Lady Hamilton and Grace Dalrymple Elliott

I was at the temporary Frick Museum location (in the old Whitney Museum location!) yesterday. One of the things I like to do when looking at portraits is decide who I’d be friends with, as if you can decide based on how some looks what kind of person they were. Among those I chose were Lady Hamilton and Grace Dalrymple Elliott.

This is Lady Hamilton. From the Frick website: “Emma Hart (1765–1815) was a woman of great beauty and charm who rose from humble origins to international fame. Charles Greville, whose mistress she was and who commissioned this portrait, educated her in music and literature, and Greville’s uncle, Sir William Hamilton, British ambassador to Naples, brought her to Italy, where they were married.”

Oh dear. She didn’t end well. “Emma attracted the attention of Lord Horatio Nelson, with whom she had a notorious romantic liaison until his death at the Battle of Trafalgar. Although she inherited money from both Hamilton and Nelson, her extravagance led her into debt, and she died in poverty.”

Lady Hamilton as Nature

This is Grace Dalrymple Elliott. On the Frick website I read that she was beautiful and had many affairs practically her whole life long. The Wikipedia summary feels more fleshed out. “Grace Dalrymple Elliott (c. 1754 – 16 May 1823) was a Scottish courtesan, writer and spy resident in Paris during the French Revolution. She was an eyewitness to events detailed in her memoirs, Journal of my life during the French Revolution (Ma Vie sous la Révolution) published posthumously in 1859. She was mistress to the Duke of Orléans and to the future George IV, by whom she is said to have borne an illegitimate daughter. Elliott trafficked correspondence and hid French aristocrats escaping from the French Revolution. She was arrested several times but managed to avoid the guillotine, and was released after the death of Robespierre.”

She had a better end than Lady Hamilton. “She died a wealthy woman at Ville d’Avray, in present-day Hauts-de-Seine, in May 1823, while a lodger with the commune’s mayor.”

Grace Dalrymple Elliott

Stacy Horn

I've written six non-fiction books, the most recent is Damnation Island: Poor, Sick, Mad, and Criminal in 19th-Century New York.

View all posts by Stacy Horn →

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