Do you know this woman? Her name was Emma Hamilton. If you lived in Europe during the early 1800 you would have. She was arguably more popular than the Queen of England at the time and possibly more influential. I had never heard of her until my random media generator gave me the film “That Hamilton Woman” to watch while exercising last week.
The story of her life reads like something out the tabloid headlines of today, which was a little harder to do back in 1820 with no mass media or social networking. By all accounts, she was a bit of a ‘gold digger’ and fairly successful at it based on her history.
She was born in obscurity in England in the late 1700. She parlayed her good looks and charm into upper british society as a bit of a party girl. She eventually ended up marrying the British Ambassador to Italy where she lived and hob-knobbed with the Royal Italian court, becoming buddy buddy with the King and Queen of Naples. While living in Naples, she strikes up an affair with Admiral Nelson of the British Navy, who is busy chasing Napoleon’s ships all over the Mediterranean ocean.
The affair becomes quite public and she also bears an illegitimate son by Admiral Nelson. Keep in mind that Nelson was a mythic figure at this time, considered my many to be a national hero well before his death. She eventually ends up living with Nelson and his wife in England. Something that the British high society gossip mongers apparently loved.
She eventually was outcast after Nelson was killed at the Battle of Trafalgar and died penniless in France. Even her grave site is unknown to this day. Yet while she lived she was arguably one of the most influential women in Europe for almost two decades.
With that story in mind, the film I watched, starred and was produced by Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh who were married at the time. The acting is excellent, and the fact that Vivian Leigh starts to lose it (mental illness) around the time that the film was made makes it even more fascinating to watch. A great film and a entertaining part of history that I had never heard about before.