Lord Nelson and Lady Hamilton locket
The Lord Nelson and Lady Hamilton locket is an 18th century gold locket pendant which is believed to contain locks of Lord Horatio Nelson and the hair of Lady Hamilton’s, to whom he was romantically and scandalously linked.
The locket was found by an Australian couple in a cupboard in a house in Portsmouth, England that they had just inherited.
The locket has several markings on it including a capital “N”, a naval anchor and the date; August 1978, the time when Lord Nelson achieved victory at the Battle of the Nile.
The initial N; Naval motifs and associated date suggest that the pale coloured spray of hair on the obverse of the locket belonged to Admiral Lord Nelson and that it was mounted shortly after his great victory at the battle of the Nile on 1 August 1798.
The use of a single initial also indicates that the hair was mounted before the admiral was created Duke of Bronte by King Ferdinand of Naples in August 1799. Following his elevation to the Dukedom, Nelson invariably used the dual initials NB in correspondence and to decorate his possessions.
Between August 1798 and August 1799, Nelson remained in Naples as a guest of the British Envoy, Sir William Hamilton. During this period, Nelson developed a strong attachment to Emma, Lady Hamilton which led, famously, to their full blown and scandalous love affair. This promotes the intriguing and romantic possibility that the darker, auburn coloured hair on the reverse of the locket belonged to Emma Hamilton. It closely matches the description and other known surviving hair of Emma's, notably a lock mounted behind a miniature of her carried by Nelson to his death at Trafalgar and now in the collection of the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich.
No other double sided hair locket of this type is known to be associated with Nelson and Emma, Lady Hamilton.
On 27 January 2011, the locket was sold by auction house Woolley & Wallis in Salisbury, England.
Jonathan Edwards, an auctioneer for the auction house said:
“The early date and decoration suggests that it is not a memento mori but a presentation gift to an admirer or associate when 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”
Edwards described the locket as "beautifully made and very significant".
Woolley & Wallis said that the price of the locket was pushed up by several very keen phone bidders from around the world. The locket was purchased by Sandra Cronan, a London based jewellery dealer on behalf of "an important collector" for a price of £44,000.
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