FROM THE LOSS OF MALTA TO THE MODERN ERA
© Guy Stair Sainty
The French lost the islands of Malta, Gozo and Comino to the British Navy in September 1800, and the latter immediately established their own administration which they maintained until the islands were granted independence in 1964. Since there had never been any realistic hope of persuading the Russians to intervene against the British, the illegal election of the Czar served to divide the Order and prejudice its claims to independence. The death of Czar Paul led Hompesch to revive his claims to the Grand Magistery, in which he was first encouraged by Murat as the French hoped that by supporting the rights of the Order to the islands they could force out the British, whose position there gave them domination of the Mediterranean. The strong opposition to Hompesch's claim on the part of the Holy See, while not at first discouraging the former Grand Master, persuaded the French (who wished to initiate a rapprochement with the Papacy) to drop their support. By then he had lost the allegiance of most of the knights and the Papal nomination of Bailiff Ruspoli as Grand Master on 16 September 1802 made Hompesch realize that his cause was hopeless. Living on an inadequate and infrequently paid pension from the French, Hompesch moved from Trieste to Portschach in Carniola, thence to Porto di Fermo and finally to Montpellier where he died in penury on 12 May 1805. Only three knights attended his funeral at the church of the blue penitents (today the parish of Sainte-Eulalie). 
The war between France and Great Britain had been terminated by the Treaty of Amiens of 25 March 1802, ratified on 18 April, and the signatories (France, Great Britain, Austria, Spain, Russia and Prussia) had agreed, by Article 10, that the Island of Malta should be restored to the knights in full sovereignty, while the British solemnly undertook to withdraw from the island and hand it over to the Order within three months of the ratification of the Treaty. It is probable that the British never had any intention of fulfilling this undertaking as they were very suspicious of French intentions and did not trust them to adhere to the agreement not to intervene in the Order's affairs. After carefully orchestrating popular demonstrations demanding the continuation of British rule, the Maltese Assembly formulated a new Constitution, which recognized King George III as Sovereign Lord, on 15 June 1802. Unfortunately the French had failed to abide by the terms of the Treaty in annexing substantial Italian territories to the French Republic and war broke out once more between the Great Powers. Any hope that the knights might recover the islands was finally lost by article VII of the Treaty of Paris of 30 March 1814, by which the islands were permanently attributed to Great Britain ("en toute propriete et souverainete a S.M. Britannique"). Although the Order made representations at the Congress of Vienna for their return, they were ignored by the allies and Britain was confirmed in possession.
Thanks to the generosity of the government of Sweden, the Order had another opportunity to be restored to temporal sovereignty, when it was offered perpetual sovereignty of the Island of Gottland in the Baltic, by a letter of Swedish Minister Baron Armfelt dated 19 September 1806.  However, to have accepted the Swedish offer would have meant surrendering their claim to Malta, which had been acknowledged by all the powers in the Treaty of Amiens and, after taking the advice of the Holy See, the offer was rejected. The Holy See's decision may have been influenced by the fact that the Order would be indebted to a Lutheran Sovereign and the Pope may have considered that the status of the Order as an exclusively Roman Catholic institution could have been endangered once again. Had the Order recovered Malta, or installed itself on Gottland, the inevitable consequence would have been future political problems, when the citizens of those islands demanded self-determination and representation in government.
The Grand Magistery since the death of Czar Paul
The Holy See had not formally approved the election of Czar Paul, a canonical necessity for the election of the head of any religious Order of the Catholic Church, thus the Czar was never de jure Grand Master. The decision to nominate a successor to Hompesch was the only practical choice, since the professed knights were scattered across Europe and could not have been gathered together in the time available - the Order needing to have a new leader to represent its interests following the peace of Amiens. Bailiff Ruspoli, who had been living in London when he received the unexpected news of his nomination, was concerned that Papal support would be insufficient to guarantee his position as an effective Grand Master. On receiving the Papal letter he prevaricated, as he did not want to accept the Grand Magistery without the certainty that it would be able to repossess the Maltese islands and some assurance that the Order would recover its confiscated properties so as to give it the income necessary to maintain its rule. Furthermore Ruspoli realized that the knights historic role as policeman of the Mediterranean had now been superseded by the great powers, who were engaged in a major struggle for naval domination, a struggle in which he felt the Order should not be involved. He therefore determined to decline the Papal offer even before it became apparent that the British were not going to withdraw, leaving the Pope to attempt to find another senior member who could unite the Order and give it the strong leadership it needed.
