Read England's Mistress: The Infamous Life of Emma Hamilton by Kate Williams Online


She was the most famous woman in England–the beautiful model for society painters Joshua Reynolds and George Romney, an icon of fashion, the wife of an ambassador, and the mistress of naval hero Horatio Nelson. But Emma Hamilton had been born to the poverty of a coal-mining town and spent her teenage years working as a prostitute. From the brothels of London to the glitterShe was the most famous woman in England–the beautiful model for society painters Joshua Reynolds and George Romney, an icon of fashion, the wife of an ambassador, and the mistress of naval hero Horatio Nelson. But Emma Hamilton had been born to the poverty of a coal-mining town and spent her teenage years working as a prostitute. From the brothels of London to the glittering court of Naples and the pretentious country estate of the most powerful admiral in England, British debut historian Kate Williams captures the life of Emma Hamilton with all its glamour and heartbreak.In lucid, engaging prose, Williams brings to life a complex and intelligent woman. Emma is sensuous, generous, artistic, at once shamelessly seductive and recklessly ambitious. Willing to do anything for love and fame, she sets out to make herself a star–and she succeeds beyond even her wildest dreams. By the age of twenty-six, she leaves behind the precarious life of a courtesan to become Lady Hamilton, wife of Sir William Hamilton–the aging, besotted, and probably impotent British ambassador to the court of Naples.But everything changes when Lord Nelson steams into Naples harbor fresh from his triumph at the Battle of the Nile and literally falls into Emma’s adoring arms. Their all-consuming romance–conducted amid the bloody tumult of the Napoleonic Wars–makes Emma an international celebrity, especially when she returns to England pregnant with Nelson’s baby.With a novelist’s flair and an historian’s eye for detail, Williams conjures up the world that Emma Hamilton conquered by the sheer force of her charisma. All but inventing the art of publicity, Emma turned herself into a kind of flesh-and-blood goddess–celebrated by wits and artists, adored by thousands, and, for a time, very rich. Yet Emma was willing to throw it all away for the man she adored. After four years of archival research and making use of hundreds of previously undiscovered letters and documents, Kate Williams sets the record straight on one of the most fascinating and ravishing women in history. England’s Mistress captures the relentless drive, the innovative style, and the burning passion of a true heroine....

Title : England's Mistress: The Infamous Life of Emma Hamilton
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780345461940
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 415 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

England's Mistress: The Infamous Life of Emma Hamilton Reviews

  • Sean O'Hara
    2018-11-22 02:09

    You know what I like about historical biographies? There's no sensationalistic scandal-mongering. Biographers can't pay a maid $5000 to dish dirt. There aren't any former-friends or school-mates who can come forward with an axe to grind. Historical biographies are histories and deal in facts, not gossip.Well, normally.In England's Mistress, Kate Williams does her damnedest to bring Kitty Kelley-style biography to the 18th Century. The book is more supposition and innuendo than fact.This is apparent right from the get-go. Emma Hamilton's childhood is shrouded in the obscurity. Just look at her Wikipedia entry and note how little info there is about her early life. Yet Williams spends several chapters here, spinning a salacious story out of nothing.We start with Emma's father. Practically nothing is known about him apart from his name (Henry Lyon), occupation (blacksmith at a local mine) and that he died shortly after Emma's birth. Williams concludes that he didn't die in a work related accident. Her evidence for this is that there's no record of an accident (reasonable but hardly conclusive) or that Emma's mother received a pay-out from the mine (more compelling, but still not conclusive). Williams also discounts the possibility that Henry was tubercular, based on the premise that Emma's mother, Mary, wouldn't have married him if he were (reasonable, but women have been known to behave unreasonably out of love). But then Williams doesn't discuss any other diseases that might've killed a working man in the 18th Century; she jumps straight to her preferred theory -- that Henry died from alcoholism or a booze-related incident. Her evidence is simply that alcohol-related deaths were quite common among the working-class of the time.Okay, all that's fairly reasonable, and if Williams just left it there I'd be fine with it. Henry's dead, doesn't matter how, let's move on. But Williams doesn't do that. Instead, she builds an even more tenuous theory on top of her already shaky conclusion, and decides that either Henry must've committed suicide, or Mary killed him. The evidence for this is simply that Mary left the town where they were living and moved in with her parents -- she must've had something to hide!Because, y'know, a young, widowed mother would never move back to her parents for financial reasons. The most absurd part comes when Williams claims, no source provided, that widows at the time were often suspected of witchcraft and it would've been dangerous for Mary to remain in the mining town. Um ... what? Henry died in 1765, thirty years after England repealed the laws against witchcraft. I suppose some ignorant hicks might've clung to old superstitions, but such an assertion needs good sources, which Williams doesn't provide.Then for the next several chapters, Williams keeps mentioning Mary's dark secret. Everything about Emma's early life is filtered through this unproven theory, until I reached the point of throwing the book across the room. Alas, it's an audiobook, so I had nothing to throw.

  • Lauren Albert
    2018-12-06 04:54

    I can't do better than Sean O'Hara's review--it is spot on. Williams speculates constantly when she doesn't have facts and on the most trivial matters as when she writes, "Worried about her mother's weak state of health, Emma probably paid out to take a boat up the Rhone..." She has no bases for this assumption nor is there any point in making it. The speculation eases up later in the book but she then proceeded to infuriate me referring to Hamilton, not once but twice, as a "sex bomb" and claiming at one point that she was "swinging with the in crowd." Both phrases made me gag. Am I too sensitive?I just read Williams' Becoming Queen Victoria which was not like this (thank god). Perhaps her agent told her that she needed to start "swinging with the in crowd."

  • Nina
    2018-12-20 07:54

    God, I want to live above my means too.But I don't want to die penniless in Calais.

  • Catherine
    2018-11-19 00:00

    When I don’t have time to read, I often download audio books from I Tunes. It gives me the chance to ‘read’ while doing the housework or driving. I have just finished listening to England’s Mistress, while un packing boxes after our move.I have read very mixed reviews of the book and didn’t really know what to expect. I absolutely loved Williams’s other book Becoming Queen so was excited to see if her earlier book was as good.England’s Mistress tells the story of Emma Hamilton , famous social climber and mistress to Horatio Nelson. Although not as polished as Becoming Queen, England’s Mistress flows well and paints a wonderful picture of life in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.The first few chapters describing Emma’s early life are in effect fiction. There is so little known about Emma’s early life that Williams has had to fill in the gaps herself. The problem really is that there are too many gaps to fill. Although well researched, I did feel the early chapters were a little too fluffed out.This does improve as the book moves on and the author has more material to work with. I really enjoyed reading about Emma’s life before she became famous, each small scandalous step giving her higher status. It is fascinating hearing about her work as an artist’s model and her many many sittings for Romney.Williams gives the sense that Emma is different from all the other poor country girls who came to London for a better life. Emma uses her beauty and talent all through her life to get what she wants, be it as an artist’s model, courtesan, entertainer or mistress.The book’s slightly fictitious feel works better as it goes on, and helps the reader to empathise and understand the feelings and desisions of its subject. Key themes throughout the book are well covered, and include Emma’s reliance on the men around her, her need to be a mother and her need for high social status even if it leaves her destitute.Emma’s life is particularly interesting because of the time in which she lived. The french revolution and the rise of Napoleon all went on around her, with as much turmoil as her personal life. One of the highlights of the book has to be Emma’s life in Naples which Williams covers extensively. Williams’s ability to describe the events of the time with relevance to her subject works very well.I loved the section on Emma’s life with Nelson in Merton. As someone who was born and raised in the area where they once lived together, I found this all the more fascinating.In conclusion I think this is a very enjoyable book, and I think it can be praised and criticised for the same thing. Williams tells a very good story and the fine line between fact and fiction which Williams crosses on several occasions are the very thing that makes this a great read. I feel the book would not have been so good had the gaps been left unfilled.Taken from my blog

