Heritage Malta Acquires A Letter Written by Napoleon Himself Ordering The Invasion Of Malta
A letter written by Napoleon Bonaparte which contains orders for one of his generals to invade Malta in 1798 has recently been acquired by Heritage Malta.
The three-page letter gives instructions to General Desaix to “assemble the armies, impound ships, arm them, and meet off Syracuse”. He was then to travel along the coast of Naples and through the straights by the lighthouse at Messina, then dropping anchor at Syracuse.
Desaix was instructed to bring Commander Ménard along for the journey and to use a fleet including a frigate, two brigs, two dispatch-boats, and two royal galleys.
They were to sail in close formation and were armed with “four pieces of 24 (referring to 24-pounder cannons), two mortars, two grills for red-hot bullets with two or three-hundred shots apiece”.
The letter is dated 19 April 1798 and is hand-signed by ‘Bonaparte’. Napoleon’s fleet departed from Toulon a month after the letter was sent, arriving in Malta on the 9th of June and launching an amphibious operation which enabled them to invade the island with minimal resistance.
Napoleon only spent a few days in Malta, residing at Palazzo Parisio in Valletta and then travelling to Egypt, leaving 4,000 men under the command of General Vabois.
The French occupation of Malta would last just over two years, with the Maltese rising against the French, who eventually surrendered to the British in September of 1800.
The letter was bought by Heritage Malta for €60,000 last July during an auction. It has recently arrived in Malta and will be exhibited at the National Archaeology Museum in Valletta during Public Service week.
Our Fortress Malta tour examines the indelible marks that the brief occupation by Napoleon, amongst other cultures and events, has left behind.
Pictured: The Grand Harbour on our Fortress Malta tour
Added: 17th September 2020