The tragic life of Emma Hamilton

*as posted on July 29, 2021

The beauty of Emma Hamilton is a historical fact immortalized in cinema, literature, and the Arts. Her incredible love story with the British hero, Lord Horatio Nelson, was immortalized in the movie Lady Hamilton, starring the most famous couple at the time: Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier. It was through this movie that most foreigners became familiar with her story.

Bold, beautiful, ambitious, and famous

From a poor background, Emma was born as Amy Lyon, 256 years ago, the daughter of a blacksmith she never even met. Her mother and grandmother raised her but were unable to provide basic education or luxury. At age 17, with undeniable beauty, Amy adopted the name Emma Hart and moved to London to try her luck.

There were few possibilities outside the marriage for women: being a domestic, an actress, or a prostitute were the options, and all were apparently tried by Emma. At the age of 12, she started as a maid, but she couldn’t stay in the house for long. At 17, he became the lover of Charles Francis Greville. By this time he already had a daughter who was raised by her grandmother. With Charles, she gained a taste for fashion and education and it was also through him that met artists like George Romney, who was enchanted by her features and elected her as his muse. Before long, Emma was famous in London, with several paintings and prints.

Unfortunately, Charles had no good intentions. In addition to winning over his mistress’s paintings, he convinced her that he would marry her abroad, and so Emma traveled to Naples, where they would officially join. However, unbeknownst to the girl, her lover “sold her” to his uncle, Sir William Hamilton, a wealthy and much older widower, who collected pictures and statues of beautiful women and became enamored with her paintings.

The idea was that Sir William would take Emma as a lover for a while before Charles resumed the affair. However, Sir William liked the acquisition and officially married Emma, ​thus ​making her Lady Hamilton.

In Naples, Emma befriends the kings and becomes one of the most influential local women. For his wife, ​​Sir William did not deny anything and she lived happily in this arrangement until she met the naval hero Sir Horatio Nelson, who came to Naples to ask Sir William for support. The young couple understood each other immediately, with Emma being crucial in helping Nelson on his quest.

Emma and Nelson did not see each other for 5 years and, when they met again, he was already without an arm, aged, and with vision problems. Nothing to stop Emma from staying in love, apparently. The two openly embarked on a romance, accepted by her husband, not so much by Nelson’s wife, Fanny.

When Nelson was called back to London, Emma accompanied him. By this point, everyone knew about the romance and it didn’t help that Emma became pregnant. Fanny’s unhappiness got to the point where it made her husband choose between the two, of course, losing in the process. Sir William died pennilessly, and Emma inherited nothing of significance as his widow. It was okay, as Nelson’s idea was to marry the love of his life. However, he died in battle, before changing his will. Without the two men who supported her, Emma soon went downhill financially. In fact, he never emotionally recovered from Nelson’s death.

Alcoholic, in debt, and aging, Emma fled to France where she died, at age 49, practically a beggar.

A tragic, sad, and extremely romantic story, immortalized by a brilliant performance of Vivien Leigh in that which was known as Winston Churchill’s favorite movie.


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