Napoleon’s fleet reaches Malta on the way to Egypt
Napoleon dispatched Jean-Andoche Junot to the Grand Master of the Knights of St John to demand the island’s surrender. The pro-French Knights refused to fight and their Maltese subjects were in revolt, and so, two days later, the harbour was opened to the French.
Napoleon only spent six days on the island but he was his usual flurry of activity. He expelled all of the 14 Knights and replaced the island’s medieval administration with the governing council, dissolved the monasteries, installed street lighting and paving, freed all political prisoners, reformed the hospitals, hostel service and university. He also abolished slavery, feudalism, titles of nobility and the Arms of the Order of the Knights, opened the ghettos, freed the Jews and allowed them to build a synagogue.
‘We now possess,’ he wrote to the Directory, ‘the strongest place in Europe and it will cost a good deal to dislodge us.’