Aelia Eudoxia – The Barbarian Empress of Rome

Today’s story is about a woman who rose from relative obscurity to the throne of the Roman Empire, a woman who became an influential figure of the church while hosting lavish parties. Today I will tell you about Aelia Eudoxia.

But first let’s take a look at the time she lived in: In 330 the Roman Empire moved its capital from Rome to Constantinople – and it became Christian. This marked the beginning of what is now known as the Byzantine Empire. However, this term is a modern invention and the people of the time would still consider themselves Roman for many centuries to come.

At the time Eudoxia was born, the 380s, former enemies of the Roman Empire were taken into service, beginning to play a more significant role. Her (supposed) father was one of them. He was of the Franks (a Germanic people) and had become a high military commander for the Roman Army. Nothing is known about her mother, although she is presumed to have been Roman. This heritage was to prove difficult for our heroine, as she was considered a “barbarian” by her countrymen – but more on that later.

By 388 an orphaned Eudoxia arrived in Constantinople, the new capital of the Roman Empire, and was taken in by a friend of her father’s, a high-ranking commander himself. There her fate began to show, when she was not only tutored alongside the children of the family but also the sons of the Emperor, Arcadius and Honorius. Soon-ish (about ten years later) the emperor died and his sons divided the Empire with Honorius taking the “original” Western while Arcadius remained in Constantinople – and he needed a wife. For reasons not entirely clear he chose Eudoxia and they were married in 395, with her gaining the title “Aelia.”

Her intelligence and willpower divided popular opinion with many criticizing how much control she held over her husband. That combined with her father’s heritage and her self-confidence made her quite unpopular at court and with the people. But I don’t think she cared. Instead she immersed herself in politics and church affairs, continuously increasing her influence until in 400 she was crowned “Augusta,” empress, and her picture decorated Roman coins (a fact that her brother-in-law Honorius didn’t like too much.) In the meantime she had born two children with a third on the way and would bear two more. She would also suffer two stillbirths but more on that later.

The records of her political activity in court are sparse, but it’s known that she had a say in legal matters and was allowed to wear the purple paludamentum, a garment reserved for people of imperial rank. Her involvement with the Nicene church has been recorded much more thoroughly though. She made herself its patron, attending to religious matters independently, as her husband chose to stay out of them. Remember how I said the people didn’t like her? Well, quite a few people in the church really, really didn’t like her. And so they had a lot to say. Her foremost enemy was John Chrysostom, the patriarch of Constantinople. He was a strong opponent of luxury and openly denounced the lavish parties held by the upper class and the extravagance in women’s clothes – criticism not very subtly aimed at Eudoxia herself. When her son was born in 401, John even suggested Arcadius was not the father. She decided something was to be done about him. Using her influence within the church, she had him banished.

…for, like, a day. As he had been really popular with the common people, they started a riot. Also there was an earthquake in the night of his judgement, which clearly was a heavenly sign. So he was reinstated. You could think he learned his lesson, but nope. Set off by a statue of the empress, John condemned her as Jezebel (who made her husband abandon the Christian god) and Herodias (who was responsible for decapitating John the Baptist; he compared himself to the latter.) And once again he touched on the subject of her children and placed the guilt for a stillbirth in late 403 on her actions. This time he was banished for good.

Eudoxia however did not live to enjoy her triumph for long. She would not survive a second stillbirth and died in October 404, only about 27 years old. Her legacy however lived on with first her son and later her daughter on the Byzantine throne.

image credits:

map: The Roman Empire Divided (400 AD) – Link
Coin: User Daderot in Wikimedia Commons – Link
Painting: “Saint John Chrysostome and the Empress Eudoxia” by Jean-Paul Laurens, 1893 (© Photo STC – Mairie de Toulouse) – Link

Edith Cavell – Spy Nurse

In World War I a nurse was executed for treason by a firing squad. Do you wonder how she ended up like that?
Please read on.

Edith Cavell’s life didn’t start out that extraordinarily. She was born in Norwich in 1865 as the eldest of four children. Although the family wasn’t exactly rich, her parents believed into sharing what they had with the less fortunate. A sentiment that stayed with Edith all her life. She was educated in several boarding schools, like quite a few girls with her upbringing, and after graduating started working as a governess. After a brief period of travelling however, her father fell sick and she decided to return home and care for him. This was when the seed of her wish to become a nurse was planted.

