27 NovThe Beautiful Lady Emma Hamilton Regency Romance Era Supermodel

Lady Hamilton as Circe. A hauntingly beautiful portrait by George Romney.My degrees are in history-which, as a chosen profession, is probably the surest possible way to die both educated and poor-but regardless of that fact there was never any other choice for me. Children and family notwithstanding, I’ve always loved history with a depth of passion unmatched by almost any other in my life-the unimaginable heroics, the glory and the majesty, the dark and scandalous hidden depths, the purity and the pain, the total culminating whimsy created by the collision of circumstance, fate…and opinion that has changed history’s course 10 million times a day ever since time began. I love it all and can happily spend hours and days jumping from nebulously connected fact to nebulously connected fact like a bloodhound on a cold trail, seeking the truth behind some long ago writer’s opinion….

Lady Hamilton as Thais by Sir Joshua ReynoldsWomen’s history is my favorite and that is one historical topic that truly offers a world of cold trails to follow, for let’s be honest here-to the victor not only goes the spoils; but the right to tell the story in the way they see fit-and when it comes to history…women were more often than not the losers. If there is ever any doubt about that in your mind-try reading contemporary 19th century accounts of the true Regency Romance era love story of the incredibly beautiful, Lady Emma Hamilton (1765-1815) and her lover, the brilliant naval strategist, Lord Admiral Nelson. He was the hero of his time and she was the mother of his illegitimate children and the bad-girl tabloid queen and supermodel of her day. He was venerated and buried with all honors as the hero of the Battle of Trafalgar and she was vilified by her country and the journalists of her day-condemned to die in pain and poverty in a foreign land.

Lady Hamilton as Circe. A hauntingly beautiful portrait by George Romney.He was war torn, disabled and idolized as a war hero. She scratched her way up from humble beginnings and was denigrated for it; but what would he have been without her? True he was already a hero before they met; but she gained enormous influence with Neapolitan Queen Marie Caroline and used that influence to both the advantage of Nelson, her country and that of the fighting men of the British navy. In addition, she provided Nelson with a degree of unbounded love and adoration that could not help but counteract the disfiguring infirmities he had acquired along with the titles, honors and rewards that accompanied his status. Although the clearest picture of this can be achieved by reading his Love Letters to her, or in his last will and testament found below- if you don’t have the time or inclination to read them take a moment and watch this clip from That Hamilton Woman- (The Criterion Collection)-starring the gorgeous Vivian Leigh. (It’s a wonderful movie. I saw it years ago and never forgot it-and I just gave myself a copy as a early Christmas present.)

“OCTOBER 21st, 1805. Then in sight of the Combined Fleets of France and Spain, distant about ten miles.

“WHEREAS the eminent services of EMMA HAMILTON, widow of the Right Honourable Sir WILLIAM HAMILTON, have been of the very greatest service to my King and Country, to my knowledge, without ever receiving any reward from either our King or Country:

“First, that she obtained the King of Spain’s letter, in 1796, to his brother the King of Naples, acquainting him of his intention to declare war against England; from which letter the ministry sent out orders to the then Sir JOHN JERVIS, to strike a stroke if opportunity offered, against either the arsenals of Spain or her fleets:—that neither of these was done, is not the fault of Lady HAMILTON; the opportunity might have been offered:

“Secondly: the British Fleet under my command could never have returned the second time to Egypt, had not Lady HAMILTON’S influence with the Queen of Naples caused letters to be wrote to the Governor of Syracuse, that he was to encourage the Fleet’s being supplied with every thing, should they put into any port in Sicily. We put into Syracuse, and received every supply; went to Egypt, and destroyed the French Fleet:

“Could I have rewarded these services, I would not now call upon my Country; but as that has not been in my power, I leave EMMA Lady HAMILTON therefore a legacy to my King and Country, that they will give her an ample provision to maintain her rank in life.

“I also leave to the beneficence of my Country my adopted Daughter, HORATIA NELSON THOMPSON; and I desire she will use in future the name of NELSON only.

“These are the only favours I ask of my King and Country, at this moment when I am going to fight their battle. May GOD bless my King and Country, and all those I hold dear! My Relations it is needless to mention: they will of course be amply provided for.

“NELSON and BRONTE.

“Witness  {HENRY BLACKWOOD.
{T.M. Hardy”

The prayer and codicil were both written with HIS LORDSHIP’S own hand, within three hours before the commencement of the engagement in which he died.  His express wishes were ignored by the country for which he fought, and as a result the love of his life died in pain, poverty and exile.

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Smiles and Good Fortune,

Teresa Thomas Bohannon

Author of the Regency Romance A Very Merry Chase.

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