Lord Nelson and Emma Hamilton Love Token Found!
On Thursday, the auction house of Woolley and Wallis in Salisbury England will auction off a piece of romantic, nautical, and historic memorabilia (expected hammer price of up to £5,000 -- which sounds low to me).
It's a 3" gold locket decorated with pearls and containing locks of hair purportedly belonging both to Admiral Nelson and Emma Hamilton, his future lover, made shortly after Nelson's illustrious victory over Napoleon's fleet at the Nile on August 1, 1798.
Nelson's ship was severely destroyed during the battle and Nelson himself was injured during the fighting. He put into port in Naples where Sir William Hamilton was Britain's ambassador to the Court of the Two Sicilies. Hamilton's much younger, luscious wife Emma was a confidante of the queen. She had been corresponding with the admiral since 1793 when Nelson had come to Naples to request their military and financial aid: Napoleon had blockaded Toulouse and England was desperately in need of allies in the Mediterranean.
Emma and Nelson did not see each other from 1793 until late September 1798 when his flagship, the Vanguard, limped into the Bay of Naples, and she was rowed out to welcome him. When she saw that he had lost an arm and the sight in one eye she nearly fainted. The admiral was also suffering from a relapse of malaria; Emma nursed him back to health. It was then, during Nelson's long weeks of convalesence that the pair most likely fell in love, although Nelson, too, was married at the time. His wife, Fanny Nisbet, was back in London. She didn't understand him, Nelson insisted. Emma, however, was his soul mate. Their passion was powerful and mutual, but out of respect for Sir William, was not consummated for many months.
Yet if this locket contains Nelson's blond hair and Emma's auburn hair, it would suggest that the couple became intimate even sooner than 1799 when they most likely first became lovers. Its provenance is interesting: it came from a family in Australia to the English naval city of Portsmouth and eventually ended up at an auction house in Wiltshire.
In any case, it's one of history's mysteries.
According to the Daily Mail online, "Jonathan Edwards from Woolley and Wallis noted that it was "potentially a very important piece. We are sure as we can be that it is right and we've had experts look at it and they agree. There is an 'N' on it which means Nelson. We believe it was made in the year following the battle because after that Nelson used the name Bronte. [King Ferdinand of Naples awarded Nelson the Dukedom of Bronte (located on the island of Sicily) in 1799 and Nelson used the Bronte name formally, in addition to his own surname]
" 'Quite who it was made for and how it got to Australia we don't know. It has pearls in it, an anchor and an arrow. There is also gold thread and it really is a beautiful thing that is more likely to have been worn by a woman. Nelson's reputation really suffered because of his affair with Lady Hamilton, although it was restored in time. This really ought to go into a museum,' " Edwards added.
The story of Nelson and Emma's relationship is chronicled in my novel TOO GREAT A LADY: THE NOTORIOUS, GLORIOUS LIFE OF EMMA, LADY HAMILTON (written under the pen name Amanda Elyot). I drew their courtship from the facts and circumstances of their lives and allowed my imagination to embellish the gaps.
Have you ever seen a love token that spurred you to write a scene or even a novel? Have you ever incorporated an actual love token like this into one of your stories?
Update: Below is the text from BBC News. The locket was expected to fetch £5000. The hammer price was nearly nine times that at £44,000!
Lord Nelson and Lady Hamilton locket sells for £44,000
A rare artifact linked to Admiral Lord Nelson and Lady Emma Hamilton's famous love affair been auctioned for £44,000.
The late 18th Century gold locket pendant is thought to contain a lock of Nelson's hair on one side and Lady Hamilton's on its reverse.
It was bought by London jewelers Sandra Cronan on behalf of "an important collector."
It had been found in a cupboard by an Australian couple clearing a house they had inherited in Portsmouth.
A spokesperson for Salisbury auction house Woolley and Wallis said several keen phone bidders from around the world had pushed the price up.
Auctioneer Jonathan Edwards described the locket as "beautifully made and very significant."
It is marked with a capital N, a naval anchor and the date of August 1798 - when Nelson achieved victory at the Battle of the Nile.
After the battle, Nelson stayed with the British Envoy in Naples, Sir William Hamilton and began a relationship with his wife Emma which scandalised society at the time.
Mr. Edwards added: "The early date and decoration suggests that it is not a memento mori but a presentation gift to an admirer or associate whilst they were both in Naples and before their return to England together in 1800.
"If such, it is a unique relic of an enduring love affair."
So, my next question, dear readers is: who do you think bought it? I have my guess! Post your response below.