Eventually he recovered and Edith began her job as a nurse probationer in London Hospital when she was 30. It was a hard job, but it showed she had a real talent for it. She even earned a medal for her work during a typhoid outbreak in Kent! Edith was dedicated to her job, working in several hospitals and visiting patients in their homes.

In 1907, she was approached by Dr Antoine Depage, the director of a newly established nursing school in Brussels, who wanted her to teach there. Upon realizing how poorly trained Belgian nurses were (as it has been long regarded a male profession there) she accepted and packed her bags. Her teaching was strict and her standards high, but the hard work paid off. Even Queen Elizabeth asked for a nurse trained there when she broke her arm, giving the faculty the royal seal of approval. In 1910, Edith decided it was time for a professional nursing journal and promptly launched one herself, called L’infirmière. And so her reputation grew and within a year she trained nurses in 3 hospitals, 24 schools, and 13 kindergartens in Belgium. On the right, that’s her when she lived in Brussels. The dog on the right, “Jack” was rescued after her death.

Taking a break from her busy life, she was just visiting her mother (her father had died shortly before) when World War I broke out. Hastily Edith returned to Brussels to care for all the wounded soldiers that came flooding in. For her efforts she became matron of the hospital, overseeing the nurses’ activities and organizing them. In the picture you can see her amidst her nurse squad.

When the Germans occupied Belgium in 1914, Edith began sheltering soldiers – both, Allied and German – and helped them flee the country. Not only did she hide them in her own cellar until trusted guides were found to send them to the next station in the smuggling network, she also invented ruses for them to be able to flee safely. And that’s not all! Written on fabric and sewn into clothes and hidden in shoes, Edith and her organization sent military intel to the British. Unfortunately Edith was a generally outspoken person, so she wasn’t exactly inconspicuous. And in 1915 she was betrayed by a member of her network (who ironically was executed all the same) and arrested by the German military police.

For 10 weeks she was kept in solitary confinement but refused to talk. Eventually though, she was tricked. Her captors told her that her comrades had already confessed and if she did too, she could save them from execution. Naively she believed them. Edith signed her confession one day before her trial. Unfortunately she was a little too thorough, admitting not only to helping Allied soldiers flee the country but also sending them to a country at war with Germany – namely Britain, from where they would often send her postcards upon their safe arrival. Never leave a paper trail, people! Unfortunately the punishment for that crime was death, according to German military law (which, in times of war, did not only apply to Germans but to all people in occupied areas.) So she was sentenced to death by shooting.

Interestingly enough, quite a few countries had something to say about this. Not only did Great Britain try to save her (denying the espionage charge of course), but the formerly neutral countries of Spain and the USA objected to the sentence as well. Unfortunately they were powerless. And so on 12th October 1915, Edith Cavell was executed by a German firing squad. On the night before her execution, she said to the priest who gave her Holy Communion: “Patriotism is not enough. I must have no hatred or bitterness towards anyone.” These words were inscribed to the statue of her that still stands in St. Martin’s Place, near Trafalgar Square in London (see the picture). Her final words are recorded to have been: “Tell my loved ones later on that my soul, as I believe, is safe, and that I am glad to die for my country.”

As the mention of a statue in her honor might have indicated, killing Edith was a propaganda catastrophe for Germany. Even though Edith herself said, she had expected the trial’s outcome and believed it to be just (after all she had committed the offense she was charged for), she was hailed a martyr. In Great Britain her death was told over and over by newspapers, pamphlets and books (often not very accurately and always dropping her espionage activities) which instilled strong anti-German sentiments in the population. All because she was a woman and a nurse – the picture of innocence. Especially her fearless approach to death contributed to her popularity. 

One more quote of hers: “I have no fear or shrinking; I have seen death so often it is not strange, or fearful to me!”

further reading:

image credits:

Edith and her dogs: Imperial War Museum © IWM (Q 32930)
Nurse Squad: Imperial War Museum © IWM (Q 70204)
Statue: User Prioryman in Wikimedia Commons – Link

Shajar al-Durr – The King-Ransoming Sultan

The place is Egypt at the time of the Seventh Crusade. You have never heard of that one, you say? That might be because this week’s heroine stopped it before it could really begin by torching its ships Blackwater Bay-style and capturing its leader, the King of France. Her name is Shajar al-Durr and this is her story.

