Read England's Mistress: The Infamous Life of Emma Hamilton Online

Authors: Kate Williams

Tags: #Biographies & Memoirs, #Historical, #Europe, #Great Britain, #Leaders & Notable People, #Military, #Political, #History, #England, #Ireland, #Military & Wars, #Professionals & Academics, #Military & Spies

England's Mistress: The Infamous Life of Emma Hamilton

BOOK: England's Mistress: The Infamous Life of Emma Hamilton
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Lady Hamilton as Circe

I must sin and love him more than ever.
It is a crime worth going to Hell for.

—EMMA HAMILTON ON NELSON, 1804

LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
Text art
Lady Hamilton as Circe,
by George Romney, c. 1782, copyright © Tate, London
Waltzing!—or, a Peep into the Royal Brothel, Spring Gardens,
by Isaac Cruikshank, c. 1816, copyright © Guildhall/Heritage-Images
The Honourable Charles Greville, William Hayley, George Romney and Emma Hart,
by George Romney c. 1784, copyright © The Trustees of The British Museum
Lady Hamilton as a Bacchante,
engraving by Charles Knight after George Romney's copy, 1797, copyright © The Trustees of The British Museum
Attitudes of Lady Hamilton,
by Pietro Antonio Novelli, 1791, copyright © National Gallery of Art, Washington, Ailsa Mellon Bruce Fund
Dress Flounce—Nelson Bronte, c. 1799, copyright © National Maritime Museum, London
A Mansion House Treat—or, Smoking Attitudes!,
by Isaac Cruikshank, 1800, copyright © The Trustees of The British Museum
A Cognocenti Contemplating the Beauties of the Antique,
by James Gillray published by Hannah Humphrey, February 11, 1801, copyright © National Portrait Gallery, London
LAssemblée Nationale

or, Grand Co-operative Meeting at St Ann's Hill,
by James Gillray, published by Hannah Humphrey, June 18, 1804, copyright © The Trustees of The British Museum
First color insert
Emma Hart as Circe,
by George Romney, 1782, copyright © The National Trust, Waddesdon, The Rothschild Collection (Rothschild Family Trust), photographer: Mike Fear
Cupid Unfastening the Girdle of Venus,
by Sir Joshua Reynolds, 1788, copyright © Hermitage, St. Petersburg, Russia/The Bridgeman Art Library
Mrs. Cadogan
(Mother of Emma, Lady Hamilton), by Norsti, c. 1800, copyright © Royal Naval Museum
Portrait of the Hon. Charles Francis Greville,
by George Romney Private Collection, copyright © Christie's Images/The Bridgeman Art Library
Emma Hart as the Spinstress,
by George Romney, 1782-86, copyright © English Heritage Photo Library/Kenwood: Iveagh Bequest
Lady Hamilton as Nature,
by George Romney, 1782, copyright © Francis G. Mayer/Corbis
A View of the Bay of Naples, Looking Southwest from the Pizzofalcone Towards Capo di Posilippo,
by Giovanni Battista Lusieri, 1791 (watercolor, gouache, graphite, and pen and ink on six sheets of paper), copyright © The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
Sir William Hamilton,
by David Allan, 1775, copyright © The National Portrait Gallery, London
Emma Hamilton as a Bacchante,
by Elisabeth Vigée-Lebrun, c. 1790-92, copyright © Lady Lever Art Gallery, National Museums Liverpool
Le Signorine Napoletane,
or
Una Casa di Tolleranza nella Napoli del 1945,
by Mario Carbone, copyright © Archivio Carbone/Prima Pagina
Lady Hamilton as a Bacchante,
engraving by Henry Bone after Elisabeth Vigée-Lebrun's copy, c. 1803, copyright © Wallace Collection, London/The Bridgeman Art Library
Autograph letter of Lady Hamilton, 1798, copyright © British Library
Detail from
Portrait of the Family of Ferdinand IV,
by Angelica Kauffmann, 1783, copyright © Museo di Capodimonte, Naples/Scala Archives
Rear-Admiral Sir Horatio Nelson,
by Lemuel Francis Abbott, c. 1798, copyright © National Maritime Museum, London/Greenwich Hospital Collection
Second color insert
Admiral Nelson Re-creating with His Brave Tars After the Glorious Battle of the Nile,
by Thomas Rowlandson, c. 1800, copyright © National Maritime Museum, London
Frances, Lady Nelson,
by Henry Edridge, c. 1807, copyright © Royal Naval Museum
Modern Antiques,
by Thomas Rowlandson, 1806, copyright © The Trustees of The British Museum
Dido in Despair,
by James Gillray published by Hannah Humphrey, February 6, 1801, copyright © National Portrait Gallery, London
Commemorative silver pair-cased verge pocket watch, copyright © Christie's Images Ltd., 2005
Derby large cylindrical mug showing Britannia holding a picture of Nelson, copyright © Sotheby's, London
Fan celebrating the Battle of the Nile, 1798, copyright © National Maritime Museum, London
Dresses a la Nile Respectfully Dedicated to the Fashion Mongers of the Day,
published anon, by W Holland, October 24, 1798, copyright © National Maritime Museum, London
Baron Nelson of the Nile ribbon, copyright © National Maritime Museum, London
Six patch boxes and anchor necklace, copyright © National Maritime Museum, London
Three gold vinaigrettes, copyright © National Maritime Museum, London
Merton Place, Surrey, copyright © The Nelson Museum, Monmouth
Horatia Nelson,
after Henry Bone, c. 1806, copyright © National Maritime Museum, London
Silk picture in a frame, embroidery by Emma Hamilton, copyright © National Maritime Museum, London
The Death of Admiral Lord Nelson

