Whilst researching her book on the relationship between Lord Nelson and Lady Hamilton, Jacqui Livesey has followed the trail of Emma Carew over seventy years, across many aliases to uncover new insights into her life and trace what may well be her unmarked, but fully recorded grave.
‘You, have revived ideas in my mind which an absence of four years has not been able to efface. It might have been happy for me to have forgotten the past and to have began a new life with new ideas, but for my misfortune, my memory traces back circumstances which have taught me too much… It shall never be said that I avail myself of your partiality or my own inclination, unless I learn my claim on you is greater than you have hitherto acknowledged… and then, with a heart filled with tenderness and affection, will I shew you both my duty and my attachment…’
Emma Carew, November 1810. 
These are amongst the last known words in the life of Emma Carew, the illegitimate child of a sixteen-year-old former serving-maid, penitent prostitute and kept-girl of the minor aristocracy. The identity of the child’s father is uncertain. As for the young mother, she was christened Emy Lyon on 12 May 1765 in the pit village of Neston, Cheshire – her own father had died soon after her baptism when she was two months old. Emy, who following her arrival in London was signing her name Amey, gave birth to her daughter in the early months of 1782. 
At the time of her own lying-in, the hapless Amey, now calling herself Emily, had fled from London and was an itinerant, dependent on the charity of Cheshire friends who had become weary of her burdensome presence. Like legions of other girls who had trailed to the capital in the hope of finding a respectable place, food on the table and a full belly, the expectant young mother was in an almighty scrape. Used, abused and now cast out, she was hovering on the edge of destitution. The all too common lot of females from Emily’s background meant that a single slip – whether committed in the exigencies of hunger or not – was enough to condemn a compromised girl to a fate akin to the wretched Corinna of Swift’s squalid tale, A Beautiful Young Nymph Going To Bed. For those desperate enough to sacrifice chastity in order to stave off starvation; society could extract a merciless revenge.
From her Chester lodging, Emily played her last desperate card in an effort to extricate herself from the catastrophe. Writing to the Honourable Charles Greville, younger son of the Earl of Warwick in London, she employed the greatest care, shaping unfamiliar words in a childish hand: ‘I am allmost ditracktid… I cant come to town for want of mony, I have not a farthing to bless myself with and I think my frends looks cooly on me, I think so. O G what shall I dow what shall I dow… OG that I was in your posesion… What a happy girl would I have been… I am almos mad. O for Gods sake tell me what is to become on me. O dear Grevell write to me. Write to me…’ 
Amazingly, in her wretched state, Emily had played a winning hand. Greville, twice her age and a seasoned Man of Pleasure, paid her fare back to London to take her into keeping at his Paddington townhouse. Perhaps thinking himself the main beneficiary of the transaction, he had acquired badly tainted but stunningly packaged goods, a thrifty housekeeper in the shape of Emily’s mother, and his list of conditions included a clause that the coming child – though he would stand the cost of its upkeep – when born would be removed permanently from his presence. He also stipulated that Emily should cast off all acquaintances excepting her mother and change her name – and so Emily Lyon became Mrs Emma Hart.
‘Lady Hamilton as Nature.’ Engraving: J R Smith, after George Romney. Portrait of Emma in 1782 – the year she gave birth to her lost daughter ‘little Emma’ Carew. (Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection.)
In the 232 years since her birth, the child of this mother’s mis-spent youth has graced numerous history books with her nebulous presence. Details of her life, death and last resting place have been sought out and speculated upon, and the few snatches of evidence that show she ever existed terminate at the age of twenty-eight in 1810. For little Miss Hart – or Carew as she became known – was the first daughter of the ‘wild unthinking Emma,’ who herself grew up to become Lady Hamilton, wife of the King’s Envoy Extraordinary to Naples, mistress of Britain’s greatest naval hero Vice-Admiral Horatio Nelson, and one of the most recognisable (and polarising) figures of the 18th century.
The name of Emma Carew is known to many readers of Nelsonian biography as a veiled presence, whose existence Lady Hamilton kept a profound secret from the ears of her captivated Admiral. Past accounts have suggested that Emma Carew died young, that she moved abroad or entered a convent in the East End of London. Some biographers, given the lack of evidence available, simply state that she disappeared.
The fate of the three Emmas – Lady Hamilton and the two illegitimate children who bore her name – has long been a subject of interest. Despite numerous searches, the graves of all three have been lost to time amidst the carnage of war and the sprawling industrial and urban developments of the 19th and 20th centuries. The scattered bones of Lady Hamilton, three times removed, now lie somewhere in Calais, beneath a public park, a town centre theatre and a newer cemetery on the edge of town. Her first resting place beneath what is now the Parc Richelieu, commemorated (as near as can be gauged) by the kind beneficence of the American philanthropist Jean Kislak with the support of Flora Fraser and Michael Nash of the 1805 Club. 