  • Laurie V
    2018-11-26 04:10

    The biggest revelation I took away from this book is what a dick Horatio Nelson was. He was a flighty fame whore who was needlessly cruel to the wife he abandoned for Emma Hamilton. He also knew very well that Emma would have struggled financially after his death, but he was so deluded into thinking the government would provide for her despite her tenuous position as his mistress that he never took steps to ensure security for her and their daughter. He got himself killed at Trafalgar because he insisted on making himself conspicuous by wearing all his medals and standing at the front of the deck, even though admirals were traditionally positioned in the back so they could see the entire battle. By his own admission, he fought for glory and his legacy and not because he felt any loyalty for his country. I also don't get Sir William Hamilton's being so adamant about leaving his estate to his nephew Charles Greville and passing Emma over even though she was devoted to him for a decade. It's true that property traditionally passed from men to men in those days, but both of these tools could have easily done much better by Emma. I won't even start on Nelson's worthless family. Emma made some terrible decisions that got her into a tough position near the end of her life, but what did she know about money? She came from a dirt poor background and clawed her way into respectability by using her charm and beauty to land a powerful political position. Once she had no male protection, she didn't know how to live independently. Who can really blame her? Bottom line -- eff Nelson.

  • Bettie☯
    2018-11-22 05:56

    (view spoiler)[Bettie's Books (hide spoiler)]

