Emma Portrait Sells for Nearly £400K at Auction, Doubling Its Estimated Sale Price
This sumptuous c. 1786 portrait of Emma Hamilton as a Sibyl by Gavin Hamilton sold at Sotheby’s on 17th January for £369,000 (doubling it’s estimated sale price of £150,000 — 200,000)
The portrait had originally belonged to Sir William Hamilton until he sold it in 1801
Notably the press have largely ignored this sale in favour of a piece of the Union Jack flag believed to have been flown from Victory during the Battle of Trafalgar which sold at the same auction for approximately £1,000 less than the Emma portrait.
Left: Emma Hamilton as a Sibyl, Gavin Hamilton R.A. c. 1786
Dame Emma Hamilton’s Arms
These Arms, awarded to Emma on 19th November 1806, are displayed here with the kind permission of the College of Arms for use as an illustration on this website only.
The eight pointed cross on the chief is assuredly for the Maltese Cross Emma was awarded by the Russian Tzar in 1800 for her aid to the starving population of French-blockaded Malta.
College of Arms Archivist, Dr Lynsey Darby says of Emma’s entry of the grant explaining why she applied for arms (transcription below), that these explanations don't exist in all periods, and while at this time you do get lists of wartime achievements, sinking of fleets and so on, she has never before come across one for a woman.
That Emma’s application for Arms is based primarily on Nelson’s last codicil a year after Trafalgar suggests the College of Arms supported her case. Emma at this time had good reason for optimism that the State would honour Nelson’s Codicil and grant her a pension. She had many allies including Prime Minister Pitt and the Prince of Wales. Sadly though his last codicil was never honoured and she died in poverty ten years after Nelson’s death.
It is interesting to note Emma describes her father as “Henry Lyons of Preston in the county of Lancaster”. Emma Hamilton Society Historian, Dr Geoff Wright has traced Emma’s paternal lineage to Prescot, Lancashire, which is thirty three miles from Preston. As Henry Lyons died when Emma was a tiny baby it could be that she or her mother muddled these two similar-sounding place names.
Emma’s Entry of the Grant (College of Arms MS Grants 24, pp. 73 and 74)
TO ALL AND SINGULAR
To whom these presents shall cme Sir Isaac Heard Knight GARTER Principal King of Arms and George Harrison Esquire CLARENCEUX King of Arms of the South East and West parts of England from the River trent Southwards send Greeting. Whereas DAME EMMA HAMILTON of Clarges Street Piccadilly in the County of Middlesex (only issue of HENRY LYONS of Preston in the County of Lancaster) Widow of the Right Honorable Sir William Hamilton K.B. hath represented unto the most noble Charles Duke of Norfolk Earl Marshal and hereditary Marshal of England that she intermarried with the said Sir William Hamilton in the Year 1791 and having attended him during his Embassy from our most gracious Sovereign to His Majesty the King of the Two Sicilies and rendered great service at that Court during an important juncture as appears by the following clause in a Codicil bearing date the twenty first day of October 1805 and annexed to the last Will and Testament of the late Right Honorable Horatio Viscount and Baron Nelson Duke of Bronte in Sicily &c deceased “Whereas the eminent services of Emma Hamilton Widow of the Right Honorable Sir William Hamilton have been of the very great Service to our King and Country to my knowledge without her receiving any reward from either our King and Country First that she obtained the King of Spain’s letter in 1796 to his Brother the King of Naples acquainting him of his intention to declare War against England from which Letter the Ministry sent out Order to the then Sir John Jervis to strike a stroke if opportunity offered against the Arsenale of Spain or her Fleets, that neither of these were done is not the fault of Lady Hamilton the opportunity might have offered. Secondly the British Fleet under my Command could never have returned the second time to Egypt had not Lady Hamilton’s influence with the Queen of Naples caused Letters to be wrote to the Governor of Syracuse that he was to encourage the Fleet being supplied with every thing should they put into any Port in Sicily. We put into Syracuse and received every supply went to Egypt and destroyed the French Fleet. Could I have rewarded these services I would not now call upon my Country but as that has not been in my power I leave Emma Lady Hamilton therefore a legacy to my King and Country that they will give her as capable provision to maintain her rank in Life”
And the said Dame Emma Hamilton not finding any Armorial Ensigns registered to her Family in the College of Arms and unwilling to use any without lawful authority she therefore requested the favor of his Grace’s Warrant for our granting and assigning each Armorial Ensigns as may be proper to be borne by her and her Descendants according to the Law of Arms. And forasmuch as the said Earl Marshal did by Warrant under his Hand and Seal bearing date the twenty ninth day of September last authorize and direct Us to grant and exemplify such Armorial Ensigns for LYONS accordingly. Know Ye therefore that We the said GARTER and CLARENCEUX in pursuance of his Grace’s Warrant and by virtue of the Letters Patent of our several Offices to each of Us respectively granted have devised and do by these Presents grant and exemplify to the said DAME EMMA HAMILTON the Arms following that is to say Per Pale Or and Argent three Lions rampant Gules, on a Chief Sable a Cross of eight points of the second ; as the same are in the margin here more plainly depicted to be borne and used for ever hereafter by the said Dame Emma Hamilton and her Descendants according to the Laws of Arms.