On her birth in 1782, the infant was named after her mother – who was now calling herself Emma – and placed into the care of her maternal great grandmother, Sarah Kidd, at Hawarden. Remaining there until the age of three, she was taken on a seaside sojourn by her mother and grandmother Mary – who had also changed her name from Lyon to Cadogan – to the bathing resort of Parkgate on the Wirral. From there, and despite her mother’s plaintive attempts to keep her, ‘… you don’t know how I love her…’ Greville berated her, re-stating their ‘agreaments’ and ordered that the child be deposited with the school-master John Blackburn and his wife in Manchester to receive, as Emma put it, ‘a good edducation.’  ‘Unkind Greville… I give her up to you to act as you think proper by her. Take her, Greville & may God reward you for it, tho her mother cant,’  she wrote. But in her capitulation, Emma was permitted to bring her pretty, blue-eyed little daughter for a tantalising, all too brief visit to London before the final parting.
Over the next decade Emma Hart became Lady Hamilton, acquiring accomplishments in singing and music that were lauded across Europe. Resident in Naples, the most singular component of her dramatic repertoire, her attitudes, were quite extraordinary and became the stuff of legend wherever she presented them. Meanwhile in Manchester, her sequestered daughter too became proficient in music, dancing and French. On her marriage to Greville’s uncle, Sir William Hamilton, in 1791, the sixty-one-year-old diplomat was promptly presented with a bill from his nephew – the sum of £32 and 11 shillings owing for Miss Hart’s education and upkeep.
Emma Hart grew up under the tutelage of the Blackburns, remaining there until her mother’s return from Italy in 1800 alongside Sir William and Nelson – who had now become her lover. Prior to her arrival in England, Lady Hamilton had corresponded with Greville about Miss Hart’s future. Her daughter was now nineteen years of age, and the question of settling her in a gainful occupation or finding a suitable husband was pressing. Initially, the Tria Juncta in Uno – the collective name Sir William, his wife and Nelson had given themselves – had intended to return soon to Italy, and the possibility of a placement as ‘a camerist’ (lady of the bedchamber) with the Sicilian Royal Family at Palermo, was mooted. ‘I will bring her out. The Q. has promised me,’ confided Lady Hamilton to Charles Greville, ‘Let this remain entre nous.’ Sir William’s inglorious dismissal from the diplomatic corps scuppered the plan for the time being, but Nelson and his Emma (who was on the brink of giving birth to the Admiral’s first child) clung to the ideal of an escape to Italy for a long time afterwards.
‘Horatio, Lord Nelson.’ 1798. Engraving: Richard Earlom, after Lemuel Abbott. (Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection.)
Lady Hamilton’s second daughter was born on 29 January 1801. Nelson, back at sea and sailing to face the Danes at Copenhagen, wished for his child to be called Emma, but Lady Hamilton circumspectly chose Horatia. From his darkened cabin, the ecstatic Admiral demurred. Putting pen to paper in a powerful statement of intent for the future, he rejoiced in the belief that the tiny Horatia was the first proof of real love for them both: ‘I love, I never did love anyone else. I never had a dear pledge of love till you gave me one, and you, thank my God, never gave one to anybody else…’
Within weeks of Nelson’s letter, Mary Cadogan was dispatched to Manchester to make arrangements for her eldest grand-daughter. Writing to Lady Hamilton from Chester to ‘send me every particular how I am to proceeed with the little girl.’ Lady Hamilton was paving the way for her daughter’s future and it appears that Miss Hart was to be relocated to a position in Padstow, Cornwall, where her role – if her later profession is an accurate guide – would have been as a teacher/governess.
On Nelson’s return in the summer, he commissioned Lady Hamilton to arrange the purchase of a country house at Merton which they immediately christened ‘the farm,’ though he was adamant that Sir William should stay as a guest and not be permitted to keep house there. In the midst of separating his possessions from those of his estranged wife Fanny, Nelson also made clear that he did not wish to find any of Sir William’s goods or servants in the property. The reappearance of Emma Hart in London took place amidst this storm of family discord. Exchanging fraught letters in September, Nelson responded with genuine empathy to Lady Hamilton’s very particular plight, ‘… if your Relation cannot stay in your house in Town, surely Sir William can have no objection to your taking her to the farm… The pride of the Hamiltons surely cannot be hurt by sitting down with any of your Relations. You have surely as much right for your Relations to come into the house as his could have. It has vexed as I know it must give you great pain. Make use of me for your happiness.’ And a week later, roused by Sir William’s continued intransigence, ‘Tell me how I can do anything for you at this distance… I hope Emma, you take care of your relative; when you can get her well married & settled we will try and give her something…’ 
It was a pattern, while Sir William lived, that would repeat itself each time Lady Hamilton attempted to bring her daughter into the family fold. The delicate wording of ‘your Relative’ begs the question whether Nelson, by then, was aware of the true nature of Lady Hamilton’s relationship to Miss Hart. It was a discreet, tactful term he accorded to no other member of his mistress’ family.
On her introduction to the Merton mileux, the incriminating name of Hart was exchanged for Hartley/Hartly, and it is as Emma Hartley that the girl re-entered the life of her transmogrified mother. The hope of settling her in Naples was raised again a year later, when Nelson sent a barrage of instructions to his former secretary and confidential friend John Tyson, ‘… go to Mr. Noble and receive from him Miss Hartleys Passage money as she cannot go to Naples till Mrs. Braddocks* arrival, and also get from him a letter… to send up Miss Hartleys cloaths… send the letter to Padstow this day that no time may be lost…’ From the detail contained in this unpublished letter, it seems that Nelson – in the manner of Greville and Sir William before him – had taken on the responsibility for Miss Hartley’s welfare.
The characteristic urgency of Nelson’s request may also reflect the sharp tensions present within the Tria Juncta in Uno in the autumn of 1802. In the wake of Nelson and Emma’s continuing affair, Sir William had become frustrated at being relegated to an insignificant corner of his wife’s life. Although he probably didn’t comprehend the full extent of Nelson’s own resentment, his exclusion caused him to pen an ironic but clear warning to Lady Hamilton, ‘… Unfortunately our tastes as to the manner of living are very different… but I feel that the whole attention of my wife is given to Lord Nelson and his interest at Merton… I well know the purity of Lord Nelson’s friendship for Emma and me… If realy we cannot live comfortably together, a wise and well concerted separation is preferable…’ Despite Sir William’s veiled allusions and satirical tone, the letters written to his wife through the summer and autumn of 1802 – their agitated scrawl, heavy underlinings and ink besplattered pages – betoken profound indignation and disillusionment. ‘I know the purity of your connection with him,’ he wrote.‘The question, then, is what we can best do that all may be satisfied.’ The answers were not easy ones. 
Within weeks of Sir William’s ultimatum and Nelson’s directions to Tyson, the Admiral and Lady Hamilton were further disquieted by unwelcome enquiries about the twenty-one month old Horatia, who had been provided with the false name of Thompson/Thomson. Nelson wrote plainly to Horatia’s nurse, ‘Mrs Gibson is desired on no consideration to answer any questions about Miss Thompson or who placed her with Mrs. G. as ill tempered people have talked lies about the child’  Three days later, Lady Hamilton ordered the infant’s beleaguered nurse to come alone to a meeting at her and Sir William’s house at 23 Piccadilly. With Miss Hartley’s imminent removal to Naples and Miss Thompson’s concealment in London at the Little Titchfield Street house of Mary Gibson, the ever changing names, the machinations required to handle the comings and goings to keep track of their hidden family, must have been many and manifold. Secrets to be concealed, and lies yet to be told, crowded in from all directions.
Some form of rapprochement appears to have taken place between the Hamiltons – perhaps by indulging Sir William’s fondness for fishing and his wish to have a carriage to get about on his own. From late 1802, Emma Hartley is to be found at Merton, her recorded visits generally coinciding with special family occasions. She celebrated Christmas there in 1802, before being whisked away by the Tysons to a ball at Woolwich. On 18 May 1803 – the day the Admiral returned to active service on board the Victory – Emma Hartley is recorded at 23 Piccadilly as one of two witnesses at the marriage of Nelson’s neice Kate Bolton.  Sir William had died at the house six weeks earlier, and the Admiral had left Lady Hamilton pregnant again, but the second fruit of their union – another daughter that Nelson referred to as ‘little Emma’ – had perished within two months of her birth.
The confirmation that Miss Hartley’s removal to Naples had been delayed (possibly due to renewed hostilities on the continent), is borne out by that delicate little apellation of Nelson’s again. His first letter to Lady Hamilton on his return to England in August 1805, following a gruelling two-and-a-half-year cruise in search of the French fleet, includes the hope of soon seeing ‘dear Horatia, Charlotte, and Ann and Eliza, and I would not have my Emma’s relative go without my seeing her.’
That Nelson knew Miss Emma Hartley personally is now certain, but the question of whether he knew who she was remains. Infatuated by his ‘Guardian Angel’ as he was, Nelson possessed a sharp eye – especially where Lady Hamliton was concerned and who she was associating with. Intensely jealous, he had always exhorted her to tell him everything that concerned her, and had known enough of her disreputable past in 1798 to write knowingly yet naively to his wife about ‘one of the very best women in the world. How few could have made the turn she has. She is an honour to her sex and a proof that even reputation may be regained but I own it requires a great soul…’ Naval scuttlebutts passing from ship to ship – officer’s talk in the mess and at table on board an 18th century man-of-war didn’t stint on gossip or spare those who were the subject of it.
