Updated: February 20, 2020

Emma (Lyon) Hamilton

(1765 - 1815)

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Emma (Lyon) Hamilton
1765 - 1815
Born
April 26, 1765
Neston, Cheshire County, United Kingdom
Death
January 15, 1815
Calais, Dordogne, Aquitaine in France
Other Names
Amy Lyon, Emma Hamilton (Lyon)
Summary
Emma Lyon Hamilton was born on April 26, 1765 in Neston, United Kingdom. She was born into the Lyon family and married into the Hamilton family. She was baptized in England. Emma died on January 15, 1815 at Calais, Dordogne, Aquitaine, France at 49 years of age. We know that Emma Lyon Hamilton had been residing in Calais, Pas-de-Calais County, Hauts-de-France France.
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Emma, Lady Hamilton
Born 26 April 1765 Neston, Cheshire, England
Died 15 January 1815 (aged 49) Calais, France
Cause of death Liver failure caused by amoebic dysentery
Title: Lady Hamilton (a courtesy title as wife of a British Knight, from 1791)
Dame Emma Hamilton (a title in her own right as a female member of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, from 1800)
Spouse: Sir William Hamilton
Children Emma Carew, Horatia Nelson
Emma, Lady Hamilton (26 April 1765; baptized 12 May 1765 – 15 January 1815) was an English model and actress, who is best remembered as the mistress of Lord Nelson and as the muse of the portrait artist, George Romney. She was born Amy Lyon in Swan Cottage, Ness near Neston, Cheshire, England, the daughter of Henry Lyon, a blacksmith who died when she was two months old. She was raised by her mother, the former Mary Kidd (later Cadogan), and grandmother, Sarah Kidd, at Hawarden, and received no formal education. She later went by the name of Emma Hart. Mary Lyon, left with a 2-month-old daughter after her husband had died in somewhat mysterious circumstances, returned to her family home across the Dee, where her mother Sarah Kidd helped to raise Emma, forming a bond which they maintained throughout their lives. With her grandmother struggling to make ends meet at the age of 60, and after Mary went to London in 1777 (possibly having lost a source of income through a lover employed at Sir John Glynne's estate), Emma began work, aged 12, as a maid at the Hawarden home of Doctor Honoratus Leigh Thomas, a surgeon working in Chester. Only a few months later she was unemployed again and took the stage coach to London in autumn 1777, where she started work for the Budd family in Chatham Place, Blackfriars, London, and met a maid called Jane Powell, who wanted to be an actress. Emma joined in with Jane's rehearsals for various tragic roles. Pretty and ambitious, Emma started work at the Drury Lane theatre in Covent Garden, as maid to various actresses, among them Mary Robinson.
Emma next worked as a model and dancer at the "Goddess of Health" (also known as the "Temple of Health") for James Graham, a Scottish "quack" doctor. The establishment's greatest attraction was a bed through which electricity was passed, giving paying patrons mild shocks. This supposedly aided conception, and many infertile couples paid high prices to try it.
At fifteen, Emma met Sir Harry Fetherstonhaugh, who hired her for several months as hostess and entertainer at a lengthy stag party at Fetherstonhaugh's Uppark country estate in the South Downs. She is said to have entertained Harry and his friends by dancing in the nude on the dining room table. Fetherstonhaugh took Emma there as a mistress, but frequently ignored her in favour of drinking and hunting with his friends. Emma soon formed a friendship with one of the guests, the dull but sincere Honourable Charles Francis Greville (1749–1809), second son of the then Earl of Warwick and a member of Parliament for Warwick. It was about this time (late June-early July 1781) that she conceived a child by Fetherstonhaugh.
Fetherstonhaugh was furious at the unwanted pregnancy and Emma appealed to Greville. Greville took her in as his mistress, on condition that the child was fostered out. Once the child (Emma Carew) was born, she was removed to be raised by her great-grandmother at Hawarden for her first three years, and subsequently (after a short spell in London with her mother) deposited with Mr John Blackburn, schoolmaster, and his wife in Manchester. As a young woman, Emma's daughter saw her mother reasonably frequently, but later when Emma fell into debt, her daughter worked abroad as a companion or governess.
Greville kept Emma in a small house at Edgware Row, Paddington Green, at this time a village on the rural outskirts of London. Emma was at Greville's mercy and acceded to his requests to change her name to "Mrs Emma Hart", to dress in modest outfits in subdued colours and eschew a social life. He arranged for Emma's mother, then in her thirties, who had by now taken on the name of Cadogan (possibly from a John Cadogan who lived in the area, although no marriage is recorded) to live with her as housekeeper and chaperone. Greville also taught her to enunciate more elegantly, and after a while, started to invite some of his friends to meet her. Seeing an opportunity to make some money by taking a cut of sales, Greville sent her to sit for his friend, the painter George Romney, who was looking for a new model and muse. It was then that Emma became the subject of many of Romney's most famous portraits, and soon became London's biggest celebrity. In fact, so began Romney's lifelong obsession with her, sketching her nude and clothed in many poses that he later used to create paintings in her absence. Through the popularity of Romney's work and particularly of his striking-looking young model, Emma became well known in society circles, under the name of "Emma Hart."
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Biography
Emma Lyon Hamilton
Most commonly known name
Emma (Lyon) Hamilton
Full name
Amy Lyon, Emma Hamilton (Lyon)
Nickname(s) or aliases
Calais, Pas-de-Calais County, Hauts-de-France France
Last known residence
Female
Gender
Emma Hamilton was born on in Neston, Cheshire County, United Kingdom
Birth
Emma Hamilton died on at Calais, Dordogne, Aquitaine in France
Death
Emma Hamilton was born on in Neston, Cheshire County, United Kingdom
Emma Hamilton died on at Calais, Dordogne, Aquitaine in France
Birth
Death
Heritage

