Lady Hamilton was born Emma Lyon, in Cheshire, England on the 26th April 1765. As the daughter of a blacksmith she didn't have the necessary background to mix with polite society. However, she was determined to do so and so she polished up her act, changed her name to Emma Hart and went off to London. By 1782 she had already become notorious as the mistress to several influential men. A rumour even went round that she had had an illegitimate child with Sir Harry Featherstonehaugh. The girl was apparently named Emma Carew and sent off to live in Wales for the rest of her life.
She was living with Charles Francis Greville when he sent her to Italy to be the mistress of his uncle, Sir Wiliam Hamilton, in exchange for a cancellation of his debts. Hamilton was a diplomat. He fell for Emma and they were married in 1791.
After having become a close friend of Queen Marie Caroline of Naples, she met Nelson in 1793. Now Nelson was no handsome young guy. In fact he had lost his teeth, an arm, could hardly walk and was ravaged by bouts of coughing. It is said that when Lady Hamilton first saw Nelson she fainted. However, the two soon got on intimate terms with each other. Nelson was a war hero so Sir William Hamilton did not object to his wife lavishing her attentions on him.
In January 1801 Emma gave birth to Horatia Nelson Tompson and when her husband died in 1803 she lived openly with Nelson until his death in 1805. By 1813 she had spent all her inheritance and was deeply in debt. Nelson had left instructions to the government to look after Emma after his death, but these were ignored, so she died in Calais an alcoholic in 1815.