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HAMILTON Sir William - Autograph Letter Signed 1793 from Naples discussing the situation in the Mediterranean

  • £925.00

William HAMILTON (1730-1803)

Autograph Letter Signed (“Wm Hamilton”) to Sir John Hippisley [British representative to the Holy See], commenting, without much certainty, on the whereabouts of Admiral Hood and problems with supplies in Naples.
3 pages folio, Naples, 13 July 1793.
Many thanks for your obliging Letter of the 9th instant. What you did in taking upon you to negotiate with the Pope was certainly very well judged at that time. I should have been greatly distressed if Lord Hoods Fleet had happened to come here a month ago, for we had not a sufficient supply of corn for ourselves, now thank God the Harvest has been so very abundant that there will be enough to supply our Fleet on all occasions, and I verily believe it will not be long before we see Lord Hoods Fleet or at least a part of it in this Bay, and then I flatter myself you may be tempted to come here.
From what you mention of Marseilles I shoud not wonder what our Fleet shoud have been that [there?] – By Letters from England I was told that Ld. Hood & Hotham were gone towards Rochelle. Here it is said the Fleet has been seen off Lisbon.
According to your desire I inclose the two Papers you trusted me with.
Lady Hamilton & myself desire to be kindly remembered to the amiable Padrona of the Casa you inhabit. We hope she will be inclined to come to Naples when you do.
Be assured that I will give you the earliest intelligence of the motions of our Fleet. . .”
France and Britain had officially been at war since February of this year, and on 12 July – the day before this letter – the Anglo-Neapolitan treaty of alliance was signed. As Britain’s ambassador to Naples, Sir William was not only responsible for the amicable Anglo-Neapolitan relations; his wife Emma was at the time the closest friend and confidante of Queen Maria Carolina of Naples. There could have been little doubt that the Queen had good reason to hate the French; her brother-in-law, Louis XVI, had been executed in January, and in October Caroline’s sister, Marie Antoinette would also go to the guillotine.
If Sir William’s intelligence about events in Marseille or Toulon was rather sketchy, it may be because he had not been in Naples for some time. Sir William and Lady Hamilton had spent several months with the Neapolitan royal family at Caserta, some miles north of Naples. That summer, Emma wrote to a friend in England indicating that they would stay at Caserta until the royal family left on 10 July, so at the time of writing, Sir William had probably only just returned to Naples, in time for the signing of the treaty. Their stay in Caserta was exhausting, with a constant stream of English visitors, including Emma’s friend, Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire. In his correspondence, Sir William referred to the endless stream of visitors to their house, attracted by a house which Emma had made “so agreeable”. One somehow doubts that the shortage of corn, mentioned by Sir William, affected them greatly.
Sir William’s information about the whereabouts of Admiral Hood may have been misleading. At the declaration of war in February, Admiral Hood was appointed Commander in Chief of the Mediterranean Fleet, with the responsibility of keeping Britain’s important trade routes open. A royalist uprising in Toulon in August provided what seemed an opportunity to challenge the revolution, and when the rebels of Toulon asked Hood for assistance, he responded immediately. By the end of the year, the royalists were defeated, largely through the efforts of a rising young officer, Napoleon Bonaparte.
Sir William’s correspondent, Sir John Hippisley, was at the time living in Rome as the British government’s unofficial representative to the Holy See. Unsurprisingly, the French Revolution was the most important, and most troubling event of Pius VI’s pontificate. From the Vatican’s point of view, the revolution was as much an assault on the Church as it was on the aristocracy. The Pope had proclaimed Louis XVI a martyr, asserting that he died in defence of the Church – which was, to some extent, true. The precise “negotiation” which Sir John conducted with the Pope, however, remains uncertain.
Eight lines on the first page of the letter have been underlined, and the last page of the letter has been repaired where it had evidently been torn when breaking the seal. The repair slightly affects one word, and just touches the top of the “l” and the “t” of the signature.

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