It begins with a lot of loose ends. She was presumably born around 1220 as a slave of maybe Armenian but most definitely Turkic descent. Her birth name is unknown. She must have been beautiful though, as she was bought as a gift to the son of the Egyptian Sultan and given the new name Shajar al-Durr, meaning String of Pearls. In 1240, when the old sultan died and his son succeeded him on the throne, she moved into the palace in Cairo with him. (It wasn’t quite that easy, but this is Shajar’s story, so I’ll keep it short here.) Not much later, she gave birth to their son Khalil and promptly the Sultan married her. For about eight years, their life was blissful. (The picture on the right is an illustration of her from a Lebanese book from 1966, but it might be set in these happy times.) Then, in 1249, the Sultan died, right when the 7th crusade, led by King Louis IX of France, knocked at the door. Well, they didn’t knock exactly, they sent a letter. It was not a diplomatic offer as one might expect, it was nothing but Louis detailing how he would crush Egypt under his foot.

Shajar, being a smart woman, only told the highest ranking and most trustworthy officers (exactly two people: the chief commander and the chief eunuch) of the predicament of the sultan being dead. In the true spirit of “The King is dead, long live the King,” they decided to hide the monarch’s death until the question of his succession was solved (Khalil was not the heir as he wasn’t the eldest son). So Shajar took the reins in the meantime, supported by her two accomplices. Luckily her husband had been kind of a lazy ruler, so there were many blank orders already signed in advance that were just waiting to be filled. And so they did. Shajar told everyone the Sultan was sick and needed rest to recover but was still watching over his country. And then she handed out orders like the badass she was. She even organized for food to be made for the Sultan and left in front of his door everyday for her to bring to him – or rather dispose of it. And so they convinced the people of Egypt that their leader was still alive.

The rumours that had existed in the beginning though reached the crusaders then and they were sure of their victory now. After all, their opponents didn’t have a king anymore. And in 1250 they launched their attack on the city of Al Mansurah where the Egyptian camp was stationed. They were delighted to see the city gates open, thinking they had caught the Heathens by surprise and expecting an easy victory. Once the army advanced though, they were ambushed and more than 15 000 soldiers and 400 Templars and noblemen were killed. Prior to the battle, Shajar had the crusaders’ ships set ablaze with Greek fire, so the expected crusader reinforcements never arrived. There were hostage taken as well. Amongst them King Louis IX.

Now for a fun interlude: this sparked the Shepherds’ Crusade of 1251, when a bunch of French farmers, peasants and, well, shepherds revolted and travelled to Egypt to rescue their king. I say they travelled to Egypt, but in fact they never made it there. The crusade dispersed rather quickly and soon they wreaked havoc on the French countryside.

So, now it gets a little complicated. There was the Sultan’s eldest son Turanshah, who was rightfully entitled to the throne and actually had been crowned before the Battle of Al Mansurah. But he made a couple of stupid mistakes. He drank in public (as a Muslim!) and rumours ensued that was mistreating his father’s household, specifically Shajar, who was beloved with her people. The biggest mistake of all however was replacing the Turkic military captains that had held command under his father and fought at Al Mansurah, with his own. Let’s say, they weren’t exactly happy to be demoted, so they stormed the palace while Turanshah was having a party. After receiving a sword blow to the hand, Turanshah fled but it was for nothing. They torched the tower he tried to hide in and finally shot him down (with arrows) in a riverbed. His reign was very short.

Instead the captains  installed Shajar, with whom they shared a heritage, as sultan. This marks the beginning of a dynasty lasting more than 300 years, one where the Muslim servant class, the Mamluks, held the throne of Egypt. Since she had been filling in for her husband when he was away in battle, the court was used to her orders and accepted their new sultan (gladly I expect, with the domestic violence rumours from before.)

The people were favorable too, especially when she ransomed King Louis IX back to his own country for 400 000 livres tournois. To set this into perspective, that was about 30% of the country’s annual revenue. That’s a lot of money. And to repeat this once more: she was Sultan in her own right, supported by the military in a Muslim country in the 1250s. She also had her own coins made (see picture!)

Well, that didn’t last for too long. Even though she had her own coins printed and was acknowledged as sultan in her people’s prayers, there were still naysayers. Powerful naysayers that is. Firstly, news of the female sultan reached Syria and its leaders were not amused and attacked Egypt. The invaders were defeated but her country worried – more specifically her opposition in the country worried and in turn made the population worry. So with all this pressure, she agreed to marry Aybek, who had been the taste-tester/accountant of her late husband and had done admirable deeds in the battle against Syria. This meant Shajar had to step down in favour of her husband, which she did. And so her reign was arguably short as well.

