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England's Mistress: The Infamous Life of Emma Hamilton

England's Mistress: The Infamous Life of Emma Hamilton

Book rating: 04 Paperback

By (author) Kate Williams

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  • Publisher: ARROW BOOKS LTD
  • Format: Paperback | 432 pages
  • Dimensions: 130mm x 194mm x 34mm | 340g
  • Publication date: 4 September 2007
  • Publication City/Country: London
  • ISBN 10: 0099451832
  • ISBN 13: 9780099451839
  • Illustrations note: 16
  • Sales rank: 92,065

Product description

A dramatic, sparkling tale of sex, glamour, intrigue, romance and heartbreak, "England's Mistress" traces the rise and rise of the gorgeous Emma Hamilton. Born into poverty, she clawed her way up through London's underworlds of sex for sale to become England's first media superstar. Nothing could stand in the way of her dreams - except her self-destructive desires. Drawing on hundreds of previously undiscovered letters, and told with a novelist's flair, "England's Mistress" captures the relentless drive, innovative style and burning passion of a true heroine. In a world of tabloid fame and three-minute wonders, Emma's life is truly a tale for our time.

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Author information

Kate Williams fell in love with the eighteenth century whilst studying for her BA at the University of Oxford. She has an MA from Queen Mary, University of London and a DPhil from the University of Oxford. Her articles and essays have been published in a wide range of books and journals and she is a lecturer and TV consultant, appearing regularly on BBC and Channel 4 to discuss her work. She lives in London.

Customer reviews

By Dianne Hopcroft 22 Feb 2011 4

I found this to be a very interesting book. Emma coming from a very low class back ground rises to become one of the most well known women of the time, marrying well to become Lady Hamilton. Then the mistress to Lord Nelson Hero of England. This journey involves prostitution becoming a mistress/courtesen and artists model. Heaps of intersting facts, on poverty, prostitution, politics, gambling, debt and high society in the the late 1700's to early 1800's. I found the the way illigitimate children were treated and Emmas friendship with the Queen of Naples particulary interesting.
This book is a easy read and the facts are presented well and usually interestingly. The paintings showing what the books characters looked like bring them alive. It is occasionally slow but it is worth over looking that as overall it is interesting. I Recommend this for the reader who wants a bit of history without getting bogged down with dry facts and figures. If I could give half stars I would probably have given this 3 and a half stars.

Review quote

"This rich and bouncy biography of a driven woman - mad for fashion, mad on passion - makes Posh look like a novice" Good Housekeeping "Sparkling like Emma's pawned diamonds ... Finally makes us understand why Nelson needed to be prised out of Emma's embrace to fight Napoleon..." Daily Mail "It is the thoroughness of the research and attention to detail that make Kate Williams' new biography of Emma Hamilton so interesting. The iconic Emma has been continuously reimagined since her lover Nelson's death, but Williams offers a new portrait" The Independent "Kate Williams has done a wonderful job recreating the life of the woman she wants us to relate to...This is an immensely colourful, readable portrait that revels in Emma's resilience and her ability to surmount what look to us now to be unimaginable odds" Independent on Sunday "Gallops along like a gripping novel, with an utterly believable and sympathetic character at its heart" Chesire Life

Editorial reviews

A pretty streetwalker from northern England becomes a painter's model, high-class courtesan and then mistress to Lord Nelson himself in this businesslike portrait of Emma Hamilton.British historian Williams begins her subject's rags-to-riches story in squalid, coal-rich Ness, near Liverpool, where Emma, nee Amy Lyon, was forced in her early teens to become a servant when her alcoholic and possibly tubercular father killed himself. When she moved to London, the city's amusements proved more compelling than scrubbing floors; her employer cast her out in the street, but her good looks and determination secured her a job at Drury Lane as a wardrobe mistress, while she moonlighted as a model for artists George Romney and Joshua Reynolds. Top-drawer brothel work followed, then stag parties hosted by aristocrats like Sir Harry of Uppark, who got her pregnant and then passed her off to Charles Grenville of Paddington. She changed her name to Emma Hart and sent for her mother to keep house for her. Once Grenville grew tired of her, she was handed off to his uncle, Sir William Hamilton, who lavished her with riches and actually married her, making her a lady and favorite of aristocrats eager to wear their fashions "a la Emma." Nuts-and-bolts prose recounts Emma's incredible rise without a lot of razzle-dazzle: Moving to Naples, she grew close to Queen Maria Carolina and met Lord Nelson on his way through the Mediterranean to resist Napoleon's troops in 1798. Battered, with only one eye and one arm remaining after the Battle of the Nile, the married admiral soon fell for the charming hostess, who set about cuckolding her husband and bearing Lord Nelson a child, to the delight of the press. In her debut, Williams writes sternly of her often silly protagonist, but drops the occasional feminist justification, e.g., "Despite all her charisma, intelligence, and charm, Emma had no rights and had to rely on what she could win from men."No fascinating new dish here, but a meat-and-potatoes biography. (Kirkus Reviews)