  • Tim Pendry
    2018-12-10 07:01

    This is an exceptional biography at so many levels. It recovers not so much a person as a period.Emma, Lady Hamilton, was a clever but perhaps not always intelligent person of great beauty and charm, and acting skills, who rose from extreme poverty to become the wife of an ambassador and the mistress of a national hero, Lord Nelson.Many biographies of such women present romantic fantasies – the sort of rubber-necking at history of those women who wish life was like a Jane Austen novel. This book is a good corrective.What we have instead is a profound insight into a pre-industrial aristocratic culture where sexuality was a tradable community that women could employ at successive levels of skill in order to rise from the gutter to become the confidante of queens.The morality that started to be imposed on society not long after Emma’s heyday (of which Austen’s novels represent an important cultural staging post) may have helped to weaken much overt exploitation but it also closed off avenues of advancement for poor, good-looking women.The early chapters of her life and the book give us a world far more familiar to us than the late-Victorians – a full-blown celebrity culture with people living on credit and manipulating the media with narratives of sexual scandal.Emma and Nelson were the Posh and Becks of their day with an added element of hysteria that was closer to the fascination of moderns with Diana, Princess of Wales - and with the same public fickleness as soon as their heroes and heroines are shown to be men and women of straw.There is the same merchandising industry, public performance, status games, fashion-setting, and damned hard work that would be recognisable to the likes Jordan, Britney and Rihanna today.For Emma, having done time as a high class hooker and in the period’s equivalent of the adult entertainment industry, and been the good little mistress for a while, the path up the ladder came from her celebrity as an artist’s model, equivalent today to a fashion model.She gets passed by her ‘master’ to his older relative and, somehow, manages, as supermodel, to get herself married, to get entitled by that marriage and to become confidante to the Queen of Naples (which is when Nelson turns up).These central sections of the book are perhaps the most interesting. This is not a book that will endear the reader to the human species. You need be no Marxist to see the essential truth that morality arises from economic conditions – ‘First bread, then morals’ as Brecht pithily put it. The early chapters have already painted a picture of extreme poverty and sexual exploitation that is not a simple case of men exploiting women but of them’s ‘as ‘as exploiting them’s as ‘asn’t. The final chapters will provide a picture of greedy cynicism amongst relatives who would be nothing without the two lovers and whose selfish sheltering behind the strange customs of aristocratic society resulted in a kind if rather dim Emma ending up in poverty and dying in a foreign land.But all this soap opera nastiness – easily most nasty when within families ambitious for cash and preferment – is as nothing compared to the brutalities of Neapolitan aristocratic society towards its own subjects.While deploring the rape and murder of Marie Antoinette’s confidante, the blood lust of the guillotine and Napoleon’s murderous march through Europe, the roots of that horror lie in the callous brutality of the ancient regime.Naples in the late eighteenth century was the epitome of aristocratic cruelty. De Sade might be regarded as the moralist that he rightly was in the context of the actual thuggery of the Neapolitan aristocracy.At one festival, these vile specimens would pile up a mountain of excess food and then entertain themselves by watching the poor fight amongst themselves and tear live animals apart to get at the food.Emma, though born in conditions equivalent to those of the Neapolitan Poor in Northern England, is not one for class-consciousness. She becomes the classic lackey of an oppressing class that only takes to her because she is beautiful and patronised by great men.This is when that vain and courageous little man Nelson pops up – Becks to her Posh in terms of achievement. The man who scores for Ingerland now acquires the media icon of the day.A sort of polyamorous arrangement emerges – Hamilton is in debt and needs Royal patronage, the war hero want to join the highest ranks and will get into debt to do so, and Emma’s sees her future secured as escort to the war hero and ‘England’s Mistress’. But Nelson does not come out of this story well. The little patriotic display near HMS Victory in Portsmouth allows that his treatment of his wife Fanny was problematic. She was not right for him at all but his wanton humiliation of her in public and in favour of Emma was celebrity politics at its most vile.But the real story of Nelson – something to be remembered as we drone people to death across the world – is that he was a war criminal, using a form of slave labour (through impressments) to mount his victories.Impressment is not such an issue. The pressed seemed to have lived better lives than in the rookeries and to have loved their commanders in that way the weaker or more economically desperate members of our species will kow-tow before bigger ‘baboons’.However, in one of the few actions he was involved in away from the sea, Nelson’s breach of treaty with the rebels made him directly complicit in the murder of many Neapolitans in the subsequent purges.We get an account of his vicious treatment of the defeated Admiral Carraciolo that is filled with unnecessary cruelty and malice ... Nelson lacked honour in this act of personal barbarism. But let us put the rather unpleasant and emotionally hysterical Nelson to one side. What is equally interesting is the public hysteria around him and his mistress that certainly required eighteenth century celebrity culture to fuel it but which took such matters to another level entirely. What was this all about? The book is less explicit here but the truth of the matter is that the English middle classes were probably genuinely terrified that their throats would be cut and their property taken by blood-crazed Jacobins.The hysteria about Nelson kicks off with the Battle of the Nile by which Napoleon was deprived of the opportunity to threaten the British stranglehold over India – and a great deal of English wealth was based not on manufactures but on trade at this time.The US colonies had also recently been lost so that the loss of the East might have been a serious economic matter, while the war itself was causing a major down turn with some important trading interests already questioning its purpose.Nelson is thus positioned as saviour of the middle classes and as their ‘boy’, a lad made good. Emma cements the vision with super model glamour – sex and violence providing the basis for a massive cathartic outpouring that spreads across anti-Napoleonic middle class Europe.This is the same psychology of interwar fascism – fear resulting in a loss of self into the hero figure. Of course, it goes rather badly wrong for Nelson and Emma. He fails to provide for her in a ruthless age, saddles her with massive debts, get conveniently killed (from the point of view of the Government) and becomes a still more massive but dead icon - Emma is surplus to requirements. The rest is depressing tragedy.This is not a jobbing biography for middle aged female romantics. This is much better than that. It is a rare insight into the heartless centre of English aristocratic society, the lying mystifications of celebrity economics and middle class terrors.As for Emma herself, I suspect that she would have driven me up the wall for all her beauty and charm. But she comes across as kind if not very bright on occasions. Her greatest achievement was not to have been Nelson’s Mistress or even Europe’s leading model but to have produced a stable, level-headed daughter, Horatia, who lived long, prospered and built her own extensive middle class family.From a background of dire poverty and exploitation herself, it would seem that, unable to leave her anything but a moderate education and an example, a loving mother created something more important than her fame. That is a lesson to us all ...

  • Marguerite Kaye
    2018-11-28 06:02

    Excellent biography of a woman who seems to have been long overdue a reappraisal of her life. Emma Hamilton was an extraordinary woman. Born into abject poverty, she went into domestic service aged twelve, and not long after was forced into prostitution. Working backstage at the theatre, she progressed into courtesanship, had a child at seventeen, rose to stardom through modelling for Romney, and was then passed on by her lover Greville to his uncle, William Hamilton, consul in Naples, when Greville had had enough of her. This was the turning point in Emma's life, where she transformed herself from courtesan to wife and diplomat, friend of the Queen of Naples, and began performing the 'attitudes' which contributed to her cult and first brought her to the attention of Nelson. Emma was clearly a great beauty, clearly a brilliant actress, but she also had that certain something that drew men and women to her - not just sex appeal but a personal charm. I admired her. At times she drove me crazy with her spending and her gambling and her blindness to faults. At times I heartily disliked her, at others I felt incredibly annoyed on her behalf and I pitied her. And all the time she fascinated me just as she did everyone she met in life. This was a fabulous biography. Sparkling, brilliantly researched, a fresh take on many parts of Emma's life and the men she loved, it was also exactly (in my opinion) what a biography should be - a clear, rational take on the subject, not a hagiography, nor the opposite either, but an informed and non-judgemental story of the character. I loved it.

