The Immortal Muse.
Today is Trafalgar Day. Every Englishman walks a little taller . The Immortal Memory will be toasted as I and eleven others sit down in the Punch Tavern, Fleet Street for a full English breakfast. A meal washed down by good English ale. The convention of this annual event is that we all give a short talk. Mine will be on the early life of “England’s Mistress” the blessed Emma.
Nelson said of his adoring mistress “If there were more Emmas there would be more Nelsons.” While his wife the mealy mouthed Lady N bemoaned him going to sea, Emma knew it was at sea that her lover gained fame, fortune and above all glory.
Emma lost her blacksmith father when young. Aged twelve she and her mother like any others left their Cheshire home for London. Always a pretty lively personality she used her abilities well . She knew how to make men feel good, she was good looking and a flirt. All of her men worried about what was going on when they were out.
Whatever, in eight years she was the mistress of Sir William Hamilton. In thirteen years she was Lady Hamilton the power behind the Naples throne and waiting for Nelson.
At first there were jobs as a maid,bar girl, she was a working girl. She lost her virginity early by aged 14 she had a job posing in the notorious Temple of Health. Here a quack doctor guaranteed conception. Part of the deal was pretty girls wandering around in erotic poses. Emma a gifted actress and singer was a natural.
She graduated to the best brothel in London, Madame Kelly’s in Arlington Street. Here she caught the eye of the young buck Sir Harry Fetherstonhaugh,the owner of Uppark. He paid off Madame Kelly so the 15 year old Emma could entertain him and his pals full time. As a natural flirt and party girl Emma,who thrived on attention, is rumoured to have danced naked on the table. Way to Go Emma . But Sir Harry got bored and Emma got pregnant. She was out.
But Emma always adapted. She had befriended one of the less sporting of Sir Harry’s friend Charles Greville. He eventually agreed to take her in. Typically she was soon in love. Back in London she caught portrait painter George Romney’s eye who painted her sixty times. Other artists including Joshua Reynolds followed suit.
Greville had a problem. He was relatively poor and unmarried. But he had a rich uncle Sir William Hamilton. If Greville inherited he was a made man. When Sir William’s, our man in Naples, wife died there was a problem, he might marry again and thereby disinherit Greville.
So Greville offered the twenty old Emma to the 55 year Sir William. At first Emma cried and wept for her lost lover. But Sir William played a long game and Emma who always knew how her bread was buttered eventually accepted the antiquarian, she nicknamed Pliny into her bed. He in turn, being a gentleman(and wanting to keep his prize) after five years bent to her pressure and made an honest woman of her. But as we know this was just the back story to one of the greatest love stories in history.
Story with pictures-