Hearts Through History Romance Writers

Lady Hamilton – The Bacchante

by | November 14, 2012 | 2 comments

Lady Emma Hamilton (1761 – 1815) was famous before she became Admiral Horatio Nelson’s lover. One could argue she was the only girl in the late eighteenth century that the casual viewer could identify by sight alone. It was a remarkable feat in the days before mass media.

In western Wales lies a natural harbor that had been used over the centuries by various groups to attack Ireland–Vikings, Norman Plantagenets, Cromwell’s Roundheads. Milford Haven came to Sir William Hamilton (1731  – 1803) via his wife, the heiress of the Barlow family. The marriage ended after twenty-four years when she died, childless. Sir William remained a widower, travelling abroad as a diplomat and collecting priceless object d’arts.

His young nephew, Sir Charles Francis Neville, was an adventurer and a bit of a speculator. He proposed his uncle fund the development of a new harbor a Milford Haven. Sir William was amenable and a whaling centre was built and initially inhabited by seven Quaker families from America. It later grew into a port for His Majesty’s navy. 

Sir Charles’ endeavor, like so many others, was not very profitable. His uncle was losing his patience and threatened to cut off funding. However, Charles possessed a singular thing of beauty which William longed to add to his collection of treasures.

Emma Hart Hamilton – The Bacchante by George Romney

Amy Lyon–make that Emma Hart–had come into Charles’ patronage via another lover at the tender age of fifteen. She was, very simply, the most beautiful girl anyone had seen in that day and time. Her portrait had been painted countless times, in a variety of attitudes. One portrait by George Romney was particularly well-known–where she posed as a bacchante, the attendant of the god Dionysus.

When infuriated, or otherwise maddened, a bacchante was known to tear the unwary man to pieces.

Charles secretly agreed to temporarily hand Emma over to his uncle in exchange for more money. This arrangement would also gain him time to win the heiress Henrietta Middleton as wife, in view of the fact she refused to consider his proposal until he parted from his lovely mistress. After marriage and gaining control of his wife’s fortune, he would recall Emma back to England.

Emma set off for Naples under the impression her destination would provide her “continuing education” in music, to further her ambition to become an actress. Dismayed at finding herself sold into the bed of a man thirty-four years her senior, Emma resolved to turn her lover’s bargain to her advantage. 

She returned to England, desirous of having a look at her old lover’s pet project on the shores of Wales. When she arrived it was quite a shock to Charles. For his young mistress had become his uncle’s wife, Lady Emma Hamilton. Now the future of Milford Haven was in her hands.

Sir Charles died soon afterwards, abandoned by the heiress he was to marry, his heart torn to pieces by his beautiful bacchante.

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  1. Lacey Falcone

    Wow, she is stunningly beautiful in this portrait. Great story…and good on her for getting back at him!

    • Angelyn

      Thanks for stopping by, Lacey. I don’t know if it’s her expression or what–she was painted numerous times for that particular quality she had…



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