Lady Hamilton & Horatia Go to Prison (part 56)

The story so far:

After Nelson’s death Emma Hamilton and Horatia were largely left to fend for themselves: Nelson’s brother inherited almost everything and no one seemed willing to honour the wishes of the deceased hero, even if she continued to harbour hopes. Therefore her income was drastically reduced, but this did not correspond to a reduction in expenses.
She was soon besieged by creditors, and was rescued a first time by a group of friends who set up a trust to pay off her immediate debts and take care of Merton.
Obviously this led to a great depression, which worsened her addiction to alcohol and gambling, and her physical health deteriorated, as well.


Despite her poor financial, psychological and health condition, Emma tried to take the best care of Horatia, adhering to Nelson’s last request, a wish that she felt obliged to honour to the end.

Meanwhile she continued to petition the Government to comply with Nelson’s last wishes expressed in the codicil and to give her some reward for her vital role during the Napoleonic wars, while in Naples, where she had acted as a spy courier and solicited the vital supply of provisions that Nelson urgently needed, thus furthering his victory on the Nile. Sadly her claims continued to be ignored and dismissed as fanciful.

Her attention to Horatia is also testified in many letters, such as the one she sent to a friend, Colonel Sir Richard Puleston, to update him on the growth and development of the child:
My time is past for rendering them any more services and for those I did I have been so ill requited that I feel disgusted at their neglect and ingratitude.
I am occupied much in the education of my ward Horatia Nelson whom her glorious father did me the honour to appoint as her guardian and I think you will be pleased with her.
I am satisfied with my pupil and I hope to see her all that her father wished her to be, however others may have neglected his sacred wishes I act as tho he could have wished me to have done.”

She was really concerned about the girl’s education, which had to be first class, and she devoted a good deal of her meagre resources to it. Unfortunately, even after being bailed out by a group of friends who had paid off her immediate debts, she still was unable to manage her budget wisely. Thus her debts mounted again and she was forced to sell Merton in 1810, the same year that Mrs Cadogan, her mother and only ally, died at the age of 67.

She had been her helpful and faithful friend, a tireless help; always present at Emma’s side, advising her on clothes, money, contacts, relationships, and keeping their Flintshire family at bay.
Towards the end, she was probably a little worn out by Emma’s extravagance and debts following Nelson’s death.
She was buried in the modest churchyard of St Mary’s in Paddington, not far from where her daughter had married Sir William Hamilton in 1791.

Emma was left alone, with creditors surrounding her, but despite this she did not seem to lose confidence: a good meal, a fine dress, a bottle of good wine, and cheerful company managed to gratify her. She couldn’t even resist the lure of the gambling-table.

The combination of her still immoderate spending and the constant depletion of funds handed out to people looting her meant that she continued to remain in debt, albeit unbeknownst to most people.
The sale of Merton had brought her short-lived relief, since she was compelled, along with Horatia, to move from house to house in an attempt to escape not only creditors, but also men who appeared out of nowhere claiming they had “known” her when she was Amy Lyon. Even her brother blackmailed her into giving him money, not to mention Mrs Cadogan’s family who expected donations now that she was no longer around to keep them at bay.
Eventually things became so tragic and desperate that Emma voluntarily submitted to “Living within the Rules” in an area in Southwark (South London) controlled by King’s Bench Prison, reserved specifically for debtors. This prison was notorious for being dirty, overcrowded and prone to outbreaks of typhus, and it was also sadly mentioned by Charles Dickens in his novels.

In this way she could not be approached by any of her creditors, waiting for better times in which she hoped to be able to pay off the more aggressive ones.

To be continued

La storia fin qui:

Dopo la morte di Nelson, Emma Hamilton e Horatia furono per lo più abbandonate a se stesse: il fratello di Nelson ereditò quasi tutto e nessuno sembrava disposto ad onorare i desideri dell’eroe defunto, anche se lei continuava a nutrire speranze. Pertanto le sue entrate si ridussero drasticamente, ma a ciò non corrispose una riduzione delle spese.
Ben presto venne assediata dai creditori, ed fu salvata una prima volta da un gruppo di amici che istituirono un trust per saldare i suoi debiti immediati e prendersi cura di Merton.
Ovviamente ciò condusse a una grande depressione, che peggiorò la sua dipendenza dall’alcol e dal gioco d’azzardo, e la sua salute fisica presentò notevoli problemi.


Nonostante le sue precarie condizioni economiche, psicologiche e di salute, Emma cercava di prendersi cura al meglio di Horatia, aderendo all’ultima richiesta di Nelson, un desiderio che lei si sentiva in dovere di onorare fino alla fine.

Nel frattempo continuava a presentare petizioni al governo affinché rispettasse le ultime volontà espresse da Nelson nel codicillo e riconoscesse anche a lei qualcosa per il suo ruolo vitale durante le guerre napoleoniche, mentre era a Napoli, dove aveva agito come corriere spia e sollecitato la fornitura di provviste di cui Nelson aveva urgente bisogno, favorendo così la sua vittoria sul Nilo. Purtroppo le sue affermazioni e le sue richieste continuarono a essere ignorate e liquidate come fantasiose.

