Timeline: Emma Hamilton

1765

April 26: - Born in Cheshire.

May 12: - Baptised as Emy Lyon.

June 21: - Emma’s father, Henry Lyon, is buried. Emma and her mother (Mary Lyon) move to Hawarden, Flintshire to live with Mary’s mother, Sarah Kidd.


1777

Starts work as under-nursemaid for Mr Honoratius Leigh Thomas of Hawarden.


1778

Moves to London and becomes nursemaid to Dr Richard Budd.


1781

Summer: Lives with Sir Harry Fetherstonhaugh (pronounced Fanshaw) as his mistress at his mansion, Uppark, in Sussex.

November: Pregnant by Fetherstonhaugh who breaks all ties with her, she returns to her grandmother’s in Hawarden.


1782

March: Gives birth to Emma Carew, who is entrusted to a nursemaid, Mrs Kidd

Spring: Moves to Paddington Green, London, with her mother and Charles Greville, her new, wealthy lover.

Spring: Introduced to artist George Romney who paints her at least 38 times.

Autumn: Charles Greville introduces Emma to his uncle, the widower and antiquarian Sir William Hamilton, who is the ambassador at the court in Naples.


1784

Summer: Sir William visits his nephew and says of Emma, 'She is better than anything in nature. In her particular way she is finer than anything that is to be found in antique art.'

Emma gives her daughter into the care of Mr and Mrs Blackstone, who offer a permanent home and schooling. Emma does this when Charles Greville makes her choose between him or the baby.


1786

March 13: Greville arranges for Emma to holiday in Naples. She leaves England under the impression that Greville will follow her shortly.


1786

April 26: Emma arrives in Naples and, after a few months, becomes aware that Greville has actually exchanged his mistress to his uncle in return for him to have his debts paid off.

October: Emma becomes Sir Hamilton’s mistress.


1791

May 16: Emma and William visit England to seek George III’s consent to marry.

September 6: Emma and William marry at St. Marylebone Church.


1793

September 12: Emma’s first meeting with Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson in Naples.


1798

September 22: Nelson, now the great hero after the battles at St Vincent and the Nile, arrives in Naples. Emma is delighted to see him.

December 23: With the French invasion imminent, Nelson evacuates the Hamiltons and the Neapolitan Royal Family, with whom Emma and William are great friends, to Palermo in Sicily. It is believed that their affair begins at this time.


1799

June 24: Nelson returns to the recaptured Naples with Emma and Sir William.


1800

April: The Hamiltons accompany Nelson in the Foudroyant on a Mediterranean cruise.

April: Emma becomes pregnant, reputedly with Nelson’s child. Nelson and the Hamiltons start an overland journey towards England - and towards Nelson's wife.

November 6: After travelling through towns including Vienna, Dresden and Hamburg, Nelson and the Hamiltons land at Gorleston beach, Norfolk and are given a rapturous welcome in Yarmouth as they enter the town.

November 9: Emma and William arrive at their house in Grosvenor Square where they are joined by Nelson.

December 23: Emma, 8 months pregnant, spends Christmas with Nelson and her husband at William Beckford’s Gothic mansion, Fonthill in Wiltshire. She gives a performance of her famous ‘attitudes’ - mimes and stories using costume and poses.


1801

January 25: Emma gives birth to Horatia at 23 Piccadilly, London where she lives in rented accommodation with Sir William. Nelson leaves to join the Channel Fleet. Nelson and Emma invent a code for use in their letters - they make it seem that they talk of a child which had belonged to 'Thompson', one of Nelson’s sailors but whom they had adopted. As Emma still lives with her husband, the child is given to a Mrs Gibson to be cared for.

March: Nelson visits Yarmouth and stays, on the St. George, for about ten days while he waits to sail for the Baltic to fight the Danes. He tries to persuade Emma to visit and is furiously jealous that she cannot as she is spending time with the Prince Regent.

July 1: Nelson returns to Yarmouth on leave after the Battle of Copenhagen, desperate to see his daughter with whom he has only spent three days since her birth in January.

Summer: Emma and Nelson spend time together in Kent.

October: Emma arranges the purchase of Merton Place, Surrey on behalf on Nelson and moves in with Sir William.

