capture of Malta in June 1798 cannot be counted as one
of his military triumphs. The Grand Master capitulated
without offering any resistance and Napoleon made his
grand entry into Valletta and within a week Von Hompesch,
accompanied by a few knights, left the Island unwept,
unhonoured, and unsung.
The Maltese felt that they had been let down by the
Order, but before they could attempt any resistance
they were talked into submission by the Bishop. Maltese
that had served in the Order's army and navy were recruited
into the French Republican forces, and other regiments
were raised for garrison duties on the Island itself.
Nobility was of course, abolished and all armorial bearings
were to be removed.
After stripping the palaces, Auberges and other buildings
of everything of value, Napoleon, conveniently forgetting
his promises, next turned his attention to the churches;
only such articles that were indispensable for the "exercise
of the cult" were left while all other valuables
were removed and
priceless works of art in gold and silver melted down
Nominally the Order had held the Island of Malta in
fief from the King of Sicily (since 1735 this island
had been amalgamated with the State of Naples and was
then known as the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies), and
it was to the King of the Two Sicilies that the Maltese
now turned for aid and protection. At the same time
deputies were despatched to seek aid from the allies
of the King, the British.
A small number of British troops were landed and the
French in Gozo surrendered in October l798, the Sicilian
flag being hoisted on the ramparts.
As the siege wore on, the French penned in the fortifications
were prevented from receiving aid because of the British
blockade, while the Maltese, by this time, aided by
Italian and British troops, did not have the means of
assaulting the formidable bastions.
The French, having arrived at the end of their tether,
were ready to capitulate but the troops of Napoleon
proudly refused to submit to the Maltese rebels.
The British, on the other hand, anxious to deploy their
troops and warships in other theatres of war, were eager
to speed up the surrender of the French in Malta.
The Maltese had borne the brunt of the fighting and
other privations, but when the capitulation was being
drafted and signed neither they, nor their representatives,
were allowed to participate in the negotiations.
The National Congress was dissolved and the Maltese
Battalions disbanded; a Maltese regiment formed by the
British, under British officers was, however, retained.