The love affair between Admiral Nelson and Emma Hamilton was the biggest scandal of their time.
Lady Emma Hamilton (born as Amy Lyon) was known as a great beauty. She was an artist’s model, and became famous around Europe for her performance of “attitudes,” shows in which she dramatically performed poses taken from classical literature and art.
In 1798, Admiral Nelson returned to Naples, Italy, as a living legend after the victory of the Battle of Nile. It was there that he was reunited with Hamilton after meeting her for the first time years prior. Nelson had undergone several injuries, and Emma nursed him back to health. She also planned a 40th birthday celebration for him, in which 1,800 guests were in attendance. The streets were lined with signs proclaiming Viva Nelson!
The next time the two met, Emma arranged for a “ball” in Nelson’s honor. The two eventually fell in love. Although they were both married and had never before been unfaithful, they began a relationship that was tolerated (and even encouraged) by Emma’s elderly and ill husband, Sir William. However, Nelson’s wife was not as tolerant, and the two eventually divorced.
In 1801, Emma gave birth to Admiral Nelson’s daughter, Horatia Nelson. That same year, Admiral Nelson, Sir William, Emma, and Emma’s mother resided together in the same home, an arrangement that sparked great intrigue among the public. Nelson and Emma became the most famous pair in Great Britain! Everyone watched their every move, and women looked to Emma for trends, fashion advice, and even dinner party planning!
Emma went down in history as one of the most famous celebrities of her time, but she was often overshadowed by the men in her life. She was a women not just of great beauty, but also great strength. Now you can learn more about Emma and her fascinating story; if you’re in the area, go check out the Emma Hamilton exhibit at the National Maritime Museum!