In Witness whereof We the said GARTER and CLARENCEUX Kings of Arms have to these Presents subscribed our Names and affixed the Seals of our several Offices this nineteenth day of November in the forty seventh Year of the Reign of our Sovereign Lord George the Third by the Grace of God of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland King Defender of the Faith &c in the Year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and six.
Drone Video Footage of The Nile Clumps
Emma And Captain Hardy’s living monument to Nelson’s Nile Victory (near Stonehenge in Wiltshire). Please see our Places To Visit page for more information about the Nile Clumps.
Photos from Inside Palazzo Sessa
(Sir William Hamilton’s ambassadorial residence in Naples, where Emma first performed her Attitudes and fatefully met Nelson). 1805 Club member, Kester Bathgate visited the former palace in 2014 and has kindly shared some amazing photos (Emma Hamilton Society unfortunately had less luck visiting in 2017, as security had been tightened).
Lady Hamilton’s Seal
This amazing – and very fragile – relic is in the possession of EHS member Steve Bray, who says of it:
“I am fortunate enough to have had Lady Hamiltons Seal since I was 12! I am attaching a copy of the seal and the box. I have still not found out who got hold of it but I am now pretty sure it was the Dathan family or the Bawden family.
“It was given to my Grandad by Miss Daisie May Bawden who lived at 14 Rossitter Road Lancing next door to them. She was the last in her line and had to go in a Nursing Home.
“Recently I tried to piece together a couple of family trees. The most interesting character was the Dathan who had to fight the French face to face with cutlasses and swing across on ropes to board the French frigates around 1780 ish!”
“The seal is in an old pill box used for dispensing tablets (above right). I had to magnify the image. The seal is about an inch wide. It says "Lord Nelson" God Bless Him Amen Amen Amen” and at the top you can see the Sun and rays shining down. The original letter had no envelope so it was folded and sealed. There were not many letters written to Nelson that survived as he destroyed them all as far as we know. She did write to Davison and other people when she was renovating Merton.
“The seal dates from around 1805 and the original Signet ring or stamp that made that impression has never surfaced! It was obviously acquired through the family lines of Bawden and Dathan who from father to son all entered the Royal Navy at 14. We think Nelson saw a copy of this seal as he mentions something in a letter dated 27 May 1804 (right).
Summary of a New Graphological Analysis of Emma Hamilton’s Handwriting
Martin Hastings of the British Academy of Graphology (and EHS member) has carried out detailed analyses of both Emma and Nelson’s handwriting from different periods in their lives.
“Emma Hamilton to me seems a highly complex personality. What struck me first of all was the blur of movement that seems to overwhelm the page. To use a car-driving analogy, she is driving without brakes, rushing headlong forward. It is a highly ‘masculine’ writing, not the subservient type that (I imagine) society expected of her!
“Another striking feature is that Emma’s script does not conform to the school model of writing that was taught at the time. Emma makes scant attempt to present an image of order, grace and refinement. This is highly surprising considering the rigid social conventions of the time, and considering the importance people placed at the time on the quality of one’s handwriting.
“So, in my view, it is a highly modern writing for the above reasons. The ‘kamikaze’ movement of the writing to me speaks of a need to express the emotions, instincts and feelings that she struggles to contain. She is a passionate, impulsive and lively personality. Life would never be dull with her around!