  • Scott Martin
    2018-11-23 05:45

    Audiobook. I don't often read a ton of socio-economic type history, but this was a suprisingly good work. I did not have a lot of knowledge about her. I knew a bit more about her from studying her famous lover, Nelson, but did not gleam the impact that she had on his life. Emma Hamilton was comprable to a modern-day Marilyn Monroe, given her modeling/acting career, her famous romantic attachments, fatal flaws and a magnet for the gossip columns. Lady Hamilton was a woman of her times, and Williams does an outstanding job of trying to put Hamilton's actions/thought process/environment into proper context. Born poor, she manages to work her way through mid/late 18th century English society, eventually marrying a British noble and seducing the leading British figure of the age. Not perfect, but not just a pretty face, Hamilton was a story of rags to riches and back to rags. She was a trendsetter who drove fashion in high society for most of Europe at one point, but she who lives by driving trends may not be able to keep it up, and so it was with her. The quest for fame and status is very much evident today (Change painting model for dominating social media and throw in a sex tape or two and she would fit right in (given the stretch of "prostitution" she engaged in at one point in her late teens (unfortunately, a not-uncommon occupation for less-well-off women in England at that time), it would hardly be a stretch). For the audio narration, aside from the reader's annoying habit of stating quotes in a bad accent (especially if quoting a French/Italian commentator/etc) is fine. If a fan of Nelson, or just wanting to read about life in 18th/19 century England, a must read/listen.

  • Laura
    2018-12-14 05:45

    From BBC Radio 4 Extra:Kate William's biography of the prostitute who became the mistress of Lord Nelson, despite humble origins.

  • Michael Hołda (Holda)
    2018-12-07 05:42

    That book in interesting way shows life of 18th century women, her way of her life goals. Her early years were harsh but despite that she had Interesting life.She was very often painted as e.g. goddess Circe.Later on her fashion was desirable, as being quite known in society. When she was with Captain Nelson & in difficult times for aristocracy, revolutionary times. She even become close friend of Queen Maria Carolina of Austria.And then she was spending lots of pound when being under Nelson's wings. Only to go in debts after his death.She have left her life in London and Naples but died on French soil “just months before the End of the War.”It’s moving Biography of women whose life hardened her a bit and with sad ending to the story.

  • Gerry
    2018-12-19 01:00

    I never realised what a courtesan Amy Lyon/Emma Hart/Emma Hamilton was, no wonder she changed her name twice before marrying! Kate Williams brings not only Emma to life but also breathes life into 18th and early 19th century England. Emma had a difficult childhood and was quickly put into service, which she decided was not for her. She therefore bettered herself and was quickly a favourite model of George Romney, who painted hundreds of portaits of her. She had a child by Sir Harry Fetherstonhaugh before becoming mistress to Charles Greville, who eventually tired of her and passed her on to his uncle Sir William Hamilton in Naples. While in Naples she became friendly with the royal family and remained on such terms with them even after she had rebuffed the advances of King Ferdinand. After being Hamilton's mistress, she eventually married him but later met Nelson and was immediately smitten, even though the latter was married to a reportedly dull lady named Fanny. The affair eventually got the better of both of them and, with the tacit blessing of her husband who wanted to remain friendly with Nelson for political reasons, she set up home with the seaman, who renounced his marriage to Fanny. Emma and Nelson had a child, Horatia, lost one, and Nelson, after a brief retirement returned to sea where, as everyone knows, he was eventually killed at Trafalgar, much to the sadness of Emma who was obliged to sell the family home at Merton and fled to France, almost penniless as Nelson's relations would not fulfil his lordship's wishes by bestowing money on her. Nelson's letters to Emma were published, an act which exposed the relationship to all and sundry and Emma died in poverty before she was 50 and she was buried outside Calais (there was no money to transport her body back to England) with her funeral costing £28 compared to the £14,000 lavished on her lover. A rags to riches to rags tale that is a superb portrait of an age long gone.