Le sue attenzioni per Horatia sono testimoniate anche in molte sue lettere, come in quella inviata a un amico, il colonnello Sir Richard Puleston, per aggiornarlo sulla crescita e lo sviluppo della bambina:
Passo il tempo a rendere loro altri servizi e per quelli che ho prestato sono stata così mal ripagata che mi sento disgustata dalla loro negligenza e ingratitudine.
Sono molto occupata nell’istruzione della mia pupilla Horatia Nelson, il cui glorioso padre mi ha fatto l’onore di nominare come tutore e penso che voi sareste contento di lei.
Io sono soddisfatta della mia pupilla e spero di vederla diventare tutto ciò che suo padre desiderava che fosse, per quanto altri possano aver trascurato i suoi sacri desideri, io agisco come avrebbe voluto che io facessi.”

Aveva molto a cuore l’istruzione della ragazza, che doveva essere di ottimo livello, e vi dedicava una buona parte delle sue magre risorse. Purtroppo, neppure dopo essere stata salvata da un gruppo di amici che avevano saldato i suoi debiti immediati, imparò a gestire con oculatezza il suo denaro. Pertanto i suoi debiti aumentarono nuovamente e si vide costretta a vendere Merton nel 1810, lo stesso anno in cui morì la signora Cadogan, sua madre e unica alleata, all’età di 67 anni.

Era stata la sua valida e fedele amica, un’aiutante instancabile, sempre presente al fianco di Emma, consigliandola su vestiti, soldi, contatti, relazioni e tenendo a bada la loro famiglia di origine nel Flintshire. nel Galles del Nord.
Verso la fine probabilmente era un po’ logorata dalla prodigalità, incoscienza e dai debiti accumulati da Emma dopo la morte di Nelson.
Fu sepolta nel modesto cimitero di St Mary a Paddington non lontano da dove sua figlia aveva sposato Sir William Hamilton, nel 1791.

Emma rimase sola, con i creditori che la accerchiavano, ma nonostante ciò non sembrò perdere la fiducia: un buon pasto, un bel vestito, una bottiglia di buon vino e un’allegra compagnia riuscivano a gratificarla. Non riusciva neppure a resistere al richiamo del tavolo da gioco.

La combinazione di spese ancora eccessive e la costante elargizione di fondi a persone che la depredavano, fecero sì che continuasse a rimanere indebitata, anche se all’insaputa della maggior parte delle persone.
La vendita di Merton le aveva portato un sollievo di breve durata, perché poi fu costretta, insieme a Horatia, a trasferirsi di casa in casa nel tentativo di sfuggire non solo ai creditori, ma anche a uomini che apparivano dal nulla affermando di averla “conosciuta” quando era ancora Amy Lyon. Persino suo fratello la ricattò per farsi dare del denaro, per non parlare dei famigliari della signora Cadogan che si aspettavano aiuti economici, ora che lei non era più presente per tenerli a bada.
Alla fine la situazione divenne così tragica e disperata che Emma si sottomise volontariamente a una restrizione: “Living within the Rules/ vivere secondo le regole”, in un’area di Southwark, a sud di Londra, controllata dalla prigione per debitori di King’s Bench (una prigione nota per essere sporca, sovraffollata e soggetta a focolai di tifo e tristemente citata anche da Charles Dickens nei suoi romanzi).
In questo modo non poteva essere avvicinata da nessuno dei suoi creditori, nell’attesa di tempi migliori in cui sperava di poter riuscire ad accontentare quelli più aggressivi.

continua

Image: King’s Bench Prison in London – engraving published as Plate 9 of Microcosm of London (1809)

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49 thoughts on “Lady Hamilton & Horatia Go to Prison (part 56)

    1. Luisa ! It is the first time that I am listening about creation of a Trust for paying off immediate debt of an Individual . Emma’s friends were really clever to create a Trust for getting rid of a woman like her from debt . Otherwise she would have spent all of such donations in gambling and drinking wine . Anyway, Emma had vowed not to be debt-free in this life time . So , ultimately she had to sell out her dream house Merton in year 1810 in which her sweet mother had also died . And she shifted to a phenomenon house in Southwark, specifically reserved for debtors , about which Charles Dickens has also mentioned in his many Novels . What a fate of a fateful lady who once was the talk of the towns of Naples . Thanks !

      Liked by 1 person

  1. It’s all coming to a rather sad end as we knew it would, but Emma was one of those people it would seem, that thinks it’s always somebody else’s fault. I do have more sympathy for Horatia though.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Although she was a victim of her own making, she really did go downhill fast. You do have to wonder sometimes how people can blatantly fail to get out of their own way. Saga continues to inform and amaze

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think some people fail to change their behavior for various reasons: they believe they are right, they hope to have the support of others, or they don’t understand that their actions are leading to their ruin: in a word perhaps they are too stupid!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. The biggest part of changing health or changing fortune is acceptance – realizing you can not longer do what you used to do. Looks like her submission to “Living within the Rules” was some inkling of acceptance or at least self preservation. Thanks for continuing the tale Luisa. Allan

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your observations: accepting the change in conditions and health is a very important step, even if sometimes difficult, for someone like me who has reached a certain age but inside feels like twenty and wonders how time could fly away so fast🤗

      Liked by 1 person

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