You know how “main character energy” is a thing these days?
Well, Emma Hamilton, an English maid, model, dancer, and actress who lived quite the life throughout the late 1700s, certainly had main character energy, as she went from being a poor maid to a woman to capture the heart of one of Britain’s most notable naval heroes.
Emma was born in England in 1765. While not much is known about her childhood, she received no formal education and had to start working by the time she was 12.
Emma began working for various households as a maid and, when she was 17, became the mistress of British politician Charles Francis Greville and lived with him on his property. Around this time, Emma gave birth to a daughter whom she sent to live with her grandmother.
While living with Charles, Emma was sent to his friend, painter George Romney, who used her as a model for a few stunning portraits, and eventually, she became his muse.
By the 1780s, Charles began seeking a wealthier mistress and decided that Emma had to leave. So, he contacted his uncle, Sir William Hamilton, the British envoy to Naples, and asked him to take in Emma.
Emma and her mother were sent to Naples to stay with Sir William, under the impression that they’d only be staying there for a few months before Charles picked them up, but she was very upset when she found out he had dumped her there.
Over time, Emma eventually adjusted to life in Naples and fell in love with Sir William, who was enamored with her the moment she arrived to stay on his property. He would throw lavish parties, inviting guests over to watch her put on fun performances that left people fascinated by her. Despite their age difference, she married Sir William at 26 in 1791, making her Lady Hamilton. He was in his early 60s.
After their wedding, Emma was introduced to Sir Horatio Nelson, a famous British flag officer in the Royal Navy, when he arrived in Naples to gather reinforcements against the French in 1793. The two of them instantly hit it off, and although he wouldn’t return to Naples for another five years, they kept in touch.