Ethnicity & Lineage

English

Nationality & Locations

English
Childhood
Adulthood

Military Service

Helped the British Navy by feeding them.
Obituary

Average Age

Life Expectancy

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She was witty, intelligent, a quick learner, elegant and, as paintings of her attest, extremely beautiful. Romney was fascinated by her looks and ability to adapt to the ideals of the age. Romney and other artists painted her in many guises, foreshadowing her later "attitudes".
In 1783, Greville needed to find a rich wife to replenish his finances, and found a fit in the form of eighteen-year-old heiress Henrietta Middleton. Emma would be a problem, as he disliked being known as her lover (this having become apparent to all through her fame in Romney's artworks), and his prospective wife would not accept him as a suitor if he lived openly with Emma Hart.
To be rid of Emma, Greville persuaded his uncle, younger brother of his mother, Sir William Hamilton, British Envoy to Naples, to take her off his hands. Greville's marriage would be useful to Sir William, as it relieved him of having Greville as a poor relation. To promote his plan, Greville suggested to Sir William that Emma would make a very pleasing mistress, assuring him that, once married to Henrietta Middleton, he would come and fetch Emma back. Sir William, then 55 and newly widowed, had arrived back in London for the first time in over five years. Emma's famous beauty was by then well known to Sir William, so much so that he even agreed to pay the expenses for her journey to ensure her speedy arrival. A great collector of antiquities and beautiful objects, he took interest in her as another acquisition. He had long been happily married until the death of his wife in 1782, and he liked female companionship. His home in Naples was well known all over the world for hospitality and refinement. He needed a hostess for his salon, and from what he knew about Emma, he thought she would be the perfect choice.
Greville did not inform Emma of his plan, but instead in 1785 suggested the trip as a prolonged holiday in Naples while he (Greville) was away in Scotland on business, not long after Emma's mother had suffered a stroke. Emma was thus sent to Naples, supposedly for six to eight months, little realizing that she was going as the mistress of her host. Emma set off for Naples with her mother and Gavin Hamilton on 13 March 1786 overland in an old coach, and arrived in Naples on her 21st birthday on 26 April.
Marriage to Sir William Hamilton
After about six months of living in apartments in the Palazzo Sessa with her mother (separately from Sir William) and begging Greville to come and fetch her, Emma came to understand that he had cast her off. She was furious when she realised what Greville had planned for her, but eventually started to enjoy life in Naples and responded to Sir William's intense courtship just before Christmas in 1786. They fell in love, Sir William forgot about his plan to take her on as a temporary mistress, and Emma moved into his apartments, leaving her mother downstairs in the ground floor rooms. Emma was unable to attend Court yet, but Sir William took her to every other party, assembly and outing.
They were married on 6 September 1791 at St Marylebone Parish Church, then a plain small building, having returned to England for the purpose and Sir William having gained the King's consent. She was twenty-six and he was sixty. Although she was obliged to use her legal name of Amy Lyon on the marriage register, the wedding gave her the title Lady Hamilton which she would use for the rest of her life. Hamilton's public career was now at its height and during their visit he was inducted into the Privy Council. Shortly after the ceremony, Romney painted his last portrait of Emma from life, The Ambassadress, after which he plunged into a deep depression and drew a series of frenzied sketches of Emma.
The newly married couple returned to Naples after two days. After the marriage, Greville transferred the cost of Emma Carew's upkeep to Sir William, and suggested that he might move her to an establishment befitting the stepdaughter of an envoy. However, Sir William preferred to forget about her for a while.
Lady Hamilton became a close friend of Queen Maria Carolina, sister of Marie Antoinette and wife of Ferdinand I of Naples, and soon acquired fluency in both French and Italian. She was also a talented amateur singer. She sang one of the solo parts of Joseph Haydn's Nelson Mass and entertained guests at her home. At one point, the Royal Opera in Madrid tried to engage her for a season, in competition with their star, Angelica Catalani, but that offer was turned down.
Sharing Sir William Hamilton's enthusiasm for classical antiquities and art, she developed what she called her "Attitudes"—-tableaux vivants in which she portrayed sculptures and paintings before British visitors. Emma developed the attitudes, also known as Mimoplastic art, by using Romney's idea of combining classical poses with modern allure as the basis for her act. Emma had her dressmaker make dresses modeled on those worn by peasant islanders in the Bay of Naples, and the loose-fitting garments she often wore when modelling for Romney. She would pair these tunics with a few large shawls or veils, draping herself in folds of cloth and posing in such a way as to evoke popular images from Greco-Roman mythology. This cross between postures, dance and acting was first revealed in spring 1787 by Sir William at his home in Naples to a large group of European guests, who quickly took to this new form of entertainment. It formed a sort of charade, with the audience guessing the names of the classical characters and scenes Emma portrayed.
The performance was a sensation with visitors from across Europe. With the aid of her shawls, Emma posed as various classical figures from Medea to Queen Cleopatra, and her performances charmed aristocrats, artists such as Élisabeth-Louise Vigée-Le Brun, writers—-including the great Johann Wolfgang von Goethe—-and kings and queens alike, setting off new dance trends across Europe and starting a fashion for a draped Grecian style of dress.
"Attitudes" were taken up by several other (female) artists, among them Ida Brun from Denmark, who became Emma's successor in the new art form. The famed sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen admired her art. "Attitudes" were a form of "mime art", which disappeared for a long time, only to surface again in the 20th century. Emma developed her Attitudes from mere poses into small, wordless plays—-in her later years she excelled most as Medea.

