The love affair between Admiral Nelson and Lady Emma Hamilton was one of the biggest scandals of their time.
Lady Emma Hamilton was born as Amy Lyon on the 16th of April, 1765 in Ness. She was an artist’s model, and became famous for her performance of “attitudes,” shows in which she dramatically performed poses taken from classical literature and art. Emma was regarded as a woman of great beauty throughout all of Europe, and she became a muse for the artist George Romney.
Lady Emma and Admiral Lord Nelson met for the first time on the 12th of September, 1793. Nelson was a 35-year-old post-captain, while Emma was 28-years-old and married to Sir William Hamilton, the British Envoy of Naples. At the time of their first meeting, Nelson had just returned from six months at sea, and he was overtaken by her beauty.
Years later in 1798, Admiral Nelson returned to Naples, Italy, as a living legend after leading his forces to victory at the Battle of Nile. It was there that he was reunited with Emma after meeting her for the first time. Nelson had undergone several injuries at war, and Emma nursed him back to health. She also planned a 40th birthday celebration for him, in which 1,800 guests were in attendance. It was a large celebration; the streets were lined with signs proclaiming Viva Nelson!
The next time the two met, Emma arranged for a “ball” in Nelson’s honour. The two couldn’t keep themselves away from one another, and eventually, they 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 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, despite oftentimes being overshadowed by the men in her life.