Knights of Malta, 1523-1798 eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 46 pages of information about Knights of Malta, 1523-1798.
great Corsairs, because of their determination to extirpate the infidel.  The state of war between the Order and the Mussulman was recognised by all as something unique; neither side dreamt of a peace or a truce, and only once in the history of the Order does there seem to have been the suggestion of an agreement.  The fanaticism which actuated the Knights in their determination to destroy the infidel made them formidable enemies, despite their fewness in number.  Solyman the Magnificent must have often repented of his clemency in letting the Knights leave Rhodes alive, and in 1564 he decided it would be a fitting end to his reign if he could destroy the worst pest of the Mediterranean by capturing Malta and annihilating the Order of St. John of Jerusalem.

[Footnote 1:  Vide Appendix I.]

[Footnote 2:  The chroniclers, such as Vertot, often call this town, which was the ancient Adrumetum, “Africa,” and it is therefore necessary to watch their use of that word carefully.]

[Footnote 3:  See map on p. 19.]

[Footnote 4:  This visit caused a great sensation in Europe, as De L’Isle Adam crossed the Alps in the depth of winter, and this haste to pay his respects touched the King of England.]

CHAPTER II

THE SIEGE OF MALTA

1565.

The Grand Master of the Knights of Malta in 1565 was Jean Parisot de la Valette.  Born in 1494 of a noble family in Quercy, he had been a Knight of St. John all his life, and forty-three years before had distinguished himself at the siege of Rhodes.  He had never left his post at the “Convent” except to go on his “caravans,"[1] as the cruises in the galleys were named.  As a commander of the galleys of the “Religion,” as the Order called itself, he had won a name that stood conspicuous in that age of great sea captains; and in 1557, on the death of the Grand Master de la Sangle, the Knights, mindful of the attack that was sure to come, elected La Valette to the vacant office.  No better man could be found even in the ranks of the Order.  Passionately religious, devoted body and soul to his Order and faith, Jean de la Valette was prepared to suffer all to the death rather than yield a foot to the hated infidel.  Unsparing of himself, he demanded utter sacrifice from his subordinates, and his cold, unflinching severity would brook no hesitation.

Both sides spent the winter and spring of 1565 in preparations for the great attack.  The Grand Master sent a message to all the Powers of Europe; but Philip ii., who sent him some troops, and the Pope, who sent him 10,000 crowns, alone responded to his appeal.  The message sent to the various commanderies[2] throughout Europe brought the Knights in haste to the defence of their beloved Convent.  The Maltese Militia was organised and drilled and proved of great value in the siege, and even 500 galley slaves were released on promise of faithful service.  Altogether La Valette seems to have had at his disposal about 9,000 men (though the authorities differ slightly as to the exact figures).  Of these over 600 were Knights with their attendants, about 1,200 were hired troops, about 1,000 were volunteers, chiefly from Italy, and the remainder Maltese Militia and galley slaves.

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