The new Papal nominee as Grand Master, Bailiff fra' Giovanni-Battista Tommasi, was appointed on 9 February 1803.  Tommasi's emissaries were soon attempting to negotiate with the British for his restoration to the islands, while he established the seat of the Order at Catania, then Messina, in Sicily, where he died on 12 June 1805, having achieved no improvement in the Order's position. Following the interregnum between the death of Tommasi and the re-establishment by the Pope of the title of Grand Master in 1879, the Order reached the lowest point in its history. With the surviving knights aging and out of touch with the Lieutenants and only the thirty or so professed knights resident in or near the convent in Sicily participating in government, it was not until the re-establishment of the Grand Priory of Rome and the transfer there of the Grand Magistery that knights from more distant provinces could participate in the election process and the government of the Order. Although the knights never abandoned those principles which had sustained the Order since the times of the Crusades, its secular activities, principally assisting the sick, and its religious-military mission of defending the Holy Roman Church, were restricted by its fragmented state and limited jurisdiction.
On 15 June 1805 the Sacred Council  elected Bailiff fra' Innico-Maria Guevara-Suardo to be "Lieutenant of the Grand Magistery" and decided on the procedure to be followed for the election of a new Grand Master. Two days later the General Assembly of the Order, a handful of the knights actually eligible to choose their head, elected Bailiff fra Giuseppe Caracciolo as Grand Master, subject to Papal confirmation. On 5 December 1805, Pius VII, refusing the election of Caracciolo (who was thought to be dangerously pro-British), declared the appointment of Bailiff fra' Guevara-Suardo as Lieutenant of the Magistery to be permanent. The new Lieutenant achieved little improvement in the Order's position and the number of new knights making profession declined dramatically during his period of government, while more nobles petitioned for the Cross of Devotion, setting a precedent for the future that has dictated the composition of the Order ever since.
Guevara-Suardo's death on 25 April 1814 was followed by the election the following day of a Sicilian, Bailiff fra' Andrea di Giovanni e Centelles, lieutenant grand prior of Messina, who received Papal confirmation on the 25 June following. Giovanni's lieutenancy was marked by the complete failure of the Order to gain any further support from the powers (although the Austrian Emperor continued to recognize it diplomatically) and his emissaries were ignored at the Congress of Vienna.  A challenge to his authority by the French Capitular Commission was not dealt with successfully until after his death and he was unable to obtain permission for the Order to re-establish its ancient priories in Catholic Europe.
Giovanni died at Catania in 1821 and was succeeded by fra' Antonio Busca, a Milanese and titular Bailiff of Armenia who proved to be more effective than his immediate predecessors. During the last years of Giovanni's rule and the first months of Busca's Lieutenancy, the French Capitular Commission made an attempt to form an alliance with those struggling to establish the independence of Greece. At first it seemed that this plan might be successfully accomplished, with a promise of the grant of the island of Rhodes and some smaller islands in full sovereignty, in return for the Order raising a substantial sum of money in London for the Greek cause. Unfortunately the Lieutenant was not consulted and the publication of the provisional agreement, before it had received the assent of the Greek government-in-exile, led to a break down of negotiations and, sadly, the Order was totally discredited. When Greek independence was eventually achieved the knights of Saint John played no part in their struggle, either militarily or politically and a great opportunity was lost.  This major blow to the Turkish Empire was followed by the capture of Algiers by the French in 1830, marking the end of any serious threat to Christian shipping and the need for a Christian military force to police the Mediterranean. There was no longer any reason for the Catholic powers to give their support to the various proposals made to restore the naval responsibilities of the knights of Saint John.
In 1827 the Lieutenant received Papal permission to transfer the conventual seat to Ferrara and, in 1831, the Lieutenant and Sovereign Council moved to the palace of the Grand Prior of Rome, the Palazzo Malta, on the Aventine Hill. The permanent headquarters were later established in the Palazzo Malta on the via Condotti near the Piazza di Spagna, formerly the palace of the Ambassador of the Order to the Holy See. Busca died in 1834 and was succeeded by Bailiff fra' Carlo Candida, a Neapolitan and member of the priory of Capua, who obtained the re-establishment of the Grand Priories of the Two Sicilies (now Naples and Sicily) and Lombardy-Veneto. He also persuaded the Two Sicilies government to agree to cede the island of Ponza to the Order, but this was strongly opposed by Great Britain which always saw the Order as a potential ally of the French and, as such, a threat to its Mediterranean naval hegemony.  Metternich, a Bailiff of Honor and Devotion, then offered one of the Adriatic islands, but the cession of Austrian territory was resisted by the other members of the government on the grounds that Austrian influence on the membership was limited by the relatively small proportion of knights of Austrian origin. None of these romantic dreams for a renewal of sovereignty took into account the real situation of the Order, which now had only a handful of fully professed knights, the vast majority of members still remaining subjects of the great powers whose interests rarely coincided. Furthermore the loss of so much of its possessions meant that to have maintained a secular government was beyond the Order's economic capabilities and would have made their hospitaller task financially impossible.