Amongst Lady Hamilton’s many relations who descended on Merton or were mentioned in letters, the Connors, Kidds, Moores and Reynolds – names that were bandied about in profusion – the singular, isolated name of Emma Hartley stands out like a beacon. Likewise, the proximity of so many family members who were privy to the original secret of Lady Hamilton’s first daughter – supplemented by Charles Greville, Mary Cadogan and Sir William himself – was an ongoing risk that would mortify even the most confident of women. The possibility that, once certain of Nelson’s love and commitment, Emma Hamilton trusted him with her secret at some well-chosen moment between July 1801 and October 1802 is a powerful one. Nelson set Miss Hartley apart from the rest by the cautious way he referred to her, he had promised Lady Hamilton that they would do something for her in 1801 and within a year was keeping his word by taking on and making arrangements for the girl’s future. The Admiral’s charitable works, carried on privately out of the public gaze, were numerous and reflect the character of a man blessed with compassion and an open mind. He had long been a patron of the Asylum for Female Orphans and his and Lady Hamilton’s joint support for the children of Coram’s Foundling Hospital makes for a wonderful story in its own right. His death at Trafalgar in 1805 was a tragedy – for Emma Hamilton and both her surviving children.
Miss Emma Hart (later Lady Hamilton) as a Bacchante.’ Engraving: S W Reynolds, after Sir Joshua Reynolds. (Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection.)
Trafalgar marked another turn in the fortunes of Emma Hartley. In the aftermath of the great event she was endowed with yet another name – Carew – and finally made the overseas journey that had been planned for her five years before. A glimpse of her fate appears in a letter her mother wrote in the summer of 1806 to one of her putative fathers, Sir Harry Fetherstonhaugh – a dissolute and dandified man-about-town who had inherited a fine estate in Sussex. Twenty five years earlier Sir Harry had been the fifteen-year-old Emily Lyon’s keeper, casting her off her to be snapped up by Greville when he became tired of her and she became pregnant. A good deal of uncertainty surrounds who the real father of Emma Carew was. Three gentlemen have always stood at the front of the queue – Fetherstonhaugh, Greville and Jack Payne (a rakish sea captain and intimate companion of the Prince of Wales.) The only man Lady Hamilton is known to have referred to as the ‘father’ was Greville and it seems reasonable to surmise that, given her superior knowledge of the facts, he was the one.
On this occasion Sir Harry came good, supplying his former kept-girl with £500 that may, in part, have provided Miss Carew’s fare to the continent. Lady Hamilton had apologised profusely ‘I cannot bear to have the appearance of begging’ she added in the postscript, ‘Burn this… E goes tonight but she is taken care of in case of any accident.’ The next day, on 3 July, she elaborated further, ‘I was agitated yesterday… Also last evening with parting from a very amiable naïve good good hearted person whose health requires air and exercise. Her tears and really [sic] sorrow unmanned me… I wish to do all that could be comfortable to our friend who be assured in case of accident is provided for and she is gone into the country happy…’ She enclosed an IOU, which Sir Harry never presented.
Nothing more is heard of ‘little Emma’ until the autumn of 1809, when the small sliver of a clue appears in a letter from Lady Hamilton’s old Cheshire friend, Eliza Graefer. Mrs Graefer (perhaps accompanied by Emma Carew) had travelled to Bronte via Malta and Naples some months earlier. She carried a begging-letter from Lady Hamilton to the Queen: ‘such a letter… by all that I have done for her, by the sacred memory of Nelson, by the Charge she has placed in me, that she will be good to Mrs. Graefer.’ Eliza Graefer was then living at Bronte, the Dukedom in Sicily awarded to Nelson by a grateful King of Naples in 1799, and her constant references to mortality and death make depressing reading. But the almost blasé reference to ‘poor little Emma’ who is in ‘a very bad way,’ must have shocked Lady Hamilton, who well knew that her daughter’s health had been weak. Continuing, Mrs Graefer paints an even darker picture, ‘I think before this reaches you she will be in Paradise; she is the very image of her mother.’
The ill-health of her delicate daughter, followed by the death of her own mother in January 1810, may explain the re-emergence of ‘little Emma’ in England in November of that year. It was now that Miss Carew penned her famous letter, begging for the truth from the woman she believed was her mother:
‘… Had you felt yourself at liberty so to have done [confirm their relationship], I might have become reconciled to my former situation and been relieved from the painful employment I now pursue. It was necessary as I then stood, for I had nothing to support me but the affection I bore you; on the other hand doubts and fears by turns oppressed me, and I determined to rely on my own efforts rather than submit to abject dependence, without a permanent name or acknowledged parents… should [you] really wish to see me, I may be believed in saying that such a meeting would be one of the happiest moments of my life, but for the reflection that it may also be my last, as I leave England in a few days, and may, perhaps, never return to it again…’
History records that these are the last known words written by Emma Carew, and some have speculated that her mother cruelly chose to ignore this eloquent and emotional plea to know the truth. By late 1810, Lady Hamilton was seriously ill in both body and mind – she had battled bilious attacks, recurrent jaundice, and was labouring under the long-term effects of spurious mercurial cures. She had also lost Merton, the home she shared with Nelson, Horatia and for a short time Emma Carew. Lady Hamilton died insensible and insolvent in Calais and was buried there on the 21 January 1815. ‘An oak coffin, casked, church expenses, priests, candles, burial-ground, men sitting up, dressing the body, spirits, &c. &c… £20-10-0.’ Her funeral was paid for by Henry Cadogan, the resident British consul in Calais, whose expenses were in turn re-imbursed by Alderman Joshua J Smith, one of Lady Hamilton’s few remaining friends and benefactors in England. Her grave – and the small wooden cross that was said to have surmounted it – were soon lost.
