Lord Nelson and Lady Hamilton
The line "All's fair in love and war" could have been written for Emma Hamilton and Horatio Nelson. So captivated was the admiral by the society beauty, he separated from his wife of seven years, despite knowing that 1790s Britain would disapprove of his taking a married woman for a mistress. For her part, the besotted Emma eschewed all her hard-earned respectability, conducting the love affair in front of her apparently indifferent husband, Lord Hamilton, and falling pregnant by Nelson in 1800. To honour her baby's father, Emma named the girl Horatia; pining for the pair while at sea, Nelson sent her letters purporting to be on behalf of a seaman colleague called Thompson, whose fictional pregnant wife he pretended was under Emma's protection. On hearing of the birth, he wrote: "I believe poor Mrs Thompson's friend will go mad with joy. He cries, prays, does nothing but rave about you and her." Though Nelson was away commanding fleets for much of their eight years together, he thought of Emma constantly. A letter found after his death at Trafalgar stressed his love for her and their daughter, and pleaded for the British government to provide for them. His request was disregarded.