Candida died in 1846 and was succeeded by Bailiff fra' Philip von Colloredo, an Austrian, whose election was approved by the Holy See on 30 September following; he was the last head of the Order to have been admitted before the fall of Malta. In 1848 the Pope was deposed from Rome by a popular revolution and, following his restoration in 1850, Colloredo offered to provide a military guard from among the members of the Order. Fortunately for the Order this offer was declined as the Vatican recognized its impracticality, since the existing professed knights were mostly aged and there were insufficient numbers of younger members of Honor and Devotion able to make such a commitment. A more challenging project was the idea of establishing the Order in Jerusalem to protect Christian pilgrims, which it was hoped would find widespread support in Catholic Europe. Unfortunately France, which had lost its controlling majority among the knights since the loss of Malta, strongly opposed such a move unless the Order was put under its sole protection, something neither the Order nor the other powers could agree to. The Vatican then offered to establish a Jerusalem consulate which would be guarded by the knights but, perhaps unsurprisingly, the Turks were unenthused by the idea of the head of Christendom establishing an outpost in the heart of their Empire. Negotiations with Turkey soon broke down and the revolution instigated by the Sardinian government against the other Italian powers in 1859 led to this plan being abandoned.
Colloredo was succeeded by Bailiff fra' Alessandro Borgia in 1865 who, like his predecessor, still dreamed of a military role for the Order as the defender of Rome. In fact many brave knights of the Order did volunteer for this service but the age and lack of military experience of most of the professed members made it unlikely that their contribution would be of much value and the Papacy did not take up a second offer to commission a regiment of the Order. Borgia's death led to the election early in 1872 of Bailiff fra' Giovanni-Battista Ceschi a Santa Croce, for whom the office of Grand Master was revived by an Apostolic Brief of 28 March 1879, and confirmed in the Brief "Inclytum antiquitate originis" of Pope Leo XIII of 12 June 1888. 
The restoration of the Grand Magistery marks the real beginning of the Order as a major international Catholic charitable and hospitaller organization and, during the next few years, the separated French and Spanish Associations were reconciled with the Grand Magistery. Once the Order was no longer diverted by its political role, the knights were able to concentrate more of their resources on their ancient duties of sustaining the sick. The need for an international medical-aid relief agency had first been made apparent at the time of the Crimean war. In 1876 the Order established its firstly internationally supported project, a major hospital at Tantur on the road from Jerusalem to Bethlehem: between that year and 1893 one hundred and thirty thousand sick were treated there.  The Sovereign Military Order was not then sufficiently organized to provide major international services, but, during the first world war, it proved that it was able to operate highly effectively as an international relief agency. Its sovereign status and independence from government financing guaranteed that it was, to a greater extent than the Red Cross, free from interference by the belligerent states. This ability to operate independently of government control, particularly in the Catholic countries with which it has diplomatic relations, has enabled the Order to succeed in projects beyond the scope of many other charitable bodies.
Ceschi was succeeded in 1905 by fra' Galeazzo von Thun und Hohenstein, a professed Bailiff whose family, like his predecessor's, came from the Austrian-Italian Trento area. Under his rule the Order expanded its membership considerably, permitting the formation of the first American Association. During the last two years of Thun und Hohenstein's life he was physically incapacitated from carrying on the government of the Order and a Lieutenant ad interim, fra' Pio Franchi de' Cavalieri, was appointed. Thun's successor, elected on 30 May 1931, was Bailiff fra' Ludovico Chigi Albani della Rovere, head of one of Italy's greatest families and also hereditary guardian of the Sacred Conclave. Chigi obtained more extensive international recognition for the Order and made state visits as Grand Master to Budapest (in 1938) and Tripoli (in 1939), returning from which he made an unofficial visit to Malta.  In 1933 the Grand Master had summoned a chapter-general of all the knights in Rome, taking this occasion to institute the Missionary School of Medicine and Surgery to provide the Catholic Missions with trained medical personnel. The second world war severely disprupted the Order but the different associations continued their activities to the best of their abilities, although some national groups, particularly the Polish, German and Austrian and Bohemian (several of whose members lost their lives) were prevented from carrying out their humanitarian mission. Following the armistice in Italy, the Grand Master was able to establish good relations with the occupying forces, thanks partly to the intervention of General Edgar Erskine Hume, an American knight of Honor and Devotion (later Bailiff) who was Allied Military Governor of Southern Italy.  By successful diplomatic maneuvering after the end of the Second World War, the Grand Master obtained the use of a number of airplanes which the Order used in its medical missions.
