Source: Melita Historica. 3(1960)1(71-73)

[p.71] An Unpublished Letter of Jean de la Valette [1]


Bernerd Clarke Weber

In the Library of the “Grand Priory in the British Realm of the Most Venerable Order of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem” at St. John’s Gate, Clerkenwell, London, may be seen a number of manuscripts of interest for the students of Mediterranean history, and particularly of the history of Malta. The document which is reproduced here below related to the sixteenth century and is of considerable value for it illustrates the continuing concern of the Grand Master Jean de la Valette (1557-1568) over the possibility of another Turkish assault on Malta. The memory of the Great Siege of 1565 was still fresh in men’s minds, and the Grand Master of the Order of St. John had reason to expect the new Turkish Sultan Selim II (1566-1574) might try to succeed where his predecessor had failed.

An attempt has been made to reproduce this document exactly, including peculiarities of spelling, Certain abbreviations, however, for the sake of clarity have been expanded, A translation of this letter has also been provided,.

Bernerd Clarke Weber

University of Alabama


Monseigneur [2] les ordinaires advis qui nous viennenet de jour a autre et de bon lieu comme le Turq faict un tres puissant armee en deliberation de nous retourner assiéger a ce printemps sont cause que nous retrouvans encore foibles du passe et ayans a prevenir les dangers qui nous menassent j’ay comme le devoir et l’honneur me commandent advise de recourir de bonne heure al’aide et secours des Princes chrestiens et mesmes a leur Matez [3] ausquelles pour la singuliere esperance que j’ay en leur bonte et grandeur et voyant qu’elles ont tousjours monstre nous avoir en specialle recommandation et que ceste religion a este principalement soustenue de la couronne de France en ses plus grandes necessitez de luer déspeche presentement et en dilligence le sieur de Gieu mareschal de ceste Religion personne digne et qui a grande cognoissance de nos affaires Pour entre autres choses leur faire entendre et a vous Monseignieur l’estat de nos moiens et les necessitez qui nous pressent et comme les forces de l’ennemy sont deux fois plus grandes qu’elles n’ont acoustume d’estre ayant delibere de faire tous ses effortz contre nous pour essaier de nous ruyner a ce coup et d’autant Monsiegneur qu’il vous a pleu nous faire ce honneur de nous prendre en vostre protection et que je prevoy de grandes incoveniens et ne nous pourvoir preserver si nous ne sommes secourus, comme vous dira si vous plaist le Sieur de Gieu. Je vous supplie tres humblement Monseigneur apres l’avoir entendu de luy donner telle creance comme a moy mesme et l’assister de vostre favour et authorite en toutes les tres humbles requestes qu’il fera de nostre part pour le bien et conservation de ceste Religion a ce que leurs Matez et messieurs du conseil n’en facent difficulte et que nous ayons de quoy [p.72] resister a l’ennemy et eschapper ceste annee veu qu’elle n’importe pas seullement a nous mais a la chrestiente comme vous scaurez trop plus sagement mectre en consideration et oultre l’honneur qui’il en reviendra a leurs Matez ceste religion sera a jamais tenue de vous en faire honneur et tres humble service comme je feray particulierment ou il vous plaira me commander me recommandant tres humblement a vostre bonne grace je supplie le Createur vous donner Monsiegneur en tres bonne sante tres heureuse et longue vye de Malte ce 3 Novembre 1567. [4]

Vostre tres humble serviteur
Le grande me de l’hospital
St. Jean de Hierusalem
f. jehan de valette


Monseigneur: The news which we receive from day to day from a good source warns us that the Turks are organizing a very powerful army with the intention of besieging us again next spring because, after what we passed, we are still weak; and as we have to prepare to meet the dangers which threaten us I am impelled by both duet and honour to plead in time for the help of the Christian princes and even to their Majesties to whom, for the special faith I have in their goodness and magnanimity, ad seeing that they have always shown that they hold us in special esteem and that this “Religion” is principally upheld by the French crown in its greatest necessities. I now send then with all speed the Sieur de Gieu, marshal of this “Religion” and a worthy person and who has great knowledge of our affairs. Among other matters he will make known to you Monseigneur the state of our means of defence and of our pressing needs and of how the forces of the enemy are twice as strong as they are usually because they have decided to do their utmost against us in order to ruin us this time, and moreover, Monseigneur, since it has pleased you to do us the honour to take us under your protection, and as I foresee great trouble against which we cannot hope to preserve ourselves unless we are aided, and as the Sieur de Gieu will tell you, if it please you, I most humbly implore you Monseigneur, after having heard him, to give him such credence as if to myself and to help him by your favour and authority in all the most humble requests which he will on our behalf for the good and the preservation of this “Religion” so that their Majesties and the gentlemen of the Council may make no difficulty and so that we may have the means of resisting the enemy and to escape this year seeing that it does not concern us only but Christendom as you will be able more clearly to judge, and besides the honour which will come to their Majesties, this “Religion” will always hold itself in duty bound to do you honour and very humble service as I will especially do were it shall please you to command me and, recommending myself most humbly to your good grace, I implore the Creator to bestow on you, Monseigneur, very good health and a very long and happy life. At Malta this 3 November 1567.

Your very humble servant
The Grand Master of the Hospital
St. John of Jerusalem
f. jehan de valette

[1] At the top of the letter and written obviously in a different hand from the text of the letter itself  appears the date: 3 Novem., 1567, Malta, ald also the following:
“Le grand Maistre Jean de Valette mande au Duc d’Anjou que le Turc veut revenir devant Malte et le prie d’assister leur d’ Religion envers leurs Majestez pour avoir de secours
I am grateful to Miss D.B. Edmonds, Curator of the collections at Clerkenwell, for courtesies extended to me while I was carrying on research in London.

[2] “Monsiegneur” refers to the King’s brother, the Duc d’Anjou, who became king of France in 1574 and ruled until 1589.

[3] The reference here is to King Charles IX of France (1560-1575) and his mother, the famous Catherine de’ Medici.

[4] The request for aid arrived at the most unpropitious time, for a civil war between Catholics and Huguenots had broken out in France in September.