Refresh this page to see various historical events that occurred during Emma's lifetime.

In 1800, Emma was 35 years old when Alessandro Volta presented his findings about the first electrical battery, proving that electricity could be generated chemically and debunking the widely held theory that electricity was generated solely by living beings.

In 1807, she was 42 years old when on August 17th, the Clermont - Robert Fulton's steamboat - made the first successful steamboat trip on the Hudson River between New York City and Albany. The boat ran at an average of 5 miles per hour.

In 1815, in the year of Emma Lyon Hamilton's passing, on January 18th, the Battle of New Orleans ended. General Andrew Jackson defeated a much larger invading British force in the last major battle of the War of 1812. This was after the Treaty of Ghent - signed the previous December - ended the war. But the news didn't reach the U.S. until February and the Treaty was ratified by Congress the same month. So the battle had no impact on the war.

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Unknown - 1893 ? - 1893
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1881 - 1968 1881 - 1968
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1878 - 1959 1878 - 1959
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1888 - 1959 1888 - 1959
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1868 - 1957 1868 - 1957
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c. 1400 - Unknown 1400 - ?
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c. 1388 - 1400 1388 - 1400
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1380 - 1434 1380 - 1434
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c. 1359 - 1404 1359 - 1404
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c. 1360 - 1361 1360 - 1361
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1360 - 1363 1360 - 1363
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1186 - Unknown 1186 - ?
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1188 - Unknown 1188 - ?
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c. 1540 - Unknown 1540 - ?
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c. 1477 - 1497 1477 - 1497
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1819 - 1853 1819 - 1853
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1682 - 1730 1682 - 1730
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1684 - 1753 1684 - 1753
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1717 - c. 1785 1717 - 1785
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1713 - 1777 1713 - 1777
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1720 - 1753 1720 - 1753
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1738 - 1799 1738 - 1799
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1738 - 1819 1738 - 1819
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1741 - Unknown 1741 - ?

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Unknown - Unknown ? - ?
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Aug 1649 - c. 1712 1649 - 1712
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Unknown - Unknown ? - ?
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1738 - Unknown 1738 - ?
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Nov 23, 1848 - Unknown 1848 - ?
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Jul 11, 1797 - Oct 23, 1888 1797 - 1888
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1769 - Sep 5, 1854 1769 - 1854
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c. 1770 - Oct 30, 1845 1770 - 1845
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Unknown - Unknown ? - ?
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Unknown - Unknown ? - ?
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Unknown - Unknown ? - ?
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Unknown - Unknown ? - ?
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c. 1724 - Feb 4, 1794 1724 - 1794

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Jan 29, 1801 - Mar 6, 1881 1801 - 1881
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May 3, 1654 - 1691 1654 - 1691
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Mar 26, 1664 - May 15, 1757 1664 - 1757
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Nov 13, 1679 - Unknown 1679 - ?
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1739 - Dec 17, 1818 1739 - 1818
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30 - Unknown 30 - ?
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Sep 3, 1681 - Jun 25, 1748 1681 - 1748
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Feb 8, 1687 - c. 1748 1687 - 1748
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1768 - 1855 1768 - 1855
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1771 - 1850 1771 - 1850
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1745 - Aug 21, 1820 1745 - 1820
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1747 - 1834 1747 - 1834
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Sep 22, 1693 - Sep 20, 1741 1693 - 1741
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Jan 5, 1701 - Feb 1782 1701 - 1782
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1703 - Unknown 1703 - ?
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Mar 23, 1722 - Feb 22, 1809 1722 - 1809
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1714 - c. 1793 1714 - 1793
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1642 - Jul 1, 1719 1642 - 1719
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Apr 23, 1665 - Unknown 1665 - ?
Biography
Unknown - Unknown ? - ?
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