“One can see the great skill she uses in connecting letters and simplifying the shape of letters. She seemed to have a very agile and sharp mind, and a desire to throw herself into projects. However, the structure of the writing is fragile, and there is not enough solidity in the Form. The writing seems to be running away from itself.
“From my analysis, I believe Emma had huge insecurities that undermined her self-esteem. As a result, I believe that she wanted to be highly involved with the outside world, as a way of escaping her own fragile sense of worth. 'Acting', performance, excitement and public admiration were a way of avoiding depression that I think she may have been at risk from, along with many actors & performers.
“I hope to expand upon these themes and explain her personality in more detail at a presentation at some point in the future. I hope this has whetted your appetite!”
You can also see a summary of Martin’s analysis of Nelson’s handwriting here.
The graphology assessment process
It is important for me to explain how I arrived at these findings. After all, cynics might say the personality can be guessed at by anyone doing some historical research. In order to avoid this, I will explain the graphology process.
Initially, the graphologist needs to identify what is going on in the writing with regards to Form, Space, Movement and Stroke, as well as Tension, Structure, Openness and Axis.
For example, how does a writing move across the page (e.g. with ease, with impatience, with discipline)? Graphology terms for 'type of Movement' include 'Obstructed', 'Propulsive' and 'Static', all of which are clearly defined and have specific meanings.
There are more than 150 technical graphology terms that are used in describing a handwriting e.g. 'Large', 'Prolonged Up and Down' or 'Flowing', and these must be sifted through, and carefully chosen in order to describe the handwriting properly.
Each of these graphology terms has a meaning that is described in classic graphology textbooks, used by the British Academy of Graphology (such as 'The International Manual of Graphology' by Herbert, Keefe, Riley & Stirling).
The graphologist needs to collate the meanings for these graphology terms and synthesise them into a personality profile, which explains how the personality functions in terms of Thinking, Activity, Emotions and Adaptability.
It is a complicated process, and a handwriting analysis normally takes a minimum of 3 hours from start to finish.
Respectable graphologists have qualifications. I have a Diploma from the British Academy of Graphology that took 3 years of part-time study, and also an Advanced Diploma that took 1 year of part-time study.
It is a shame that not all so-called graphologists have qualifications. Some advertise their 'expertise' after reading one graphology book, and this has the unfortunate result of demeaning and trivialising graphology.
The standing of Graphology
As to the accuracy of graphology, supporters say it is 80% accurate, and graphology is used extensively in France. Personality questionnaires or tests, graphology included, cannot be scientifically validated or proven, because personality cannot be objectively measured.
My clients say that I am 90% accurate in my assessments, which is gratifying. However, I know that I can never be 100% accurate. After all, none of us knows our own personality that well! I am also aware that Graphology cannot hope to see everything in a personality, and that other factors can have an influence on someone’s handwriting on any given day e.g. a cold, changes in mood. That is why a graphologist must look at numerous handwriting samples from the same writer.
For these reasons, I believe that Graphology is a tool that should be used in a supportive capacity, for example in conjunction with other research. It is particularly useful to gain an insight into someone’s personality for purposes of job recruitment, team dynamics, family relationships and of course historical research.
You can find out more about Graphology at insightgraphology.co.uk
If you have any questions, feel free to email Martin at email@example.com
Locket Thought To Contain Emma and Nelson’s Hair
This locket commemorating the Battle of the Nile (c. 1798 - 1800) is thought to contain locks of both Emma and Nelson’s hair. It was donated to Norwich Museums in 1962. Norwich Museum says of it:
Gold with carved shell background and gold decorations possibly depicting Britannia. Blue enamel oval with the date of the battle and an anchor with seed pearls , two locks of hair arranged in a scrolled design.
This beautifully made locket has mysterious origins. It was donated to Norwich Museums in 1962, and the only note accompanying it stated ‘probably made in Naples’. The craftsmanship is exquisite, especially the tiny rope, the palms symbolising military victory, the hand holding a trident and an anchor studded with minute seed pearls. It is the inclusion of the locks of hair, an intimate and personal touch, that poses the question of whether this could be the hair of Nelson and Emma. Although the hair has faded due to light exposure, under UV photography the two locks of hair are clearly from two different people. Nelson and Emma Hamilton’s relationship began in Naples and very recently another locket of the same size and almost certainly from the same maker, featuring the same decorative motifs such as the rope and anchor, was sold at auction as a possible love token, given from one lover to another.