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George Lloyd was a violin prodigy, and at the age of 16 he was taken on as a pupil by Albert Sammons, the greatest British violinist of the day. A benefactor bought for him a late 18th century violin by John Betts, which was believed to have belonged to Lady Hamilton, mistress of Admiral Lord Nelson. The George Lloyd Society is now trying to establish the provenence of the instrument, and several unanswered questions remain...

- Did Lady Hamilton play the violin? 

- Did she have a butler and maid called Mr & Mrs Jefferies, who came from Brighton?

- Who is Black Auntie?  

Can you help solve the mystery?  please contact us... 

What's the story – in brief?

Emma Hamilton was known as a great beauty, an experienced dancer, and an accomplished musician – a fine operatic singer and proficient at the harp. Le Brun painted her playing the tambourine, Reynolds painted her at the keyboard, and Stubbs made a drawing of her playing the cymbals and the lyre. Her husband, Sir William Hamilton, was a good violin player, and he played chamber music with Mozart in Naples. It now appears that Emma herself may have been a violinist.

Emma Hamilton as CirceLe Brun PortraitEmma as a Baccante


The violin in question, believed to be made by John Betts in about 1800, belonged to the English composer George Lloyd (1913–1998) and was purchased for him at the age of 16, when he was taken on as a pupil by England’s leading violinist, Albert Sammons (famous for the first recording of the Elgar violin concerto). With the violin came a letter, which tracks the path by which the violin came into the hands of ’Black Auntie.’ It was given to her father by John Tanner, who was grandson of Lady Emma Hamilton’s butler, Mr John Jefferies, who married Emma Hamilton’s ladies maid.

Emma Hamilton Letter p1Emma Hamilton Letter p2
Emma Hamilton Envelope


The George Lloyd Society is now appealing for information about Mr Jefferies the butler and Mrs Jefferies the ladies’ maid, to try to verify the story. The letter states that the Jefferies came from Brighton or Hove, where they had a ‘house agency’ and newsagent shop, later called Jefferies and North, and where Mrs Jefferies had a hat shop.

Betts Front 2

Betts Back 2   Betts Scroll 2


Can you help?

Any information which sheds light on this mystery will be much appreciated:

- Did Emma Hamilton play the violin?

- Did she have a butler and maid called Mr & Mrs Jefferies, who came from Brighton? 

- Did the Jefferies have a grandson called John Tanner?

- Who is Black Auntie?

- Was the violin made by John Betts?

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