Books and Media

Emma Hamilton, Julie Peakman (Haus Publishing, 2005)

In this book one of today's most innovative historians of sex and gender presents new insights into the life of one of history's most glamorous women. This book offers an understanding not only of Emma's sexuality but also of her diplomatic importance which has been so frequently played down. It covers Emma's life with Hamilton, their bizarre ménage a trois with Nelson and the genuine love which passed between the three of them.

Books and Media

Recent Books About Emma

Beauty and Glory, Dennis Brickles (Oakdale Books, 2016)

Beauty and Glory is written sensitively to portray a colourful, living breathing reality woven from interpreted facts and solidly-founded fiction. The result is an extravaganza of Georgian intrigue centred on the enmeshed stories of a gifted Neapolitan musician, a rich, but socially-misfitted young lord and the young, beautiful and innovative Emma, who rose from poverty to become the superstar of her age and – unexpectedly – respectable as Lady Hamilton.

In Defence of Emma. Scheming Adventuress or Radiant Presence? Sylvia K. Robinson (printed and bound in Great Britain by CPI Books (UK) Croydon, 2016).  Cost £25 including p&p, please contact Emma Hamilton Society if you would like to order a copy.

Read review by Tim Hulme OBE. Capt, RN here.

Historical Heroines, Michelle Rosenberg & Sonia Picker (Pen & Sword Historical, 2018)

A treasure trove of mini biographies of one hundred unsung and/or misrepresented heroines from across the globe and epochs of time. Presented in alphabetical order to effectively give each entry equal rank, we start our journey with Inuit Ada Blackjack marooned on an isolated Siberian island in the early twentieth century, and end poetically with The Unknown Woman who is everyone’s ancestor, but whom history never considered important enough to educate so that she might leave behind diaries of her own. Between these, we meet, amongst others, the unfairly maligned Dame Emma Hamilton; Marie Antoinette; Mary Shelley; Pocahontas; Jezebel Queen of Israel; Cleopatra; Empress Wu Zetian of the Chinese Tang Dynasty; and Dr James Barry, Surgeon General of the British army in India and South Africa, whose true identity as Margaret Ann Bulkley (baptised in Ireland in the 1790s) was not discovered until after “his” death. This gem of a book, with each scintillating illustrated biography occupying no more than two pages, makes for compulsive reading. Highly recommended.

Horatia’s Secret, Lily Style (KDP, 2020)

“A remarkable feat of imagination by an author in complete control of her material. Lily Style draws on extensive research of her Nelson/Hamilton family ancestors and pieces together a compelling narrative from scant documentation and inventive dialogue. In addition, she subtly introduces comparisons between the lives of the middle and even upper middle classes residing in the country with carriages and household staff with those of the working classes obliged to live in unhygienic town centres, in overcrowded unfit accommodation and at risk of typhoid infection, engaged in a constant struggle to scrape together a poor living. After Nelson's death, Emma Hamilton falls from the high life to find herself among the lower classes, a victim of an hypocritical entrenched class system in England, Government parsimony and betrayal by Lord Nelson's older brother.

The organisation of the material is ingenious. Lily Style moves smoothly among a panorama of real people who reveal to the reader their own secrets and fear of stigma, whilst she cleverly emphasises the strain Horatia is still under, after sixty years, to keep her childhood promise to her mother in the face of one of the worst-kept secrets in history.” Christine Hooper.

Available from Amazon UK, Amazon US, and world wide

Beloved Emma, Flora Fraser (Anchor Books, 2004)

From her humble beginnings as the daughter of a countryside blacksmith, Emy Lyon went on to claim the undying love of naval hero Admiral Nelson… Flora Fraser maps the spectacular rise and fall of legendary eighteenth-century beauty Emma, Lady Hamilton—as she came to be called—a woman of abundant affection and overwhelming charm, whose eye for opportunity was rivaled only by her propensity for overindulgence and scandal.

