In 1798, Napoleon Bonaparte, en route to Egypt, occupied Malta, terminated the rule of the Knights of St. John (the last Grand Master,
F.J.H.A. von Hompesch, surrendered without a fight) and placed the islands under French administration. The implementation of reforms,
especially the treatment of the church, the confiscation of church property, by the French, and their refusal to pay the Knights' debts,
caused the Maltese to rebel (Sept. 2nd 1798, lead by F.X. Caruana). The rebels established a provisorical government and appealed
for British protection, which was granted in 1799. However, the French, under British blockade, dids not surrender until Sept. 1800.
Malta was given a provisorical British administration (without any participation of the Maltese. According to the TREATY OF AMIENS 1802
Malta was to be evacuated by the British and to be handed over to the Knights of St. John; the Maltese population protested this. As
hostilities between England and France resumed soon afterwards, the stipulations of the treaty were never carried out.
The introduction of the CONTINENTAL BLOCKADE by the French caused an economic boom on Malta, as the island functioned as
a hub in the smuggling trade. An epidemic in 1813 killed several thousand Maltese.
In 1814 the islands were declared a British CROWN COLONY. The VIENNA CONGRESS confirmed Britain in her possession of the island.
The port of La Valetta was also of great logistic value to the British Navy; the British constructed a dockyard,
warehouses and a hospital.
The KNIGHTS OF ST. JOHN continued to claim the sovereignty over their former possession; the order, at its residence in Rome,
was recognized as a sovereign state by the CONGRESS OF VERONA in 1822 and as such, still exists, issuing iys own stamps, coins
and enjoying observer status at the United Nations (since 1994).
The British occupation of Malta in 1800 caused the SECOND COALITION to break up, as Czar Paul I., who regarded himself protector of
the Knights of St. John, and in 1798 had himself elected Grand Master by a few knights at that time present in Russia ("Russian Coup d'Etat"),
interpreted this an interference in his affairs. Both the Russian and Maltese Knights' claims may have been the cause for the permanent
status of Malta not being resolved prior to the Vienna Congress.
List of Governors etc., from World Statesmen by Ben Cahoon |
Memoirs of the Duke of Rovigo (French officer), May 1798, Malta, posted by
War Times Journal
The Surrender of Malta to the French Republic by the Order of Malta, June 12th 1798, posted by
Entree Triomphante du General Buonaparte Dans l'Isle de Malthe, 1798, from
The George Cross Island Page
Treaty of Amiens, March 27th 1802, regulations pertaining to Malta, posted by
Lord Nelson's letter to Emperor Paul I November 1799, posted by
Brigadier General Graham's address to the Maltese People, June 19th, 1800, from
The George Cross Island Page
Historic Texts of the Order of St. John, from OOSJ
Malte, from Annuaire 1789-1815, in French