March 31, 2022|Reports

“The Rise and Fall of Emma Hamilton”- Bob France

On Tuesday 22nd March, Bob France made a welcome return for our first ‘face to face’ meeting of 2022, attend by over forty members.  Bob is a volunteer guide and expert on Uppark and that is where he ‘met’ Emma.

Emma Hamilton was by any standards a remarkable woman.  She was victimised on the death of Nelson (despite his explicit last wishes) and ignored or criticised by subsequent historians, embarrassed that a married national hero should have had a mistress.

Emma was a real force of nature.  The daughter of a blacksmith from Cheshire, abandoned by her mother and bought up in poverty by her grandmother, she made her way to London on her own. She worked as a nursemaid, actress and erotic model until she eventually become one of Sir Harry Fetherstonhaugh’s mistresses at Uppark. Her artistic and dramatic abilities combined with her beauty made her the favourite subject of the painter George Romney, which in turn made her very well known to the British public.

In Italy she married the British Ambassador and antiquarian Sir Charles Hamilton,  becoming Lady Hamilton and the confidante of Queen Maria Carolina of Naples and Sicily.  She supplied valuable information to the British Government on the French alliance with the Spanish King (Carolina’s brother) and personally arranged three ships to supply food for Malta which was in rebellion against the French. She became recognised as a good singer, being offered work with the Madrid Royal Opera.She also developed a whole new art form called attitudes – portraying sculptures and paintings which was subsequently taken on by other female artists.

There is no doubt Emma and Nelson were deeply in love and, on the death of Sir Charles, she set up house for him at Merton. However, on Nelson’s death she was ignored and died aged only 49, in France.

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