The Grand Jury Room at The Great Hall, The Castle, Castle Avenue, Winchester, Hampshire, SO23 8UJ
Part of our Extraordinary Women series - Dr Joanna Lewis, historian & descendent of Emma, asks was it great men or being a great woman that shaped Emma's life. She escaped poverty, married an aristocrat, & eventually became Lord Nelson's mistress. PRE-BOOKING RECOMMENDED
Emma Hamilton was born Amy Lyons in 1765. The daughter of a blacksmith, her mother died when she was two. Despite disadvantageous beginnings, her fortunes changed dramatically from her teenage years. Her great beauty drew her to the attention of a number of rich and powerful men. Some became obsessed with her including the painter George Romsey whose depictions of her in various classical poses have earned her the title of the world’s first super model.
Eventually she married Sir William Hamilton, in 1791. He was thirty years her senior. But marrying women from humble backgrounds was not that normal. Emma was also extremely clever, not just a talented actress but multi lingual, well versed in politics and art, lively and compassionate. She too came to play in important role in Britain’s growing influence overseas at the court of Naples. It was here she met Britain’s naval hero, Lord Nelson. They fell in love and she became his mistress. At this time, they were the ultimate power couple. Back in Britain, the media followed their every move.
Sadly, her life ended in tragedy. Nelson died at the battle of Trafalgar in 1805. She fell into debt, fleeing the country with their young daughter Horatia, dying in 1815 in Calais.
How her life has been interpreted in the past and how should we understand her today will be the focus of this talk. Should she be remembered as an early feminist icon, ultimately abandoned by the male establishment once her looks and Nelson were gone.
● Sunday 16 September: Talk 1530-1630
The Great Hall and the Extraordinary Women exhibition are free to explore, but please pre-book the talk to guarantee a place.
Venue advises us that disabled access to the Grand Jury Room is by escort only. Access is via stairs.
Max 30 people per tour/session. Talk lasts approx 1 hour.
Turn right as you enter The Great Hall, and proceed up the stairs.