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A (Brief) Beginner’s Guide To Maltese History Part 8: The Dark Knights Episode 1

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Daddies, Daddies and more Daddies. Pretty much our favourite recurring historical topic for the past couple of weeks. By this point you might think that Malta was a pro at getting sugar daddies during the old days, and you really wouldn’t be wrong at thinking that, honestly. But you know? We’re only really getting started.

The Knights were alright; they spent a very long time here so for your own sake (and ours), this edition will be split into multiple episodes.

First of all, we really should get the general confusion out of the way.

The Knights of St. John were these guys who initially started out in Jerusalem where they defended medical centres, sick people and Catholic pilgrims. Jerusalem was already a bit of a hotbed back then… y’know with all those crusades and all.

The Knights were actually known as the Knights Hospitaller back then, and their Grand Master-y leader responded directly to the Pope. So they were kind of a huge deal.

They were sworn to poverty, celibacy and obedience, but judging from all the luscious palaces they left behind, we kind of have a feeling that they did not take their vows that seriously.

and this is just the summer villeġġiatura ta

Also, while we’re at it, that cross thingy they wore? That represents the eight aspirations of the Knights and the territories they came from — Italy, England, Bavaria, Castille, Aragon, Provence, France and Auvergne.

So why did these Hospitaller guys decide to take up residence in Malta?

Well, they didn’t. Literally, they didn’t.

Basically, what happened is that after the fall of the Kingdom of Jerusalem in around 1291, they had to retire to Tripoli. When Tripoli was captured by the Ottomans, they had to run off to Cyprus. In Cyprus, they were meddling a little bit too much with the local politics, and apparently their Master did not fancy politics much. So anyway, he took them all to Rhodes.

It wasn’t that simple honestly; the Knights spent about four years trying to take Rhodes over until the locals gave up and just let them have it. Along with Rhodes, the Knights got a couple of other islands in the vicinity too — tipo buy one get one free.

In Rhodes, the Knights weren’t as politically involved, and they had to become more militarised like, fighting pirates and all. They also withstood a couple of invasions, and life in Rhodes was good.

But then came the Ottomans — sworn foreverenemies of the Knights

These two had been fighting since forever. They started battling over Rhodes, and eventually the Ottomans won. When they took over, they did not obliterate the Knights however, because deep down they were actually frenemies.

They gave the Knights permission to retire to Sicily in order to continue these petty battles every now and again.

After almost a decade of crashing on their friends’ couches, King Charles I of Spain took pity on them and as King of Sicily, handed Malta and Tripoli over to the Knights in exchange for a yearly fee of one Maltese falcon.

An actual Maltese falcon, not a copy of the film The Maltese Falcon.

1936

So the Knights sulked their way across Europe to the island which was to be their home for the next 200+ years

They did not really want to settle down in what they thought was barren land. You know, like those movies where a teen goes on an involuntary holiday with their family, they sulk a bit but they turn out to really like the place? That’s how it went down with the Knights and Malta.

They settled down here, building anything from palaces to forts and gardens and even a whole hunting forest (so that’s where Buskett comes from). They finally had their own island, and they were very quickly warming up to it.

It was like playing The Sims, but on real land.

They even gave us proper hospitals, so thanks for that Knights. Our maritime trade developed like fire thanks to them, and it became the number one source of economic support for us Maltese.

However, amidst all of this, a shit-storm was on the horizon… one that would shape Malta for centuries to come.

Did you enjoy this Knights Special? Stay tuned for Episode Two next week and tag someone who needs to learn more about Malta’s history!

READ NEXT: Technology And Tactics That Helped Malta Win The Great Siege

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