I must update you on the progress of Emma Hamilton because England's Mistress by Kate Williams is heading for one my top ten reads of the year.Also hope you know me well enough to know that I'm not just saying that because Kate sent me the book.That was goodness above and beyond but is no guarantee that I'll like it any better.
However I have been seriously engaged with Kate's heroine and truly astonished at what I have learnt so far.The book is a tempting mix of the most thorough scholarly research coupled with a novelistic style. 3000 books read in that research which has saved me a lot of bother and all the information conveyed in a really readable style.Even better I am loving Emma Hamilton, she's an It girl way ahead of her time.
So where were we, well Horatio has arrived on the scene in Naples and Emma is besotted despite his lack of limb and eye. Looks and personal hygeine aren't everything and she's a girl with vision and imagination for the main chance,she sees dearest Horatio as her route to even greater fame and fortune.No worries that she had already thought the ageing Sir William Hamilton was her salvation and inveigled him into a marriage that he didn't really want, or that Lord Horatio has Lady Fanny Nelson waiting patiently at home.
Our Em can be very persuasive.She's a girl with "Attitudes" and these were her party piece, a sort of one-woman show of famous historical poses and events; give her a shawl and she could be anyone it would seem and these alone made her the must-have A list guest.
Likewise she was the hostess with the most-est and could easily sort out lunch for a hundred with just 30 minutes notice to say nothing of packing up the entire Neapolitan royals plus goods and chattels for an emergency escape from a bit of domestic strife over to Sicily.Forget Pickford's they really have nothing on Hamilton's Removals and one can only speculate on Emma's thoughts as she wielded the gaffer tape and marker pen while Queen Maria Carolina packed the gold ducats and jewels into crates.Slightly insensitive of Queen Maria Carolina to wail in the midst of all the chaos "I've lost my head tonight" when her own sister Marie Antoinette had done just that a few years previously.
As I left them yesterday, Nelson has been persuaded that he must ensure Emma is with child before he escorts the Hamiltons home to the UK. Poor old Sir William is the cuckolded one who turns the blind eye as England's hero of the Battle of the Nile and his glamorous mistress make their celebrity progress back across Europe before an adoring public.The begatting has begun and poor old Emma is becoming "exceeding embonpoint" to say nothing of feeling as sick as a dog and must have put a brave face on it all as she suffered the vagaries of trans-European travel a la 1790's.But by now we know her well and complaining is the very last thing that would occur to her.Slap on the Max Factor, on with the lippy and smile, that's what the public want.
It's all riveting stuff and I can't wait to pick it up again and as if any more coincidences were needed they've just landed in East Anglia, Yarmouth, not a million miles from Lowestoft.
What on earth is Lady Fanny going to say? Nelson has been a very naughty boy.