The autonomous status of the Order was called into question in the post-second world war period resulting, after the death of Prince Chigi in 1951, in an investigation by a Commission of three Cardinals appointed by the Holy See. This episode may be regarded as the most recent example of what was an inevitable conflict between the Order's role as an autonomous, sovereign body in its temporal affairs, and the Holy See, its superior as a religious Order. The borderline in some areas, particularly in regard to the regulation of the lay membership, is not always clear, but the ultimate authority of the Holy See over the spiritual life of the members of the first and second class has never been challenged. Although this was a time of some uncertainty and the Order was governed by a Lieutenant ad interim (fra' Antonio Hercolani-Fava-Simonetti), the problems between the Order and the Holy See were eventually resolved and a Lieutenant of the Grand Master was elected with Papal approval in 1955 (fra' Ernesto Paterno Castello di Carcaci). Following the reorganization of the statutes governing the Order (see below), the Pope gave permission for the election of a new Grand Master in 1962, fra Angelo de Mojana di Cologna, a professed knight and lawyer from Milan.  Under Mojana's benevolent rule the Order expanded its membership dramatically, along with the number of national associations and states with which it has diplomatic relations. Following his death early in 1988, the Order elected its first British Grand Master, fra' Andrew Bertie, a descendent of the Earls of Lindsey and Abingdon and grandson of the 4th Marquess of Bute who, in 1989, became the second Grand Master to be received by Queen Elizabeth II and the first to visit Scotland. In January of the same year the Grand Master visited the United States and, at the annual dinner of the American Association New York, awarded President Reagan the Collar of the Order pro Merito Melitense - an historic occasion as it was the first time a serving U.S. President formally acknowledged the Order. In 1991, the Grand Master was received by President George Bush at the White House where they had a private meeting. In 1994 the Order was elected an Observer Member of the United Nations being given similar status to the International Red Cross.
The Grand Master received by President George Bush in 1991
 These were the great naval commander, Bailiff de Suffren-Saint-Tropez, commander Le Normand and a knight of grace, former serving-brother, de Becker who had accompanied Hompesch from Vienna in happier times.
 For a detailed study of this offer, see Nils E. Ihre, "L'Offre du Roi Gustave VI Adolphe de Suede de l'Ile de Gottland a l'Ordre S.M. de Malte" in Annales de l'Ordre Souverain Militaire de Malte, 1963, July-Sep, pp.69-75.
 The Papal right to nominate the Grand Master was conferred by a bull of Urban VIII of 21 October 1634 but, with the exception of the previous nomination of Ruspoli, had never before been invoked. Following a brief summary of the events following the earlier nomination of Ruspoli, the Pope stated: ". .... we elect and nominate you to be Grand Master of the Order of Saint John of Jerusalem with all the charges and honors conforming to the statutes of the Order and to the ecclesiastical constitutions with all the honors, graces, privileges which were enjoyed by your predecessors, as if you had been elected in the chapter of Malta, following the forms prescribed by our predecessor Urban VIII ...". See Lavigerie, Op.cit., pp. 94-96.
 Whose functions have been assumed in part by the "Council Complete of State" and the "Sovereign Council"; the President thereof was then Girolamo Laparelli, titular Grand Prior of England.
 There was actually considerable confusion caused by the fact that both the Lieutenant and the French Capitular Commission (see below) sent envoys, who worked separately, leading to doubts being cast on the credibility of both.
 For a fuller discussion of these negotiations, see Lavigerie, Op.cit., pp.130-151, and also Comte Michel de Pierredon, Histoire Politique de l'Ordre souverain de Saint-Jean de Jerusalem (Ordre de Malte) de 1789 a 1955, 2nd edition, Volumes I and II, 1956, 1963, Volume II.
 See Lavigerie, Op.cit., p.153.
 For the complete text of this Bull, in which the title of "Most Eminent" was confirmed, see Baron de Montagnac, L'Ordonnance des Chevaliers Hospitaliers de Saint Jean de Jerusalem, Paris 1893, pp.115-117.
 See Montagnac, Op.cit., 1893, p.9.
 For a brief biography of Grand Master Chigi see Rudolf Prokopowski, Ordre Souverain et Militaire Jerosolymitain de Malte, Vatican City, 1950, pp.127-135.
 General Hume, created Count de Cherisy by King Umberto II of Italy, was also a Constantinian Bailiff and later elected President-General of the Cincinnati. He was the most highly decorated officer in the history of the United States army.
 Mojana's election marked a departure from recent tradition, as his family was relatively obscure when compared with those of his immediate predecessors and he represented a compromise between different factions.