Tag Archives: Uppark

Lady Emma Hamilton: Wild Times and a Sad End

Portrait of Emma, Lady Hamilton, George Romney, c 1782-84, from History Today article cited

Portrait of Emma, Lady Hamilton, George Romney, c 1782-84, from History Today article cited

Emma Lyon was born to working-class parents in 1765.  She grew up to be breathtakingly beautiful–and wild. Early in her life, she worked as a maid, but she soon left dustcloths far behind. She herself joked about her “giddy ways.”  She was a popular dinner guest in certain aristocratic circles. Small wonder: she was fond of dancing naked on the dining-room table.


At Uppark, a country home in England, I actually saw one of those dining room tables where Emma frolicked long ago.  No photos were allowed.  I looked closely for scratches and there were none; Emma must have been light on her ((bare) feet.

Coronation Portrait, George IV, Sir Thomas Lawrence, 1821, Public Domain

Coronation Portrait, George IV, Sir Thomas Lawrence, 1821, Public Domain

In the raffish household of the owner of this particular house, the Prince of Wales, who later became George IV, was a frequent guest. He was the ultimate playboy. So there were plenty of aristocrats more than happy to dally with the beautiful Emma. She bore an illegitimate child to a gentleman at age 16.

One Charles Francis Greville took Emma into his home, educated her, and introduced her to society painters such as George Romney and Joshua Reynolds.  They loved painting her portrait.

Eventually Greville passed Emma on to his elderly uncle, Sir William Hamilton. She married him when he was 60 and she was just 26.  He was Ambassador to what is now Sicily, and in Naples the couple were popular in high social circles.  Still beautiful, charming and uninhibited, she delighted men in particular by appearing in flimsy mythological costumes.

Lord Nelson, John Hoppner, Public Domain

Lord Nelson, John Hoppner, Public Domain

In 1791, Emma met Horatio Nelson, and he fell head over heels for her.  Her husband, Sir WIlliam, didn’t mind; in fact the three of them lived happily together, although Nelson had a wife living elsewhere. Emma bore Nelson’s daughter, Horatia in 1801.

Sadly, Lord Nelson was killed in action at Trafalgar.

Emma’s life was all downhill from there.  She inherited a little money from Hamilton, but his brother held on to most of her money.  By this time, she was an alcoholic–from way too many champagne toasts in her wild youth. She eventually was able to move across the Channel to Calais, where she died at age 49, poor and ill. But out of respect for Lord Nelson, the captains of many English ships attended her funeral.

I love English country homes.  I feel they’re inhabited by the ghosts of people living their colorful lives long ago. There are always volunteer docents happy to tell stories of the past.


Why I Love England and Can’t Wait to Return

I always have good intentions of posting almost daily while traveling, but I always end up rushing around seeing more things than I can record and think about.  That comes later, when I have time to go through my pictures–not to mention the guidebooks that make my suitcase weigh a ton on the trip home. It’s time to sift through my memories of my last trip and begin planning another one.


I love the streams that meander through the English countryside. Estates fortunate enough to have a stream have ancient plantings and walkways, because generations have paused to listen to the rushing water.  This stream is at Mottisfont.


A fence can become a work of art, when there’s a passionate gardener around.  And England is full of passionate gardeners.  This fence is at Uppark.


The British are thoughtful, and their memories are long.  In this year of remembering those fallen in World War I, there are also memorials to the non-human victims.  This wreath, found in the village of Arundel, honors the millions of innocent animals that suffered during the terrible war years. As in town and villages all over England, simple wooden crosses with poppies honor the local war dead. I thought it was nice to create a wreath of blue poppies to honor the animals.


The historical sights are making new efforts to attract visitors, and to explain their histories in engaging ways. At Blenheim Palace, there’s a series of rooms that dramatize important events in the palace’s history through the eyes of a lady’s maid. This (wax) woman was awakened in a bedroom where she wasn’t supposed to be, setting off a Marlborough family scandal that turned into a government crisis in days long past.  I would rather read my history and see actual artifacts, but I appreciate the effort that goes into exhibits like this.



Antique shops are crammed with unusual and very British items, like this well-worn Art Deco chair.


And have I mentioned the flowers? These are at Avebury Manor. Well into the fall, the temperate climate of England keeps flowers blooming.  Yes, I love England!

Join me next time for more explorations in the art and history of Europe and the British Isles!



Why I Love England, Mid-Trip


Country towns that used to be powerful have magnificent cathedrals.  The one at Salisbury is breathtaking. This cathedral was completed in 1258 and has not changed since then.

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The Gothic ceiling of Salisbury Cathedral is a marvel of engineering.  These beautiful Gothic ceilings always make me feel like I’m in an orderly forest of tall majestic trees whose branches intertwine far above the ground.

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In the countryside, a horse is still transportation.  This pretty girl was contentedly chomping grass outside the National Trust property of Mottisfont, while her owner visited the museum and probably also had a spot of tea in the tearoom.


Have I mentioned gardens, part of every historical and literary sight?  This lawn and flower bed grace the grounds at Uppark, a mansion where Queen Victoria’s son the Prince of Wales whiled away his time carousing.  The notorious playboy owner of Uppark finally settled down at age 70 when he married his milkmaid.  The writer H. G. Wells spent part of his boyhood at the mansion, where his mother worked as the housekeeper.


And then there are the flowerboxes right outside my bed and breakfast in Woodstock.  Yes, I love England!