The Kim Kardashian of Georgian England; she was a young housemaid who became one of the most famous socialites in the Western world and stole the heart Lord Nelson. Emma Hamilton, born Amy Lyon, grew up in abject poverty and at 13 travelled to London from Wales, where became a service maid. She was enthralled by the beauty and glamour of the actresses in Covent Garden and would miss work to go see them, eventually getting herself fired. She ended up destitute on the street until self proclaimed doctor and showman James Graham put her on the stage at his Temple of Good Health. Although still a teenager, men would come to oggle her beauty. Eventually she found work as a prostitute and became a mistress for the upper echelons of British society. She was effectively bought by Sir Henry Featherstonehaugh and while with him, learnt social graces, how to read, write and ride. Portraits were painted of her, she operated as a diplomat during the French revolution and became a socialite about Europe.
It was her relationship with Lord Nelson that gave her the greatest love affair and heartbreak of her life. It's said they had an electrifying chemistry and when Nelson hobbled into the Port of Naples in 1973, war-weary and sick she nursed him back to health. For years the pair enjoyed the highlife of the Enlightenment, inseparable, much to the disdain of the high society they mixed with. But, his death would mark the beginning of a steady decline- consumed by grief, addiction and debt, she died with just £10 in her pocket, some pawn receipts and just the clothes she was wearing.
Professor Joanna Lewis is a descendent of Lady Emma Hamilton and takes Dan through the twists and turns of her truly extraordinary life.
Produced by James Hickmann and Mariana Des Forges, edited by Matthew Peaty and mixed by Dougal Patmore.