  • Chris
    2018-12-01 23:44

    England’s Mistress is a well written biography of Emma Hamilton. Unfortunately I discovered that Emma Hamilton is not at all as interesting as I assumed her to be. I don’t fault Kate Williams for this, but I did feel she could have mitigated it some by cutting out much of the final third of the biography. The first half tells of Emma’s rags to riches story, which mostly consists of her being an artistic muse while sleeping her way to fame. However, once she reaches the point most people think of her at (married to Lord Hamilton, sleeping with Lord Nelson) she becomes rather dull. I got the impression she was a pretty shallow woman who spent most of her time in hysterics either excited about her love for Nelson, or upset everyone else wasn’t as in love with Nelson as she was. Lord Hamilton went along with this for reasons that still aren’t clear to me, and Nelson was just an ass who liked to wave his sword around (wow, that just happened). So the final parts of the book reads like one of those breathless, obsessive relationships your friends had in freshman year of high school that you didn’t care about, and really couldn’t stand to hear about either. The pacing was uneven, and towards the end, it was mostly Emma whipping herself into a frenzy, and Williams relating the thousand or so times Emma petitioned the various British princes for money, and was too stupid to realize that it wasn’t coming. All in all, I was pretty excited when Emma died, and rather upset that Horatia wasn’t discussed in much detail. Perhaps I should have looked for a triple biography of the Hamiltons and Nelson.

  • Holly
    2018-11-18 23:45

    An amazing book!! So insightful and very well written. Lady Hamilton is brought to life once again through an excellently researched, highly entertaining biography. Having known very little about her before I read her story, I now find her fascinating and have not stopped finding out more about since finishing. I would love to see a film as popular The Duchess made about her, as the two were apparently quite well acquainted and shared a similar level of fame and media interest. Their shared love of fashion and unattainable men were also quite remarkable, but while Georgiana had a relationship with an MP, Emma had one with a national hero. Hers and Nelson’s love story is told against a backdrop of war and desperation, and although Williams only had Nelson’s letters to go on (he burnt all hers when he was away so as not to reveal anything about their affair), the sexual tension between the two and their longing for each other is not held back due to this absence. Overall, a thoroughly recommended book, particularly for those who are interested in historical figures, and those who enjoy a good love story.

  • Christine
    2018-12-11 07:45

    A cross between historical fiction and biography, England's Mistress: The Infamous Life of Emma Hamilton is a biased portrait of an 18th century courtesan turned elite mistress. The fascinating parts of this book, for me, included details of Emma's intimate friendships with Queen Maria Carolina (Marie Antoinette’s sister) as well as her friendships with the famous Duchess of Devonshire and Bess Foster.I am really giving this read 2.5 stars. Williams' rendition of Emma's life is soft and forgiving and, to an extent, that is a refreshing tone when discussing the life of Emma Hamilton. It is clear, however, that Williams is very sympathetic towards Emma's plights and is equally harsh on the other players throughout Emma's life who are portrayed as quick to take advantage of her generosity and desire to please others.I would recommend this book if you are particularly interested in Emma Hamilton, her love story with Nelson or gaining different perspectives of European court life in the 18th century. I did not find that this book, however, gave an unprejudiced biographical account of Emma's life or motives and I found that it read more like a novel than a biography.

  • Mark Farley
    2018-11-20 02:51

    Kate is of a exasperatingly welcome, new breed of historian, leading the way amongst a clever and witty bunch of folk who not only cover history in a stuffy old academic way, but has reinvigorated the genre, making it accessible to those that would not even have the courage and the interest in history. This is no more evident than in both of Kate's wonderful, effervescent tomes and her work so far in TV, where she has redefined the presentation of historical figures and made them the captivating figures they always desired to be in the first place, but images have fallen victim to dull and uninspiring writers and personalities that make you pass the bookshelves or reach for the remote. This book is great and I can't recommend it enough. It has given me a new thirst and interest to read more about history and I have been looking for someone for a long time to turn me onto this genre. If nothing else is achieved, this book has done just that.