Ayak wasn’t a good sultan. He didn’t have much of a backbone and was easily manipulated by all parties. It’s rumoured Shajar continued to rule from the shadows, but there is no proof. Another rumor was that she would not allow the marriage to be consummated and I wouldn’t blame her. You see, Ayak had a first wife who had born him a son and whom he refused to divorce. And then he talked about taking a third one! In 1257 Shajar finally snapped. She and her servants strangled him in the bath (or she had her servants do it, historians disagree.) And again she told everyone her husband was ill – although this time she actually admitted he was dead, albeit from an illness and not from a sudden lack of oxygen.

At first everything seemed fine, no one liked Ayak anyhow, but neither his first wife not the soldiers loyal to him believed her. And after a good torture, they had the confessions of the slaves involved. A palace revolt ensued. It isn’t exactly sure what started this riot, but it is likely that Ayak’s first wife had something to do with it. Anyhow, the angry mob found Shajar and beat her to death. With wooden shoes. Ouch. Then her half-naked corpse was dumped over the city wall into the moat where the rest of her (valuable) clothes were stolen by peasants. It was only three days later, after wild animals had already taken the one or another bite, that she was finally buried. Her final resting place is the Darih Shajarat al-Durr, a mausoleum she had built in 1250, located near the shrines of female deities. And although time has left its marks on the structure, the elaborate craftsmanship is clearly visible. (see picture)

Aybak’s son Ali became the new sultan, albeit only four two years. But the Mamluk dynasty that Shajar had founded lived on, even if she was omitted from the official list of sultans and sweeped under the rug for a good while. It is often hard to tell fact from fiction and there are many different opinions on almost everything in her story but they all agree in one thing: Shajar al-Durr was a badass woman who knew what she wanted and how to get it.

image credits:

sketch: from صلاح الدين الايوبي قصة الصراع بين الشرق و الغرب خلال القرنين الثاني عشر و الثالث عشر للميلاد from 1966 – via Wikimedia Commons
coins: from “A History Of Eypt” by Stanley Lane Poole, 1901 – Link
mausoleum: John A. and Caroline Williams on Archnet

Indra Devi – Mother of Western Yoga

Once again this week’s heroine is a more recent one as she only died fifteen years ago, but as she did die at age 102 I felt like including her wasn’t breaking the “historical” criteria: Meet Indra Devi, who played a big role in bringing yoga to the Western world.

Born as Eugenie Peterson in Riga, Latvia in 1899 to a Swedish banker and a Russian actress and noblewoman, she was sent to study theater in Moscow once she had finished school. There, at age 15, she discovered India’s poetic philosophical texts and first encountered yoga. This left her so impressed, she promised herself to go to India one day. When the family had to flee from the Bolsheviks around 1920, Eugenie ended up in Germany, where she joined a theater group with which she toured all over Europe. This took her to a congress in the Netherlands where she heard ancient Sanskrit chants for the first time, leaving her in awe once more.

The chance to travel to India should come, when in 1927, banker Hermann Bolm proposed to her. Fearing that she would never fulfill her dream once she married, she accepted only if he agreed to pay her journey to India before the wedding. And he agreed. When she returned three months later, she gave Hermann back his ring, sold all her valuables and returned to the country of her heart. There she continued her career as an actress, adopting the stage name of Indra Devi. And in 1930 she was to meet (and marry) the man of her heart, Czech diplomat in Bombay Jan Strakaty. The pair became popular in social circles quickly, being invited to all the important events. Indra defied the social norms, making friends throughout the castes and even befriended Mahatma Gandhi.

It was through her husband that she met the Maharaja of Mysore, whose palace included a yoga school where Sri Tirumalai Krishnamacharya taught. She approached the famous yogi but was refused for being a Westerner and on top of that a woman. With the intervention of the Maharaja, he relented and she was accepted …reluctantly. This made her the first female yoga pupil ever and the first foreigner Krishnamacharya taught, the first Western woman in an Indian ashram. Determined to exceed expectations, Indra met every challenge with resilience. Long hours of practice, dietary restrictions, denying herself a source of warmth – she conquered them all. Finally her efforts were rewarded and Krishnamacharya took her on as a private student. He was impressed.

In 1939 her husband was transferred to China, which meant Indra had to leave her country. Encouraged by Krishnamacharya, she opened her own yoga school in Shanghai, the first one in China. It attracted students from all over the world who began calling her Mataji, Hindi for “mother.” 

After World War II was over, the couple returned to India where Indra wrote her first book: “Yoga, the Art of Reaching Health and Happiness.” It is believed to be the first book about yoga written by a Westerner that was published in India (she also was the first Westerner to teach yoga in India.)

