Despite being born poor in an age of pretty much zero social mobility, Emma rose from being an abandoned, unmarried mother to becoming a confidant of royalty and being made Dame by the Czar of Russia (see below) and mixing in the highest echelons of society.
THE FIRST ENGLISH WOMAN AWARDED THE MALTESE CROSS FOR BRAVERY
Emma was made a Dame of Malta (for men it would have been a Knight of Malta) by the Russian Czar for paying for and organising the delivery of grain to the starving population of Malta during a famine. Johann Schmidt's portrait (left) shows her wearing the Cross of the order, which she obtained permission from the King George III to wear in England. She was always proud to be the first Englishwoman so honoured*.
* Lady Hamilton, Nelson's Enchantress, and the Creation of Pygmalion (2015) Jesse Hellman, citing Memoirs of Emma, Lady Hamilton: The Friend of Lord Nelson and the Court of Naples (1910) Walter Sydney Sichel
Emma was instrumental in helping the Neapolitan Royal Family escape the revolutionary French mob.
Emma became Maria Carolina, Queen of Naples and Sicily's closest confidante.
Queen Maria Carolina's husband, King Ferdinand I, was not interested in politics, leaving Maria Carolina as the acting political power. Emma and the Queen worked together to stand against the threat of invasion from the new French Republic, which had just had Maria Carolina's sister, Marie Antoinette, executed.
SOLE CONFIDANTE OF THE QUEEN OF NAPLES
Emma learnt to be fluent in French and Neapolitan Italian
Nelson's fleet had been unable to counter Napoleon's encroachment into Egypt because he had been refused vital supplies at the Sicilian port of St Peter.
Emma influenced Queen Maria Carolina to order the supplies released. Nelson was then able to lead his revictualed ships on to his famous victory at Aboukir Bay that made him a hero in Naples and Britain.
CRUCIAL TO NELSON'S BATTLE OF THE NILE VICTORY
Emma acted as a spy courier to actively support the British against French and Spanish attack
Emma's unique and startling Attitudes of Greek and Roman classics became a must-see for European aristocracy, including royalty. Top artists, including Elizabeth Vigée-Le Brun and Joshua Reynolds sought to capture these performances and printed line drawings of these were snapped up across Europe. Emma's Attitude performances remained highly popular for over twenty years.
You can see an informative lecture about her Attitudes on Youtube here.
INTERNATIONALLY RENOWNED “ATTITUDES”
Emma was such an accomplished singer that she was offered paid work by the Royal Madrid Opera
INSPIRED THE ENTIRE "JANE AUSTEN" FASHION REVOLUTION
These are incredible achievements for a poor black smith’s daughter from Cheshire born in an age of immobile class structure and massive gender inequality.