  • Dorothy
    2018-11-20 03:58

    Eh. The story of Emma is rather interesting and a true rags to riches to rags cautionary tale. It has all the components of great late Georgian stories: classism, snobbery, sex, beauty, courtesans, playboys and pimps, absurd wealth and despairing destitution, gender struggles, avarice, deluded grandeur and real historical drama. That said, the author's adulation of her heroine blinded her to Emma's fatal flaws and more disappointingly missed an opportunity to draw culturally apt reflections on the real story of this woman's mindful efforts to be a grand dame. The author's insistence that Emma was the catalyst for all fashions and style during her brief reign is simply asinine. That Emma was a reality star and trend-setter is undeniable but her real cleverness lay in anticipating style trends (I.e. neoclassicalism and the Empire) and co-opting them to her distinctive beauty and sensuousness. An interesting story, a mediocre biography.

  • Korynn
    2018-11-25 07:52

    A fairly extensive biography of the life of Emma Hamilton nee Amy Lyon. It is fascinating how a young girl of no skill manages to use beauty and sex as a way to gain entry into a level of society she would have otherwise been denied. It is more than amazing that she appeared to have tremendous luck in choosing a husband and a lover that were willing to share her. However, too late, Lady Hamilton discovers that her wiles do not make up for the utter lack of compassion that greets her after her husband, lover and close friends die, leaving her penniless and ruined. Obviously she should have spent more time charging for licensing. The book is fairly balanced and not too adoring of its subject although it does seek to liberate her from her branded profession as a courtesan by showing her tact as a politician and envoy of England.

  • Jill Hutchinson
    2018-12-13 23:42

    This biography of Emma Hamilton, the mistress of Admiral Lord Nelson should have been a five star read for me as I have always been interested in Nelson and his life, both military and personal. And Emma was the romantic side his life......he loved her to distraction as evidenced by his letters, eye witness accounts, and his attempts to have her looked after in case of his death. But somehow I was not as engaged by the book as I thought I would be......and frankly, I am not sure why it left me somewhat cold. Nevertheless, it is an-depth look at Emma and it appears that the author did intensive research. So don't let my less than sterling rating of this book put you is enjoyable and fills in some of the gaps in the history of one of the great love stories in history.

  • Helena
    2018-11-18 23:53

    I was just re-organising my books and saw this one.It was an excellent read It describes the life of Emma Hamilton born with nothing but a hard life ahead of her who becomes the most famous woman of her times .This is a serious biographical work which is extremely readable . I have lent it to many friends .I have subsequently read a few novels on the life of Nelson .What a short man of few personal charms but his fame . Nelson's harbour is worth a visit in Antigua to get a feel of what life must have been like for a sailor in those times .

  • Alison
    2018-12-12 05:06

    As I said earlier during the book progress, I'm not really a fan of biographies but this one was a real page turner. I can now safely Lady Emma Hamilton is now one of my favourite heroines. Williams' diction oozes sympathy towards the protagonist throughout the whole story and although Emma was no angel, the biography transported me back to Georgian England which I missed as soon as I finished the book. Two thumbs up for Kate Williams :))

  • John
    2018-11-26 23:50

    Outstanding! A highly readable and informative account of the life of Emma Hamilton.Kate Williams gives us a rich and detailed account of life in 18th C. England, and of Emma as she grown from a child to become wife and mistress to the great.Some excellent vignettes on life in the provinces, in London and in Naples, before Emma's penury and death in Calais.One of the best biographies I have read.

  • Flora Dain
    2018-11-27 01:57

    Lively, chatty account of one of the most colourful women of the Napoleonic age, from her humble origins in a Lancashire village to wife of the Ambassador to Naples, intimate friend of Queen Maria Carolina of Naples(sister of Marie Antoinette) and, most famously, Nelson's lover. Fascinating - if a little modest about her sexual prowess

  • Sharon
    2018-12-04 03:11

    It was well done, although it took me some time to get into the way it was told. It is amazing the information the author gathered and if there was unknown information it was highly researched, explained and/or hypothesized. Interesting how you can see parallels with certain current aspects of society. Overall I enjoyed it very much.