Following the death of her mother and the loss of her last link to England, Emma Carew disappears for many years. New research, however, points to her living in Florence on a small pension. An American correspondent reporting on the fashionable people and places of Tuscany in 1839, came upon a lady whose main claim to attention was rooted in her past. A curious combination of fact and fiction wraps up his report, published in the USA the same year:
‘Among the residents of Florence I must not fail to mention Emma Carew, the unfortunate daughter of the too celebrated Lady Hamilton. Her father, Sir William Hamilton (she was born previous to the marriage of her mother), left her a respectable provision: unfortunately it fell into the hands of her improvident parent, who was her guardian, and, as may be imagined, was speedily dissipated in her career of extravagance. Her unfortunate daughter, long struggled to procure an existence by teaching the English language, during which her privations must have been numerous; latterly her means have been increased by a small pension from the Grand Duchess, ostensibly in consideration of her mother’s services to the Royal Family of Naples, and doubtless they were great; but it is whispered that the surrender of a packet of letters, written by a certain lady, in which the sanguinary scenes perpetrated by Cardinal Ruffo, and the ruffians who followed him were instigated, was the price of the trifling provision.’
Of course, Sir William Hamilton was not the father of Emma Carew, nor did he make any provision for her in his will… and Lady Hamilton could not fritter away a daughter’s inheritance that did not exist. Despite the attempt by the author to crucify Lady Hamilton on a cross of self-inflicted ruin – whilst painting her daughter, the respectable english teacher, as an impoverished abandoned waif – the flickering possibility of a meeting between the famous beauty and her daughter looms large. Perhaps Lady Hamilton did name herself as the mother of ‘little Emma,’ at the same time providing the most plausible and least disgraceful history she could devise for her child. The natural-born daughter of a loving relationship that led to the altar would be far preferable to the scenes of casual exploitation that defined Lady Hamilton’s childhood from the age of twelve. She had long been disabused of the notion that the Queen of Naples – her ‘friend for life’ – cared one whit about whether she lived or died. And if she did hand over a packet of dynamite letters to her daughter – as an introduction, as insurance or as a tradeable commodity ‘in case of accident’ – it is plausible that they were soon cast into the flames, as many of her letters were, in an attempt to consume the truth. 
Emma Carew died on the 26 March 1856 and was buried two days later in the English Cemetery on the outskirts of Florence. Her remains were placed in a white wood coffin, lined with silk and attended by four porters wearing gloves and crepe. Her unlined grave was dug by Giorgi (who also buried Elizabeth Barrett Browning) for a fee of 10 lire. In a remarkable similarity to Lady Hamilton’s funeral rites, Emma Carew’s interment and grave were both second class, and the fees – totalling 340 lire – met by a charitable family named Smith. The records kept by the cemetery and Reverend Gilbert, the resident Anglican priest, show that Emma Carew was struck down by a fatal attack of asthma. It appears she was not given an Anglican burial and the register states her age as 70 (a moveable feast for ladies of the time). She had just turned 75. In a poignant empty space that contrasts with the names of the many populous families surrounding her, the record shows that Emma Carew never married (a difficult thing for a woman in service to do whilst maintaining her place) and had no family or dependants – living or dead. 
Emma Carew’s last resting place – tomb number 595 – in common with her mother and youngest half-sister, soon became lost to time – unmarked and unmourned until now.
In late 2013 a marble plaque in remembrance of Emma Carew was placed on the cemetery wall, near the spot where she would have been interred. This simple tribute to a solitary Englishwoman abroad was arranged by Professor Julia Bolton Holloway, Dante scholar and Director of the English Cemetery of Florence – where she also works to educate and develop the traditional skills of the Roma population. The memorial was carved by a young Roma trainee.
Although Nelson’s arrangements for Miss Hartley, together with the registers of the Parish of St. George, the records of the English Cemetery and the brief account of a travelling magazine correspondent add grist to the mill of Emma Carew’s story, they pose as many questions as they answer. These emerging threads – stretching from Cornwall, to Naples, to Sicily and the British ex-pat population living in Florence during the early reign of Queen Victoria – provide new pathways for exploration. The burial ground in Florence – lovingly preserved on a busy roundabout on the outskirts of the city, may signify an ending in one sense. But it leads to a beginning in another.
