Lady Emma Hamilton

Emma Hamilton was the beautiful young wife of Sir William Hamilton, British Ambassador in Naples. Hamilton studied the volcanoes of Vesuvius and Etna. He collected art and porcelain. He was a lover of beauty and elegance. His second wife Emma was born in Wirral, England – the daughter of a blacksmith and a servant. A great beauty of her day, she married the much older Sir William in 1791 (he was 61). Famed for her vivacity and charm – she is seen in this painting portraying a follower of Bacchus (god of wine). Emma performed a variety of dances and poses that she called ‘attitudes’. Some of these dances caught the eye of Lord Nelson who was visiting Naples in the 1790s – he fell in love with the beguiling Emma and they had two daughters together.

This painting by Elizabeth Vigee-Lebrun (1792) hangs in the Lady Lever Art Gallery, Port Sunlight, just a few miles from where Emma was born. In the days of the Grand Tour visitors to Naples were determined to receive an invitation to Lord Hamilton’s home in the hope of seeing Lady Emma performing. Nelson was no exception. #grandtourist #educatedtraveller #napoli #naples #grandtour #history #art – for more on the history of the Grand Tour:

Emma Hamilton as a follower of Bacchus – artist Elizabeth Vigee-Lebrun 1792

For more on the Grand Tour check out numerous articles on our website:

Artist - Carl Spitzweg - English Tourists in the 'Campagna' c. 1835
Artist – Carl Spitzweg – English Tourists in the ‘Campagna’ c. 1835 – Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Nationalgalerie.

2 thoughts on “Lady Emma Hamilton

  1. Another excellent and erudite article, Janet – but I’m surprised that you omitted to mention Emma Hamilton’s little-known but intriguing contribution to our popular and sporting culture, resulting from the particular hold which she regularly exercised over Lord Nelson when his amorous exploits regrettably got out of hand. When this occurred, Emma Hamilton would place her arm under Nelson’s arm and swiftly and deftly twist Nelson’s right arm up to the back of his neck and pinion him to the bedchamber, thus rendering him incapable to any further assault on her.
    This occurred so frequently, that others began to adopt her technique whenever they needed to defend themselves from any assault by the many footpads who were always on the prowl.
    So popular was this defensive technique, that it soon became known as a “Half- Nelson” – and was subsequently officially adopted by the Wrestling fraternity.
    Sadly, credit for Emma Hamilton’s contribution to British Sporting Culture was never recognised, which is possibly why her invaluable but little-known achievement never achieved the public recognition which it undoubtedly deserved; so I reckon that today, April 1, is a fitting time to remind you of this unfortunate omission from your brief biographical details of one of the more fascinating achievements of such an interesting historical figure.
    Otherwise, as my History teacher used to say. “A good effort”!
    With kindest regards,

    Liked by 1 person

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