October 24: Nelson joins the Hamiltons at Merton Place prior to the trio embarking on a tour of the Midlands and Wales.


1803

April 6: Sir William dies in Piccadilly aged 72. Emma’s debts are settled out of his will.

May 13: Horatia is christened at St. Marylebone Church and moves out of Mrs Gibson's care and into Merton Place.

May 16: Nelson leaves for Portsmouth to take up his new position as Commander-in-Chief of the Mediterranean Fleet.

December: - Emma gives birth to Nelson’s second child (Emma) between Christmas and New Year.


1804

April: Horatia has chicken pox and the baby catches it too. She dies. Nelson has never seen her but he is devastated by the loss.


1805

August 20: Nelson joins Emma for the first time in two years at Merton Place.

September 12: Emma and Nelson take communion together. Exchanging rings they affirm the nature of their relationship and compare it to a marriage. Nelson ignores the fact that he is still married to Fanny.

September 13: Nelson leaves Merton to rejoin the fleet. He writes in his diary 'Friday night, at half past ten drove from dear, dear, Merton where I left all which I hold dear in this world, to go to serve my king and country ...' and says 'Brave Emma. If there were more Emmas, there could be more Nelsons.'

October 19: Nelson writes his last letter to Emma which is unfinished and is delivered to her after his death saying, 'My dearest beloved Emma, ... I will take care that my name shall ever be most dear to you and Horatia, both of whom I love as much as my own life ...'

October 21: Nelson writes a codicil to his will (witnessed by Captains Hardy and Blackwood) stating, '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.' Later that day Nelson is fatally wounded by a musket shot at the Battle of Trafalgar.

November 6: Mr Whitby of the Admiralty tells Emma of Nelson’s death. She screams and faints. When she comes round she sits silent and withdrawn, unable even to cry, for almost ten hours. In Nelson’s will Emma is left Merton Place and its contents, a cash sum of £2000 and £500 a year for life from his Italian estate.


1808

November: Emma is declared bankrupt. Since 1806 she had kept open house to any professed friend or acquaintance of Nelson, who took her hospitality and gave nothing in return. Merton Place together with the rest of her property is assigned to creditors and a sum of £3,700, to be charged on the estate, is raised for her immediate necessities.


1810

January 14: Emma’s mother dies.


1813

Spring: Emma is arrested for debt and consigned to the King’s Bench open prison where she remains for a year. Whilst there the Prince of Wales dines with her.


1814

May: Two volumes are published anonymously, entitled ‘The Letters of Lord Nelson to Lady Hamilton with a supplement of Interesting Letters by Distinguished Characters.’ The publisher was possibly James Harrison or a servant, Oliver, with whom Emma had quarrelled. Emma is accused of selling the letters for personal gain.

July 2: Two friends negotiate a temporary release from prison for Emma. She and Horatia head for Calais where they live at several different addresses.


1815

January 15: Emma, whose health has deteriorated and had been relying progressively on alcohol, dies. She is buried in Calais in the graveyard of the Eglise de St. Pierre. During the rebuilding of Calais after the First World War the grave disappears. Horatia returns to Norfolk where relatives from Nelson’s mother’s side look after her. She later married the Revd. Philip Ward and had eight healthy children, descendants of whom still live in Norfolk. Emma Carew, her first daughter about whom Nelson never knew, became a nun in a convent in the East End of London. having been taken in by another family when very young, she had heard rumours that Emma was her mother, but did not believe it.


Visiting Us:

Visits usually take between one to two hours. There is full wheeled access to the galleries, shop, toilets and Maritime Courtyard. We also have a car park directly adjacent to the museum.

Admission Fees:

  • Adults £3.95 (over 16)
  • Concessions £3.50 (OAP, students)
  • Children £2.50 (Over 3, under 16)
  • Family ticket £12.00 (2 adults, up to 4 children)
  • We offer discounted rates for pre-booked groups
    Contact the museum for further details on
    01493 850 698

Opening Times:

    1st Feb - 31st Oct

  • Monday - Friday 10am - 4pm
  • Saturday & Sunday 1pm - 4pm
  • Last admission is 30 minutes before closing.

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