Close to tomb number 595, buried there in 1864, lies the writer and poet Walter Savage Landor. Coincidentally, it was Landor who penned the following epitaph to Miss Carew’s ultimately ill-fated mother in his 1853 collection of poems, The Last Fruit off an Old Tree:
‘Gone are the sirens from their sunny shore,
The Muses afterwards were heard no more,
But of the Graces there remains but one –
God named her Emma, mortals, Hamilton.’
* ‘Mrs. Braddocks.’ This name is almost undecypherable. However it is worth noting that an acquaintance of Nelson – and fellow landowner in the vicinity of the Bronte estate – was the English merchant John Broadbent.
1. The Collection of Autograph Letters & Historical Documents formed by Alfred Morrison: The Hamilton & Nelson Papers, Volume II, (1894), Letter 1003. (herafter referred to as Morrison MS.) Morrison’s vast collection of letters was dispersed in 4 separate sales at the London auction rooms of Sotheby, Wilkinson & Hodge between 1917-1919.
2. ‘Amey Lions’ – witness to the marriage of Sarah Kidd (her aunt) and Michael Connor, 24 Nov, 1778 at St. James Church, Piccadilly. (Westminster City Archives.) Julie Peakman, Emma Hamilton (2005), p7. Although Emma claimed her education did not begin until the age of seventeen, she was able to sign this version of her name.
3. Jonathan Swift’s visceral poem: Written for the Honour of the Fair Sex (1731.)
4. Morrison MS, Volume I, Letter 113.
5. The Enchantress: Emma, Lady Hamilton, The Jean Kislak Collection (2011), xxi.
6. Morrison MS: Volume I, Letter 126.
7. Ibid, Letter 127.
8. ibid, Letter 128.
9. Ibid, Letter 127.
10. Ibid, Letter 201.
11. James Harrison & Thomas Lovewell, The Letters of Lord Nelson to Lady Hamilton, Volume II, (1814), p272.
12. T J Pettigrew: Memoirs of the Life of Vice-Admiral Viscount Nelson, Vol II, (1849), p652.
13. Morrison MS, Volume II, Letter 563.
14. Walter Sichel, Emma Lady Hamilton from New & Original Sources & Documents, Appendix, (1905), p379.
15. Morrison MS, Volume II, Letter 628.
16. Harvard University, Houghton Library, MS: Eng 196.5 (29.)
17. Morrison MS, Volume II, Letter 684; NMM/WAL/16a; Houghton Library, Harvard University, MS: 196.5 (64).
19. Register Book of Marriages belonging to the Parish of St. George, Hanover Square in the County of Middlesex 1788-1809, Volume II, p281.
20. T J Pettigrew, Memoirs of the Life of Vice-Admiral Viscount Lord Nelson, Volume II, p487.
21. Kate Williams, England’s Mistress: The Infamous Life of Emma Hamilton, (2006), p209. (Originally redacted in Pettigrew, Volume I, p150.)
22 & 23. Mollie Hardwick, Emma, Lady Hamilton, (1969), pp 217-218.
24. Walter Sichel, Emma Lady Hamilton from New & Original Sources & Documents, Appendix, (1905), p510.
25. Morrison MS, Volume II, Letter 979.
26. Ibid, Letter 1003.
27. Ibid, Letter 1062.
28. The Grand Duchess was the wife of King Leopold II, the grandson of Maria Carolina – Queen of Naples during Sir William and Lady Hamilton’s residence in Italy.
29. The Corsair, 19 October 1839, p511.
30. Nelson’s role – and that of the King and Queen of Naples – in the aftermath of the Neapolitan Revolution of 1798. The newest documentary evidence paints a fuller scenario to that traditionally portrayed.
31. Records of the Evangelical Cemetery of Porta A’ Pinti, Firenzi – called the English Cemetery of Florence. With grateful thanks to Anna Knowles of www.nelsonandhisworld.co.uk for her wonderful support in my search for Emma Carew at this place. Thanks also to Professor Julia Bolton Holloway, Direttrice Mediatheca Fioretta Mazzei, Cimitero degli Inglese, for her valuable time and expertise. Un semplice grazie non è sufficiente!
32. Walter Savage Landor, The Last Fruit off an Old Tree. Published by Edward Moxon, Dover Street, London, (1853), p381.
All material © J A Livesey 2014
What a national tragedy the way that Lady Hamilton was treated following the death of Nelson. There is some happiness to be had in the knowledge that Horatia went on to have a large family of her own, but honestly it must have acted like a suppurating wound on the psyche of many British institutions and citizens including the Royal Navy for the longest time. Although it will never happen, the only thing I could imagine that would go some way towards making amends would be for Lady Hamilton’s remains to be repatriated from France and added to the lonely Nelson’s in the crypt of St Paul’s. I guess that is a bit too “Wuthering Heights” but honestly, it would be fitting.