After her husband died in 1947, she decided to go to California and opened a yoga school in Hollywood one year later. Determined to spread the knowledge of yoga, she persuaded many famous people of her time to attend her lessons (on the right she’s pictured with movie star Eva Gabor in 1960) and wrote two more books which were translated into ten different languages to be sold in 26 countries. She herself was fluent in five languages: English, Spanish, Russian, French and German.

With her second marriage to Dr. Sigfrid Knauer, she became an American citizen and officially changed her name to Indra Devi. She went on to travel to Moscow in 1960, holding a speech before the Kremlin, convincing them to allow the practice of yoga in the Soviet Union. She started a new studio in Tecate, Mexico in 1963 but closed it after her husband died in 1977. And again she relocated, this time to Sri Lanka. But she couldn’t keep still for long and began travelling the world to teach and lecture.

When she arrived in Argentina in 1983, she fell in love with a country again and finally decided to settle. Her style of Sai Yoga (named after guru Sathya Sai Baba, whose teachings she followed) was immensely popular in Buenos Aires and fellow Sai Baba devotees invited her to stay and teach – which she did. In 1988 the Fundacion Indra Devi was founded in her honor and one year later she celebrated her 100th birthday with more than 3000 guests. Despite her old age, she never stopped travelling, albeit not as frantically as before. After a stroke in 2002 however, her health deteriorated and she died peacefully on April 25. Her ashes were scattered into the Río de la Plata.

Today, the Fundacion Indra Devi has seen some 25,000 students pass through the doors of their six studios in Buenos Aires. She was a woman who kept following her dream and made it come true, leading a fulfilling life and being an inspiration to others.

image credits: Fundación Indra Devi

Lady Emma Hamilton – More Than Just A Muse

This week I would like you to meet Lady Emma Hamilton, although you might know her already as the muse of several famous paintings (notably by George Romney, see picture). But there is a lot more to her than her pretty face and that’s what this post will be all about. 

Born 1765 in the English town of Ness, her original name was Amy Lyon. Not much is known about her early life, but that she was earning her living as a maid. Her next job was dancing at the “Temple of Health,” an establishment lead by a quack doctor, where she met her first lover when she was 15. He wasn’t a very kind guy and ditched her when she became pregnant with his child. She had however formed a friendship with Charles Greville, Earl of Warwick, who was not a very interesting person and double her age, but kind and sincere.

So she decided to become the mistress of Greville, who after all was of noble blood and a nice man – and smitten with her. He accepted her into his London home under the condition that she severed all ties to her former life, as it had been a tumultuous and at times scandalous one, that he did not want associated with his person, being of nobility and all.

And so she did, adopting the new name of Emma Hart, and moving into Greville’s appartement in 1782. She was taught noble manners, had writing and singing lessons and became interested in literature and the arts. She was also introduced to famous painter George Romney, as her lover wanted to have her portrait painted.

Romney fell in love with Emma too, on an intellectual, artistic level, so she became his muse and the subject of many of his paintings. He never had her sit in any indiscreet poses though, even if he had her model nude, showing how much respect he had for her. Through these paintings, she became quite famous in London’s society, being witty and smart on top of her beauty and elegance. And quite a few painters decided to portray her in their works, her ability to adapt a variety of roles attracting them. (see picture, by Louise Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun)

In the meantime, just one year after she had moved in, Greville’s love for Emma diminished and he hoped to find a rich heiress to marry, helping his measly financial situation. The relationship with his mistress however posed a threat to these goals, no potential bride would accept him when he openly lived with another woman.

Luckily it was exactly then that his uncle Sir William Hamilton came to visit him from Naples – and fell head over heels for Emma. She remained faithful to Greville however and did not return his avances.

In 1786, Emma departed for Naples nonetheless – an only six-month stay, Greville had promised, while he was away on business in Scotland. This was nothing but a scheme though and all Greville wanted was to usher Emma off to become Hamilton’s mistress, so that he could marry his sugar mama. At first she felt homesick, but Hamilton proved himself a true gentleman who shared many of her interests and introduced her to Naples’ high society. So she grew to like life in the city, learned Italian and French and was fascinated by Hamilton’s vulcanic research. Not too much later though, she realized she was supposed to stay in Naples as her host’s mistress. She wrote many letters to Greville, assuring him of her love and that she felt nothing but friendship for his uncle. He coldly replied she was to do as his uncle wished. There was nothing else she could do, so she accepted Hamilton, who was 35 years her senior, as her lover.