  • Rio (Lynne)
    2018-12-02 04:56

    The pictures are beautiful. Her story should be interesting, but this biography just isn't holding my attention.

  • Kelly
    2018-11-24 00:45

    Yes, please. Thanks, Rebecca.

  • Eva
    2018-11-24 03:05

    I liked the investigative spirit of the book. The detailed descriptions of everyday lives of different classes supplied to flesh out what fact we do know. There was also no fabularised dialogues. A wonderful read.

  • Naomi Evis
    2018-12-03 01:48

    Fantastic book, well put together. i couldn't put it down and didn't want to put it down.

  • Edwina Jackson
    2018-12-10 04:47

    Best historical nonfiction author that I've read!

  • Abbey
    2018-12-03 04:00

    Recipe for a great historical biography: Four years of careful, extensive, expensive research, plus a writing style that reads as easily as a novel. Stir in sympathy for the foibles, failings, and fabulous strengths of characters, but don't fawn over the main focus character. Cook until delicious. Kate Williams seemingly found every primary, secondary, and tertiary source on Emma Hamilton/Amy Lyon. She mixes her storytelling skills with sleuthing skills, especially when talking about Emma's early life. I don't mind that she takes some leaps into speculation and extrapolation during Emma's early life, such as admitting that there is very little evidence for Emma's everyday life as a maid in a particular household. She shores up her speculations about what it was probably like by examining the household records of another house nearby. She dug up tax records, parish records, rare books in libraries from California to Scotland, original, unpublished manuscripts, legal records, diaries, hundreds of previously undiscovered letters, illustrations from obscure periodicals, and memorabilia such as Nelson trinkets and one of Emma's actual dresses from her 6th-generation descendant. Her "select" bibliography takes up nine pages. Kate Williams did her homework and by the time she sat down to write, she had earned an encyclopedic understanding of her subject and the setting. One of the hardest things about knowing so much about a topic is to edit it into a readable account with a lot of detail but also with a clear purpose. For instance, Williams uncovered facts about the changing financial stability of Emma's lover, Horatio Nelson. I mean, really! Not only does she research her focus character, but also her lover's wife's uncle's financial records. That's really committing to the process.Nelson's wife's uncle was a bureaucrat on a forgettable island. She went there, uncovering piles of information, but then she doesn't use it. That's genius, knowing how to focus on a point and not wander. She only uses the facts it takes to support her speculation: the uncle charmed and flattered Nelson into marrying his mousy, widowed, impoverished, anxious, frail, perhaps fertility-impaired niece with whatever vague lies it took to convince Nelson that he would inherit much, much more than what was actually available. My only hesitation about fully praising this meticulous, encyclopedic research is that Williams wears the research rather heavily. Philippa Gregory writes very good historical fiction, for example, but doesn't let the research get in the way of the story. She says, "My job is to write coherent, well‑put-together novels that just happen to be set in the accurately researched past." ( ). Although 'England's Mistress' is non-fiction, it does tend to wear the research very heavily. My only other hesitation is that Williams extrapolates, often with excellent reason, but perhaps just beyond what the (lack of) facts warrant. She speculates: Was that disappointment the beginning of Nelson's fury and rejection of his unexciting wife? Would Nelson have been drawn so powerfully to Emma's glittering party lifestyle if his wife had been the heiress and hostess he imagined she would be? Williams leads the reader to believe this may be the case, but not before laying a careful pavement of researched fact. This is just one example of Williams' process: she researched everything available, and then rather than presenting a dry, lifeless treatise like many biographies, she brought Emma to brilliant, vibrant life.Impoverished Amy Lyon becomes a working girl, the "it" girl of 18th-century portrait painting, the mistress of increasingly powerful men, and finally the toast of England as Nelson's paramour. She meets and influences the glitterati of the day, entrances audiences with her inventive tableau dances as various mythical and historical characters, and intrigues people centuries later with her ability to bob to the surface again and again.Sorry for rambling, something Kate Williams would never do. I highly recommend this book.