CHAPTER V. THE FALL
Bonaparte sent for permission for his fleet to enter the harbour for water and for his soldiers to land - a request which was tantamount to a demand for surrender. Von Hompesch sent back a conciliatory letter, saying that treaty obligations forbade the entrance of more than four vessels at a time. Napoleon thereupon threw off the mask, and during the night landed troops at seven different parts of the island. A slight resistance was encountered from a few detached forts, but by the evening of the 10th Valetta was closely invested. The mob was encouraged by hired emissaries to attack as traitors the Knights, who were really the most bitter enemies of the invaders. While Napoleon's agents were busy throughout the town, Von Hompesch sat motionless in his palace, and no subordinate commander would take the responsibility of firing on the besiegers. Finally, a party of citizens interviewed Von Hompesch and threatened to surrender the town if he refused to capitulate.
At this point a mutiny broke out in the garrison, and the Grand Master and his Council, seeing the hopelessness of the situation, sent for an armistice preliminary to surrender. The armistice was concluded on the 11th, and on the 12th Napoleon entered Valetta, full of amazement at the might of the fortress he had so easily captured. On the 12th the capitulation was drawn up, of which the main clauses were:
1. The Knights surrendered Malta and its
sovereignty to the French army.
2. The French Republic would try to secure
to the Grand Master an equivalent principality
and would meanwhile pay him an annual pension
of 300,000 livres.
3. The French would use their influence with
the different Powers assembled at Rastadt to
allow the Knights who were their subjects to
control the property of their respective langues.
4. French Knights were allowed to return to
5. French Knights in Malta were to receive a
pension from the French Government of 700
livres per annum; if over sixty years old, 1,000
Such was the end of the Order at Malta. Napoleon treated the Knights and the Grand Master with extreme harshness. Most of them were required to leave within three days, and some even within twenty-four hours.
On June 18, Von Hompesch, taking with him the three most venerable relics of the Order - all that the conqueror allowed him from the treasures at Valetta - left for Trieste, whence he withdrew to Montpellier, dying there in obscurity in 1805. Most of the homeless Knights proceeded to Russia, where, on October 27, 1798, Paul I. was elected Grand Master, though Von Hompesch still held the post.
But on the Tsar's death in 1801 the Order lost the one man who might have been powerful enough to bring about a restoration, and the survival of some scattered relics could not conceal the fact that vanished for ever was the Order of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem.