William Hamilton (diplomat)  

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"Rumors of the extraordinary excavations spread like wildfire through the ranks of European art lovers. Naples becomes a mandatory stop on the Grand Tour. And in Naples - albeit if one has the right connections - an obligatory stop is the villa of Scottish diplomat and art collector William Hamilton (1751-1801), who has settled there in 1764. He soon becomes the greatest connoisseur of all that fine beauty excavated in the Bay of Naples. Not everyone calls those finds 'fine,' by the way; one London newspaper even describes them as "obscene garbage ... that would be better entrusted to oblivion.' The newspaper laughs at the so-called art connoisseurs, that amalgam 'of dilettantes, virtuosi, students and professors completing their studies at Covent Garden [a large red light district in London].' Antiquaries get a bad name. They are said to use their scientific knowledge to amuse themselves. So it seems. And it is not that far from the truth."--A History of Erotica (2011) by Jan-Willem Geerinck


"Greek vases were made known by Hamilton, and Roman monuments by Piranesi. In 1762 Stuart and Revett’s great work on the antiquities of Athens appeared, and in 1764 Winckelmann wrote his History of Ancient Art. "--The History of Painting: From the Fourth to the Early Nineteenth Century (1893/94) by Richard Muther


"Je considère Napoleon, Fox, et Hamilton comme les trois plus grands hommes de notre époque, et si je devais me prononcer entre les trois, je donnerais sans hesiter la première place à Hamilton. Il avait deviné l'Europe."--Étude Sur La République Des États Unis d'Amérique: 1776-1876 () by Talleyrand

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William Hamilton (1730 – 1803) was a British politician, antiquarian and vulcanologist who served as the Envoy Extraordinary to the Kingdom of Naples from 1764 to 1800.

While in Italy, Hamilton became involved in studying local volcanoes and collecting antiquities.

In 1766–67 he published a volume of engravings of his collection entitled Collection of Etruscan, Greek, and Roman Antiquities. The text was written by d'Hancarville with contributions by Johann Winckelmann. A further three volumes were produced in 1769–76.

According to the Dictionary of National Biography Hamilton purchased at Naples, in 1766, a collection of Greek vases belonging to the Porcinari family, and gradually formed a museum which at the beginning of 1772 included 730 vases, 175 terracottas, about 300 specimens of ancient glass, 627 bronzes (about half, arms and armour), 150 ivories, about 150 gems, 143 gold ornaments, more than 6,000 coins, including specimens from Magna Græcia, miscellaneous objects, and a few marbles. This collection he sold in 1772 to the trustees of the British Museum; it was purchased with a parliamentary grant of 8,400l. It formed the groundwork of the present department of Greek and Roman antiquities

His second wife was Emma Hamilton, who was famed as the mistress of Horatio Nelson, 1st Viscount Nelson.

Emma Hamilton

Emma Hamilton

A year after his wife's death Hamilton had a third period of leave in Britain. This time he visited his estates in Wales and went on a trip to Scotland with his nephew Charles Greville, who was a younger son of the Earl of Warwick and Hamilton's sister Elizabeth. When Hamilton made a will during that visit to Britain he made Greville his heir.

On his return to Naples, Hamilton was lonely. "After having lived 22 years en famille it is most terrible to live chiefly alone", he wrote to his niece. Meanwhile, Greville, who wanted to search for a wealthy wife, was hatching a plan to persuade his uncle to take Emma off his hands. Somewhat reluctantly Hamilton agreed to the plan and Emma arrived in Naples on her 21st birthday, 26 April 1786. With her was her mother, who went by the name of Mrs Cadogan, and who would live with Emma and Hamilton until she died in 1810. The women were installed in an apartment in the Palazzo Sessa, and provided with a carriage and wardrobes. Tutors were hired to give Emma lessons in Italian and singing. It was some months though before Emma accepted the fact that Greville was not going to join her in Naples or send for her to go back to England. At that point she decided to become Hamilton's mistress.

Hamilton and Emma married five years later, when Hamilton obtained leave of three months in Britain. As he held a public position he had to ask the King's permission. The ceremony was a quiet one, taking place on 6 September 1791.

For most of Hamilton's time as ambassador, Naples had been a political backwater. But when France declared war on Britain in 1793 events in Naples became more turbulent, and Hamilton's role became more important, just as his health was declining. Nelson's fleet arrived in the Bay of Naples after defeating the French Fleet at the Battle of the Nile in August 1798 and Nelson was a guest of the Hamiltons. At the end of the year the King and Queen abandoned Naples as the French Army advanced and fled to Palermo in Sicily. The Hamiltons went with them.

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