in the Moment of Victory,
by James Gillray published by Hannah Humphrey, December 29, 1805, copyright © National Maritime Museum, London
Moral Maxims from the Wisdom of Jesus,
book inscribed by Emma Hamilton in 1809, copyright © Sotheby's, London
Lady Hamilton at Prayer,
by George Romney c. 1782-86, copyright © English Heritage Photo Library/Kenwood: Iveagh Bequest
Kings Bench Prison in London,
depicted by Thomas Rowlandson and Augustus Charles Pugin, aquatinted by Joseph Constantine Stadler, published by Rudolph Ackermann on December 1, 1808, copyright © National Portrait Gallery, London

CONTENTS

List of Illustrations

Prologue

Battle to Escape

1.
Harsh Beginnings

2.
Liquor and Honey

3.
Growing Up Poor

4.
Scrubbing the Stairs

5.
Traveling to London

6.
The School of Corruption

7.
Temptations to Voluptuousness

8.
Powder and Paint

9.
The Square of Venus

10.
Celestial Goddess

11.
Santa Carlotta's Nunnery

12.
Life in the Country

13.
Desperate Letters

Celebrity Mistress

14.
Charles Greville's Penitent

15.
London's Muse

16.
Entertaining the Envoy

17.
Negotiations

18.
Torn by Different Passions

19.
The Greatest Splendor in the World

20.
Painful Truths

21.
Sparing No Expense

22.
Brandishing Daggers

23.
Manipulating Sir William

24.
Engaged for Life

25.
A Difficult Part to Act

26.
Loving Maria Carolina

27.
A Very Extraordinary Woman

Neapolitan Nights

28.
The Hero Visits

29.
War Approaches

30.
In Fear of Napoleon

31.
The Battered Hero

32.
Falling into His Arms

33.
Passions in Palermo

34.
Neapolitan Rebellion

35.
Days of Ease and Nights of Pleasure

36.
Baron Crocodile's Road Show

Scandal and Stardom

37.
Cleopatra Arrives

38.
Show Time

39.
A Pledge of Love

40.
The Prince and the Showgirl

41.
Precious Jewels

42.
Paradise Merton

43.
Keeping Nelson

45.
Nelson's Lonely Mistress

46.
Money Is Trash

47.
Relighting the Fire

48.
Trafalgar

Backlash

49.
Mistress of a Mourning Nation

50.
Fashion on Credit

51.
Selling Nelson's Legacy

52.
The Friends of Lady Hamilton

53.
Trouble with the Relations

54.
Afflicting Circumstances

55.
Reading the
Herald

56.
“A Chance I May Live”

57.
Horatia Alone

Notes

Select Bibliography

Acknowledgments

PROLOGUE
Model, courtesan, dancer, fashion icon, actress, double agent, political hostess, mother, ambassadress, and hero's mistress, Emma Hamilton performed many roles in her astonishing rise from poverty to wealth and fame. None would have greater consequence for her than the part she played in Naples on July 19, 1798. She had joined the welcome party for Rear Admiral Horatio Nelson as his fleet anchored off the Bay of Naples. Nelson had come to protect Naples from the advancing French, and the Neapolitans were determined to give him a welcome fit for a hero. Rehearsals had been going on for weeks, but no one had been practicing as carefully as Emma Hamilton. Ravishingly beautiful and still only thirty-three, she realized that Nelson's arrival was a pivotal moment for her.
Her life would never be the same again.
Five years earlier, on Nelson's first visit to the city, Emma had hardly noticed the unprepossessing naval captain. By 1798, however, after his amazing success at the Battle of the Nile made him the one man who seemed able to save Europe from Napoleon, she saw his arrival as an opportunity to propel herself onto a bigger stage. Nelson was exhausted after weeks of fighting the French and in pain from his shot eye and the wound where his right arm had been amputated. As soon as the great man boarded the welcome boat, Emma threw herself upon him, weeping with happiness. To the sounds of cheers and cannon fire resounding across the bay, she gathered Nelson into her arms and, leaving the astonished royal entourage and her husband, Sir William Hamilton, in her wake, supported the triumphant but exhausted hero into the ship's cabin. The man fêted as England's bravest man had collapsed onto the bosom of Europe's biggest female celebrity. Emma Hamilton was already legendary as the girl from nowhere who had catapulted herself into high society. Her consummate piece of stage management on that July day marked the start of her passionate affair with Nelson—and the beginning of her ascent to a level of fame we would find breathtaking even today.
How did Emma, a girl born into terrible poverty and exploitation, reach the position where she was able to seduce and charm England's most famous man? What did she have to do to get there?
If it were fiction, Emma's life story would be dismissed as improbable. It is a story that takes us through the grand sweeps of eighteenth-century history to reveal all the glory and horror of her age. To understand how Emma turned herself into the most famous woman of her time, we must first go back thirty years and more than a thousand miles from the glittering Neapolitan court and the duties of an ambassador's wife to her poverty-stricken birth in the slums of northwest England.

Battle to Escape

BOOK: England's Mistress: The Infamous Life of Emma Hamilton
3.9Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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