island of Malta was an important strategic stronghold in the Mediterraenean
Sea and Napoleon Bonaparte knew
that controlling it would boost France's naval capacity in the region.
would also help secure the supply lines of his expedition to Egypt
and so when the French fleet arrived off Malta on 9 June, Napoleon's
plan was to find an excuse to wrest it from the control of the Order
of St John.
religious order's leader, the Grand Master Baron Hompesch, was leery
of a request to sail the entire French fleet into Malta's Grand
Harbour and refused Napoleon's approach to take on new water supplies
unless the French limited their operations to four vessels at a
French commander used the rejection as an excuse for hostilities
and sent armed forces in to occupy key military positions and isolate
the fortress of Valetta.
proved too indecisive to take on the determined Napoleon and while
local Maltese forces offered to resist the occupation the Grand
Master lacked resolve and submitted with little resistance.
three Frenchmen lost their lives in the takeover.
the next five days Napoleon reorganised Malta's administration,
inaugurated a new education system, abolished slavery and gave religious
freedom to the island's Jewish community. He also looted some six
million francs from the Maltese treasury.
he set sail for Egypt he left a 4000-man garrison behind to secure
it the island.
for the French, Admiral Horatio Nelson's
victory at the Battle of the Nile
ripped the naval balance into British hands and a blockade cut the
French occupants of Malta off from reinforcements.
British blockade proved to be unsustainable and when a strong French
naval force moved into the Mediterraenean the garrison was strengthened
by 1500 troops and command handed over to General Pigot.
mid-1800, the British landed 2500 troops and together with some
4000 local militia they increased pressure on the French.
his supply position worsening, the new French Commander held out
for three months before agreeing to surrender the island in exchange
for free evacuation to France.
over the French forces did not immediately secure Malta for Britain
as the Order of St John and Russia both made determined efforts
to control the island.