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I decided to pick up the audiobook for England’s Mistress: The Infamous Life of Emma Hamilton by Kate Williams because I enjoy tales of 18th century aristocrats and, well, my young niece is named Emma Hamilton. And who doesn’t love a good story about a mistress?
England’s Mistress is probably one of my favorite books I’ve read this year. I’m ashamed to say I’d never heard of Emma, Lady Hamilton before reading this book. But now that I know about this fascinating woman and her very full life, I’m wondering why she isn’t more well-known and admired.
Over the course of her life, Emma goes from household servant to courtesan to performer to artist model to live-in mistress to fashion icon to wife of an ambassador in Italy to a queen’s confidante to lover of Trafalgar hero Lord Horatio Nelson to, well, I’ll let you read the book.
She befriended Marie Antoinette, Georgiana Cavendish, Elizabeth Foster, artists George Romney and Marie Louise Élisabeth Vigée-Lebrun and even the Prince of Wales, later George IV.
The story of Emma’s life is awe-inspiring, heartbreaking, scintillating and, in parts, frustrating. This book is so jam packed with tidbits from her unusual life. This woman lived the lives of ten different women, just condensed into one life of only 49 years. Detailed but never dry, Williams had a lot to work with for this biography and took advantage of every interesting detail.
I can’t recommend this book enough for 18th century history fans. Because Emma climbed the social ladder, this book is unique in that it gives readers a glimpse at every rung in the social ladder instead of just seeing how the nobility live.