I was thrilled to find this information about Emma Carew in the course of my family history research, in particular confirmation that she was indeed the “Emma Hartley” who witnessed the Bolton cousins’ wedding. Some other sources have given Hartley as an alternative surname for her mother, but this did not make sense when the wedding record shows that the wedding was held at “Lady Hamilton’s” home. Thank you!
Thank you for the very informative and interesting piece. I’d like to talk about a few questions this article brought up for me.
Apparently Horatia lived with her mother (Lady Hamilton) after Nelson’s death for several years. At that point she had been formally adopted by both her and Nelson, and Nelson had even instructed before his death that she change her name from Thompson, and use the Nelson surname.
However, a Wickepedia article claims that she did not discover that they were her biological parents until after her marriage when a book on Nelson was published verifying this fact. This seems highly unlikely to me because she had already named her first son Horatio, before that publication in the 1830s. She had to have known. There is even a painting of Horatia as a child, supposedly kneeling at the tomb of her father, so I would safely assume that this information would have been difficult to withhold from her.
Lady Hamilton died when Horatia was about 13 or 14. At that point Horatia had also endured at least one name changes, and even her birthdate was incorrectly recorded on her baptism, apparently to disguise the time and place of her birth to avoid public speculation surrounding it. With the many secrets involved to conceal the truth from marring Lady Hamilton’s social position, her children consequently were put through the wringer. Imagine the psychological effects of having to be adopted by one’s biological parents, or the doubt in knowing one’s actual birthdate? No thought was given to this back then, but it seems potentially damaging and damning.
I think there is a lot of significance in that although Horatia was proud of her Nelson lineage, she refused to ever publicly acknowledge that Emma was her actual mother. According to some sources, it’s been said that in life, Lady Hamilton insisted to Horatia that she was merely her guardian, but not her true parent. Therefore Horatia maintained the same, in spite of evidence to the contrary from family members and historians.
I find this to be very peculiar. Did she not like her mother? Did she blame her mother for something we will never know or understand? Did she want to distance herself from an unhappy childhood with her mother? She grew up to be an intelligent and accomplished woman, and this must be attributed to her mother for making that possible. Even though Lady Hamilton was plagued by insolvency, debtor’s prison, and sad necessity to flee from England to Calais with Horatia undercover (to escape the creditors) it seems very strange that she. never figured out that her adoptive mother was also her biological mother, in spite of whatever her mother may have told her. That she refused to admit it shows ambivalence and almost latent hostility.
If that were the case, it makes sense even more probable that Emma Carew, (nee Hartly nee Hart) never received confirmation from Lady Hamilton of her mother’s connection to her, in spite of her heartbreaking plea to know the truth. If Lady Hamilton never confirmed to Horatia that she was her mother, even though they lived together for most of her childhood, it makes perfect sense that she never told Emma Carew the truth either. This is very hard to comprehend, but it is likely. Lady Hamilton could never openly make a legitimate claim any of her children, and though it seems clear that she loved them and cared about providing for their well being, she also denied herself the right of naming herself as their mother at any point.
Was she trying to protect them? Or was she trying to protect herself? I assume it was a bit of both. But it seems cruel (by our standards today) to deny an adult child the right to know who their parents were. At least Horatia was provided for in marriage, and seems to have lived a long and fulfilling life, without shame or the loss of status. What a difference from the fate of Emma Carew!
The Wickepedia article (which is poorly written and very contradictory) states that Emma was likely the daughter of Sir Harry Fetherstonhaugh, conceived while Lady Hamilton was his young, 16-17 year old mistress. It claimed that she appealed to Lord Greville for assistance after Fetherstonhaugh had cast her aside, enraged that she had become pregnant, and that Greville agreed to take her in on the condition that the child be removed after birth. This article suspects that Fetherstonhaugh was in actuality, Emma’s father, even though he refused to provide for her upon hearing of the pregnancy. Sir Greville was willing to take on Emma (Hartley) as a mistress as long she dispatched the child elsewhere which isn’t necessarily odd, but it seems more than likely that he also didn’t want another man’s child around him. Further proof that he wasn’t the biological father is gleaned from the fact that he presented Sir William Hamilton (his uncle) with a substantial bill for her upkeep after Emma Hamilton married him. This suggests that it is more than possible that Fetherstonhaugh may have been the actual father and not Greville. It’s almost as if he’s saying “I’ve provided for this kid long enough, and now it’s your turn” which seems to be an atypical thing to do had she been his actual daughter. Why would his uncle have to assume her bills were she truly his daughter?