Nelson at Naples, Revolution and Retribution in 1799, Jonathan North (Amberly Publishing, 2018)

“If you cherish Nelson as an untarnished hero, this is likely not the book for you. If, however, your interest is more exploratory, then this book represents a treasure trove of meticulously compiled documentary evidence.” 

Read full review here.

Lady Hamilton, Nelson's Enchantress, and the Creation of Pygmalion" in SHAW: the Journal of Bernard Shaw Studies, 35:2. Pennsylvania State University Press, 2015. If you would lie a copy, please email Emma Hamilton Society.

That Hamilton Woman, Barry Gough (US Naval Institute Press, 2016)

Admiral Horatio Lord Nelson, England s greatest sailor, fell deeply in love with Emma Hamilton in the years before Trafalgar. This, together with his quest for glory and victory entangled him in an inescapable web of circumstances and slander. The author explores the evolving scandal, the high political stakes that were involved, and the love affair itself which so influenced the fortunes of England s glory and the fate of her Wooden Walls.

England's Mistress, Kate Williams (Hutchinson London, 2006)

“A dramatic, sparkling tale of sex, glamour, intrigue, romance and heartbreak, "England's Mistress" traces the rise and rise of the gorgeous Emma Hamilton. Born into poverty, she clawed her way up through London's underworlds of sex for sale to become England's first media superstar. Nothing could stand in her way of her desire to live out her dream - except her self-destructive desires. Drawing on hundreds of previously undiscovered letters, and told with a novelist's flair, "England's Mistress" captures the relentless drive, innovative style and burning passion of a true heroine. In a world of tabloid fame and three-minute wonders, Emma's life is truly a tale for our time.”

Nelson: Love and Fame, Edgar Vincent (Yale Nota Bene, 2005)

This is a biography chiefly of Nelson but Vincent gives a very full and sympathetic treatment of Emma too: The story of Horatio Nelson's life - his naval glory, public fame, charismatic leadership, scandalous romance, and untimely death as he led the British to victory at the Battle of Trafalgar - has ensured his enduring position as England's favourite hero. This engaging, full-length biography of Nelson (1758-1805) presents a gripping account of his climb to fame as well as the fascinating details of his personal and emotional life.

Online Articles

National Maritime Museum articles

Who Is Emma Hamilton? From humble beginnings to high influence, the story of a remarkable woman in a man's world

The Many Faces of Emma Hamilton the nation’s first supermodel?

Emma and Nelson's Paradise Merton Nelson's tragic death at Trafalgar cut short Emma's plans for a 'paradise' at Merton Place

The Death of Emma Hamilton so much more than Nelson's mistress

Seductress: Emma Hamilton’s many identities was Emma forced into the world of Covent Garden's sex trade

Emma’s Mother: the Unseen Power was Emma's mother the driving force behind her incredible rise from poverty?

Covent Garden in Emma Hamilton’s Time what effect did this area of theatre and prostitution have on Emma - and she on it?

Servant: Emma Hamilton's Many Identities Emma inhabited an extraordinary range of identities during her forty-nine years

Recreating Emma Hamilton's 'Attitudes' Emma's new form of performance art took Europe by storm

Conserving Horatia Nelson come behind the scenes with our conservation team

Lord Nelson and Emma Hamilton one of the nation's most famous heroes, and one of her era's most famous faces

Meet the Thompsons it seems odd a man of Nelson's rank would write to the pregnant wife of an illiterate sailor.

Emma Hamilton and the Power of a Stereotype a Women's History Month article

The Unknown Emma, Lady Hamilton: Her friendship with Queen Maria Carolina short talk delivered delivered at Queen’s House, Greenwich on 7th March 2018 By Alex Grover, Cataloguer at the Royal Museums Greenwich

Other Emma Articles

Finding the Lost Daughter of Emma Hamilton Jacqui Livesey on the the trail of Emma Carew

Tracing Emma’s Footsteps an exploration of places Emma visited, by Lily Style 

Emma and Nelson’s Family exploring Emma’s relationships with members of Nelson’s close family, by Lily Style