Making the best of her situation, Emma began to live her artistic ideas, starting to exhibit “living pictures” for her guests (see picture). Using minimal requisites, she managed to captivate her audience, making these kind of performances an accepted art form. With these “attitudes,” as she called them, as well as with her singing voice she was soon known throughout Europe – basically the Marilyn Monroe of her time. She even managed to win over members of the court, who had originally disdained “the courtesan.”

In 1790 Sir Hamilton decided to legalize their relationship. Greville was shocked (heh!). This marriage could prove fatal to Hamilton’s position as British ambassador though, so they travelled to London to ask the king for permission. Emma used this trip to reconnect with many of her former acquaintances, including George Romney who created several more paintings of her. Although Queen Charlotte refused to meet “the mistress,” King George III gave his blessing in secret. On September 6th, 1791 they were married in Marylebone Church, where Emma, now Lady Hamilton, signed the register with “Amy Lyon,” her birth name – a scandal in British aristocracy.

On their way back home, they came through revolution-torn Paris, where they talked with Marie Antoinette and received a confidential letter to the Queen’s sister in Naples, Queen Maria Carolina. Emma delivered the letter, a meeting that resulted in a long and close friendship with the Neapolitan Queen – there were even rumours of a lesbian relationship (but as much as I love my historic lesbians, I highly doubt that and consider it propaganda, there were a shitton of critics).

With this friendship Emma’s role became a more and more political one, acting as middlewoman for correspondence and translating delicate documents. That’s how she met Admiral Nelson, who returned from battle wounded but victorious. Emma nursed him back to health and eventually they fell in love. This affair was entirely tolerated by the elderly Sir Hamilton, who had nothing but respect for the Admiral – a feeling that was mutual.

When the French were advancing into the kingdom of Naples. The Hamiltons fled with the Queen’s household on Nelsons ships to Palermo, Sicily. The Neapolitan territory was recovered but the Hamilton estate destroyed, so the couple did not return home. Instead they embarked on a sea journey with Nelson where Emma spent the nights with the Admiral, eventually becoming pregnant. Finally back in England, Emma now met Nelson’s wife Fanny for the first time in late 1800. Only a few months later, Fanny ended the marriage as Nelson was not willing to give up Emma, which resulted in him moving in with the Hamiltons. Society did not approve.

After Emma gave birth to Nelson’s daughter, who was named Horatia, the triad moved to Merton Place, a residence in the outskirts of London in 1801. Two years later Sir Hamilton died with both Emma and Nelson holding his hands. Unfortunately Greville (remember him?) was appointed the sole heir of his uncle’s estates, the price for Emma years ago. She only got a small yearly pension.

Even though Nelson was a sea frequently, the couple enjoyed their times together and Emma encouraged him in fulfilling his duty even if she probably didn’t like seeing him that seldomly. In 1805, they were married in St. Paul’s Cathedral just before his final departure. While the Battle of Trafalgar was won by the British, it was Nelson’t final fight. He was struck by a bullet and died immediately. Neither her nor his ex-wife Fanny were invited to his burial. She did inherit Merton Place and got a yearly pension, but Nelsons final wish that she be supported by the state of Naples for her diplomatic deeds was rejected.

In the last decade of her life, Emma’s health and wealth deteriorated, a huge contribution being her ensuing alcoholism. Her pensions were often paid to late and didn’t suffice to pay her considerable debt (she had never been good with money). Finally she was forced to sell her home to pay off a part of her creditors and placed in a small barrack under house arrest with her daughter. In the end the small family fled to France (the irony) where Emma died in Calais in 1815.

The picture on the left is a pastel owned by Nelson, painted around 1800.

A tumultuous and scandalous life for sure and a woman who was much more than just a pretty face, just trying to find happiness and being taken along by the flow of life. But forever immortal in a multitude of paintings.

image credits:

1: “Emma Hart, Lady Hamilton as Circe” by George Romney, ca. 1782 – © National Trust, Waddesdon Manor (104.1995)
2: “Lady Hamilton as a Bacchante” by Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun, ca. 1790 – © Lady Lever Art Gallery (WHL 712)
3: from “Drawings Faithfully copied From Nature at Naples and with permission dedicated To the Right Honourable Sir William Hamilton” by Friedrich Rehberg – Link
4: “Emma, Lady Hamilton”, by Johann Heinrich Schmidt, 1800 – © National Maritime Museum Collections (PAJ3940)