The Hamilton/Grevilles felt only obliged to tolerate Emma Carew only on the condition that she remained far from their sight, but that is puzzling if she wasn’t their blood relation in any way. However, if Sir Fetherstonhaugh was willing to dispatch $500 pounds for her care on the appeal of Lady Hamilton after Nelson’s death, It would make sense that he did this out of filial obligation. Better late than never. Fetherstonhaugh had initially refused to help Lady Hamilton AFTER he may have impregnated her. Her only hope for getting out of the terrible predicament he had placed upon her was entirely reliant upon the good graces of Greville, and then later Lord Hamilton. They were all a bunch of rakes as far as I’m concerned, but is there information that sheds more light on this situation?
If Emma Carew had actually been Greville’s daughter, and Lord Hamilton’s great niece, it seems unlikely that they could have been so cold hearted toward their own kin, (in my opinion). It’s also more than possible that either party could have been Emma’s father, and Greville incorrectly assumed it was Fetherstonhaugh and vice versa, which made them both intractable when it came to making adequate allowances for her.
The whole tale is a fascinating mystery. Unfortunately, Lady Hamilton was irrevocably and prematurely doomed upon the death of Lord Nelson to do much for Emma Carew. She did not get a fair shake in either his will or on any grants from the government, in spite of his deathbed request to provide for her and Horatia. Nobody stepped up to the plate when it came to Emma.
We can safely assume that Lady Hamilton’s pregnancy with Emma Carew was not her fault. As a young, teenager she was subjected to the advances of men much older and powerful, and she couldn’t help it if she found herself with an unwanted pregnancy as a young, friendless girl. In spite of this she seems to have retained a long lasting interest in her child regardless of how difficult her presence made things. It seems obvious that she told Lord Hamilton the true nature of their relationship and he was speaking in code when he discussed her in their letters, (yet he may not have discovered this until after Horatia’s birth).
Horatia Ward’s permanent resistance to ever acknowledge Lady Hamilton as her mother makes one wonder if Lady Hamilton was more maternally affectionate in her letters than she was in reality. If Horatia Nelson Ward’s claims are in fact correct, and if Lady Hamilton failed to ever disclose to her that she was her biological mother, it’s safe to assume that Emma was never granted that admission either.
Instead, Emma seems to have lived a life akin to that of a Bronte novel styled governess, as a poor relation relegated to the outskirts of family life save for special occasions where she was granted permission to be in their presence. It’s ironic that she eventually ended up in Italy on a BRONTE estate! (not sure if there is a connection to the Bronte family but still a weird coincidence in view of her circumstances). She ended up confined to an unenviable existence of interminable service, questionable parentage and numerous secrets. Gothic novels do not get any better than this story!
Thank you again for the interesting read. It just adds more fuel to fire of this mystery but in my opinion, I do think it’s more than likely that Fetherstonhaugh was her natural father, and I hope karma got him in the end for not doing a damn thing to help his child. Lady Hamilton may not have been the greatest mother to Emma, but enslaved by the damning circumstances of her time, she did the best that she could with the little she had.
Still, it is probable that had Lady Hamilton paid Emma Carew even a fraction of the attention and devotion that she showed toward Lord Nelson, she could have provided a little more amply for her child. Horatia doesn’t resemble Lady Hamilton in the few pictures I have seen of her, but if Emma Carew was the spitting image of her mother, as attested to by the letter here, it seems she could have had better opportunities for marriage had more thought been given to the matter. It is sad to imagine that such a beautiful girl ended up at the mercy of the kindness of strangers. Instead, we can only speculate what happened to her in the several years that are unaccounted for in her sad, yet surprisingly long life.
thank you for your excellent comments and thoughts. Unfortunately, I’ve lost contact with Jacqui, however I will try to pass on your comments to her.
We may be decendants of Emma Carew according to my grandmother. It doesn’t sound like she had any children though. Any thoughts? Thank you.
A sad but interesting story about a very beautiful mother and probably an equally beautiful daughter. I only wish I had known both!!
I’ve seen some of the pictures of Horatia Nelson’s children and grandchildren. One or two of the inherited Emma, Lasy Hamilton’s beauty.
Can you please expand perhaps with the pictures you mention?
Very interesting. I always thought Emma Carew was lost to history, and wondered about her fate. It’s sad that a respectable marriage hadn’t been arranged fir her (always assuming that would have been to her taste), but there are worse fates than living on a pension in Florence!
Admiral Nelson knew what would be the likely fate of any bastard child, as those times did dictatate. His breaking his marriage vow ruined many lives. England glorifies Nelson for saving the country. Yet stays silent on the ending of Nelson’s illegitimate children. England will one day proudly crown Prince Charles and allow it after the destruction he and Camilla caused Princess Diana. Sad. It shows that when you cheat many lives suffer because of your lack of morals.
I take your point but would add that profound love seems to trump all!
Also the Diana affair opens a can of worms as I don’t think she was entirely innocent in the break up. But don’t wish to go into this one.