The Life of Emma, Lady Hamilton

Emma, Lady Hamilton, is best remembered as the mistress of Vice Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson and the muse of English painter George Romney.

In The Life of Lady Hamilton, J. T. Herbert Baily traces the life of Lady Hamilton, born in 1765 to a blacksmith and christened Amy Lyon, along its startling rise to the upper echelons of English society and power.

Disputing other reports of Emma’s early life that depict her working as a model and dancer for charlatan James Graham’s ‘Temple of Health’, Baily depicts a young girl whose early falterings give way to later strength.

Losing her virtue at a young age, with a child to show for it, Emma swiftly came under the protective wing of Charles Greville, who installed her in a home in London and paid particular attention to her education, introducing her to music and art and improving her command of language such that she was in no danger of embarrassing herself — or, more importantly, him — when in Society.

For Emma herself, life with Greville was more than she ever dreamed, and a deep and abiding love for her protector blinded her to any realistic understanding of the future of their relationship.

Greville’s financial difficulties, Baily explains, led to his need to cast off Emma — through an underhanded scheme that delivered her into the hands of his uncle, Sir William Hamilton.

Devastated, Emma initially refused Hamilton’s overtures, but eventually became his mistress, and in time his wife.

Yet her relationship with Hamilton, and even Greville before him, paled in comparison with her passion for Nelson, and his for her.

Though both were married, they secretly carried on an affair that produced a daughter and lasted until the day of Nelson’s death, from which Emma never truly recovered.

James Thomas Herbert Baily (1865-1914) wrote several biographical works and also served as the editor of The Connoisseur, a British magazine for collectors.

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