Copyright © The Malta Historical Society, 2005.

Source: Melita Historica. [Published by the Malta Historical Society]. 4(1965)2(144)

VELLA ANDREW P., Malta and the Czars (1697-1802), Malta, 1965, pp. 79, 4. illustr.

Prof. Fr. A. Vella published a second monograph in the series of the Royal University of Malta Historical Studies.. As the A. himself admits in the preface, the work "does not cover ground untrodden by past and present historians", (but surely it will captivate the interest of many readers with its clear and pleasant exposition.

Prof. Vella starts with the mission of Marshal Michael Boris Petrovitch Svemevetien and other Russian, high officials to Malta in 1697. The possibility of a treaty [between Russia and the Order of Malta was then sounded. G. M. Perellos diplomatically showed appreciation of the visit, but did not commit himself. The A. speaks of Russian officers trained on the ships of the Order, of lands of the Polish Priory passing under Russian sway, of the Maltese harbour used by the Russian fleet during the Russo-Turkish War, and of the intrigues of the Russian Chargé d'Affaires Marquis de Cavalcabo. G.M. De Rohan very likely hoped a momentary advantage from an alliance with the Czarina Catharine, but he feared the anger of the new Rulers of France, At this juncture the two Litta’s came to the fore with their "intrigues, conspiracies and forgeries". With the Convention of 1797, the Polish Priory was turned into a Russian Grand Priory, to be incorporated with the Anglo-Bavarian Langue. G.M. Hompesch showered great honours on Czar Paul I, among which the complimentary title of Protector of the Order of St. John. This honour urged Napoleon to take possession of the Island, before it fell into the hands of the Czar. After the capture of Malta by the French, Hompesch was accused of treachery and the Russian Grand Priory elevated the Czar to the Grandmastership. This election, was later declared null and void for several reasons.

Of all these vicissitudes the Author gives a clear description in his book, which all those interested in the History of Malta should not fail to obtain.

Mgr. A. Bonnici