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Sunday, March 9, 2014

Lady Hamilton and Lord Nelson

Lord Nelson and Lady Hamilton
Heart of oak are our ships, jolly tars are our men,
we always are ready; Steady, boys, steady!
We'll fight and we'll conquer again and again.

By the time Lord Horatio Nelson met Lady Emma Hamilton, he was a hero of epic stature in the eyes of the British Empire. His dramatic and bold actions against the French, during the Napoleonic Wars, led to one victory after another boosting the morale and hopes of his fellow Brits.

Although many details of the early life of Emma Hamilton are unclear, she is known to have lived in the village of Hawarden, where she worked as a maid. Her life turned more interesting when she became friends with a fellow domestic servant, Jane Powell, who introduced her to the life of an actress. Emma's beauty and charm led her into high society, where she became the mistress, and eventually the wife, of Sir William Hamilton.

Now, as Lady Hamilton, her former life of uncertainty and struggle was replaced with a solid position in late 18th century England. As wife of the British Envoy, Lady Hamilton met Horatio Nelson in 1793, when he came to gather reinforcements against the French during the Napoleonic Wars. He returned in 1798, a living legend after his celebrated victory at the Battle of the Nile, in Aboukir.

Emma is reputed to have flung herself upon Nelson in admiration, calling out “Oh God, is it possible?” The war had aged Nelson, and he was weakened by the loss of an arm during battle. Lady Hamilton nursed him back to health, under the roof of her husband, and arranged a party of 1,800 guests to celebrate Nelson’s 40th birthday.

In 1801, Emma gave birth to Nelson’s daughter, Horatia. They were still living in the house of Sir William, but this was soon to change. Nelson bought a small cottage near what is today Wimbledon, and set up a home with Emma, their daughter, her mother….and Sir William, who idolized Lord Nelson.

They became the "cult couple" of the time; the two most famous and celebrated Britons in the world. Their romance was tolerated, and even encouraged by all.