Emma as a Mother was she really the anti-mother that she has been portrayed as? By Lily Style

The Mistress and her daughter: Emma, Lady Hamilton and Horatia Nelson 1801-1815, by Alex Grover, Assistant Curator at the Royal Museums Greenwich (Transcript of talk delivered at Queen’s House, Greenwich on 27th February 2019)

The Story of Emma’s Maltese cross, by Lily Style, 2019

Biography of Emma’s grandson Marmaduke Philip Smyth Ward by Ian Fraser, MS FRCS

20th Century Books about Emma

The Volcano Lover, Susan Sontag (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1992)

Written with fresh perspective, this  historical novel  is set largely in Naples.  It focuses upon Emma Hamilton, her marriage to Sir William Hamilton, the scandal relating to her affair with Lord Nelson, her abandonment, and her descent into poverty. The title comes from William Hamilton's interest in volcanos, and his investigations of Mount Vesuvius.

England's Mistress, Norah Lofts (Admirals, 1978)

A biography of the blacksmith's daughter who married a wealthy English nobleman and became involved in a love affair with Admiral Horatio Nelson.

​Emma, Lady Hamilton, Mollie Hardwick (Littlehampton Book Services Ltd, 1969)

“One of the best, well-researched books on Emma.”

​Memoirs of Emma, Lady Hamilton: The Friend of Lord Nelson and the Court of Naples , Walter Sydney Sichel (1910, reprinted 2015) Scholar's Choice Edition

This work has been selected by scholars as being culturally important, and is part of the knowledge base of civilisation as we know it. This work was reproduced from the original artifact, and remains as true to the original work as possible.

Life and Letters of Emma Hamilton,Hugh Tours (1963) Victor Gollancz 

This is a wonderful book. It has most of the letters in full. Heart-rending.

​The Life of Lady Hamilton, J. T. Herbert Baily (London: W. G. Menzies, 1905)

Baily was the editor of The Connoisseur.  Beautiful colour plates of Emma portraits.

​The Divine Lady: a Romance of Nelson and Emma Hamilton, Lily Beck, under pseudonym E. Barrington (Dodd, New York, 1924)

A fictional account written by the granddaughter of one of the midshipmen serving in Nelson's fleet.

Nelson’s Lady Hamilton, Moorhouse, E. Hallam (London: Methuen & Co., 1908)

Google eBook link here.

​Hamilton & Nelson Papers, Volumes I and II, Alfred Morrison Collection (1892, 1894 (BL Shelf mark LR 4 e 1))

Great resource of collected, though edited letters written by Emma and Nelson. Full text available here.

Emma in Film

That Hamilton Woman (Digitally Enhanced 2015 DVD Edition of 1941 film)

Starring Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier.  Produced and directed by Alexander Korda. Awarded the Oscar for Best Sound.

While this film portrays Emma, as played by Vivien Leigh, in a fairly positive light and covers some of her achievements, it omits others (such as her being awarded the Maltese Cross and her sought after Attitudes) and shows the help she gave Nelson as whimsically given and almost accidental.  This is not a historically accurate drama, but fun if you like Gone With The Wind style films.

The Divine Lady, directed by Frank Lloyd (1929)

American Vitaphone sound film with synchronized musical score and sound effects, as well as some synchronized singing sequences. The film, however, featured no spoken dialogue. The film tells the story of the love affair between Horatio Nelson and Emma Hamilton. The film was adapted  from the novel The Divine Lady: a Romance of Nelson and Emma Hamilton by E. Barrington. It was directed by Frank Lloyd.The film won the Academy Award for Directing and was nominated for Best Actress in a Leading Role (Corinne Griffith) and Best Cinematography 

YouTube videos (seven parts) accessible here.

A Bequest to the Nation (1973)

Starring Glenda Jackson, Peter Finch, Michael Jayston and Margaret Leighton.  Directed by James Cellan Jones

Based on the 1970 Terence Rattigan play A Bequest to the Nation

Emma is portrayed in a very negative manner.