of the Earl of Warwick and MP for Warwick, in the Midlands.

Sir Charles was thirty-two, unmarried, rather plain in appearance, and had limited financial resources.  Fascinated by Emma’s effervescent charm, it was not long before he fell in love with her. Within a few short months, she came to live with him as Mrs. Emma Hart.  Theirs was a complex relationship.  Sir Charles took on the task of turning Emma into a respectable lady; in return, Emma dressed modestly, ate slimming foods, and dutifully followed his lead without protest.

George Romney, the most fashionable artist of the day, met Emma in 1782.   It all began when Sir Charles commissioned George Romney to paint his portrait. Sir Charles, ever looking for ways to augment his meagre income, instigated a brilliant plan to make money.  Emma would model for George Romney and he would receive a cut of any sale proceeds.

Emma was a natural, thanks to her training in dance and modelling as one of Graham’s “Goddesses of Health.”  George Romney was enchanted by Emma’s unequaled talent to move and express moods.  Her flamboyant dress and various poses allowed her to reinvent herself into many characters. Emma’s spontaneity was infectious. She would sing, dance and talk, all through the sessions. Artist and model came to trust and rely on each other unreservedly. Their fame spread. With every painting sold, demand grew exponentially.  Within one year, Emma was the most sought after model in London.

George Romney had found his muse and his enduring obsession.  For the rest of his life, Emma pervaded his paintings and sketches.  She was simply irreplaceable.

“O for a Muse of fire, that would ascend, The brightest heaven of invention…”

William Shakespeare, Henry V

 

Time is Everything

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Time is everything; five minutes make the difference between victory and defeat.”

Horatio Nelson

 Lady Hamilton

She was born Amy Lyon, on April 16, 1765 in Ness, Chesire, a poverty-stricken community made up of a depressing huddle of thirty or more miners’ homes.  England was on the threshold of the industrial revolution and coal was the black gold of the eighteenth century. Her father, a blacksmith, died under suspicious circumstances, when she was two months old. She was left in the care of her mother, Mary Kidd who returned to her family home in Hawarden.  Amy Lyon had no formal education, nor did she have any means by which to change her situation.

“Time is everything,” as Lord Nelson declared years later.  Timing and luck were indeed in Amy Lyon’s favour.  Even at a young age, she was working, first as a maid for a local doctor in Harwarden and then for a family in Chatham Place, Blackfriars.  This is where she met her friend, Jane Powell, a turning point in Amy’s life.  Jane aspiration’s to become an actress inspired Emma to start working as a maid to the actresses of the Drury Lane theatre in Covent Garden.  Her next career was as a “Goddess of Health,” a model and dancer at James Graham’s “Temple of Health.”  An entrepreneur, showman and all around quack, James Graham used smoke fireworks and music, to support his claim that electricity, as administered via his technique, would cure all ills.   The Temple, declared at times to be the Elysian Palace, glittered with gold and silver and was embellished by Oriental drapes, crystal chandeliers, and paintings of medieval knights.  It is said that even the Prince of Wales came for visits.

James Graham soon gave up electricity, embracing the healing virtues of mud bathing, in cheaper accommodations off Pall Mall.  Amy left the Temple and accepted a position in Madam Kelly’s.   A chance meeting with Sir Harry Featherstonhaugh propelled Amy into the world of the aristocracy. She was 15.

“Being a woman is a terribly difficult task, since it consists principally in dealing with men.” 
 Joseph Conrad

A Love Story

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“Gentlemen, when the enemy is committed to a mistake we must not interrupt him too soon.”

Horatio Nelson

 Lady Hamilton

Every time I visit my Italian hairdresser, I leave with a fabulous haircut and an interesting tidbit of history about Italy.  For the last 10 years, the history lessons have become a delightful interlude, propelling my drive for more information long after the last snip of hair is swept away.   It was during one of those sessions that I first heard about a famous love story.

Everyone loves a love story.  Romeo and Juliet, Cleopatra and Mark Anthony, Paolo and Francesca, Napoleon and Josephine, Odysseus and Penelope, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, have been celebrated in literature, music, poetry and in the modern world, movies.  Less well-known is the story of the daring Lady Emma Hamilton and the courageous Lord Horatio Nelson.

There was a time when the Lady Hamilton and Lord Nelson were the most famous Britons in the world.  One of my primary goals when I visited London was to find evidence of their life together.  Their story has it all: romance, power, a revolution, victory and tragedy.   They met in Naples, much to the joy of my Italian hairdresser, but the story begins with humble beginnings and London’s sordid underworld.

This week I want to revisit my thoughts on a remarkable woman, who risked all to experience the abundance of life and love.

 I love him, I adore him, my mind and soul is now transported with the thought of that blessed ecstatic moment when I shall see him, embrace him……I must sin on and love him more than ever. It is a crime worth going to Hell for.”  Emma Hamilton on Nelson, 1804

 Lord Nelson