Ferdinand von Hompesch zu Bolheim

Ferdinand von Hompesch zu Bolheim

Ferdinand von Hompesch zu Bolheim (November 9, 1744 - May 12, 1805) was the 71st Grand Master of the Order of Saint John, the first German to be elected to the office.

Hompesch was born in the village of Bolheim, now part of Herbrechtingen, Württemberg. He received the baptismal names "Ferdinand Joseph Antoine Herman Louis". He joined the Order of Saint John at a young age, serving as a page to the Grand Master Manuel Pinto da Fonseca.Whitworth Porter, "A History of the Knights of Malta" (London: Longman, Brown, Green, 1858), I, 438.] He spent twenty-five years as the order's ambassador at the court of Vienna before being made Grand Bailiff of Brandenburg.

On 17 July 1797 Hompesch was elected Grand Master. As Grand Master in Malta he raised the towns of Żabbar, Żejtun and Siġġiewi to the status of cities.

In 1798 Hompesch was warned that the French fleet which was sailing to Egypt intended to attack Malta as well. Hompesch disregarded the warning and took no action to reinforce the islands defences. [Porter, 443-444.] On 6 June 1798, the advance squadron of the French fleet reached Malta. One ship was permitted to enter the harbour for repairs. On 9 June the main fleet arrived. The French commander Napoléon Bonaparte had a force of 29,000 men against Hompesch's 7,000. Bonaparte demanded free entrance to the harbour for the entire fleet. Hompesch refused the request on the grounds that it would violate the order's neutrality.

On 10 June the French fleet began disembarking. [Porter, 445.] The French forces were supported by a local insurrection of Maltese, many of whom wished to get rid of the knights. [Porter, 447.] The rules of the Order prohibited fighting against Christians and many of the French members of the order did not want to fight against the French forces. Hompesch capitulated on 11 June. The following day a treaty was signed by which the order handed over sovereignty of the island of Malta to the French Republic. In return the French Republic agreed to "employ all its credit at the congress of Rastadt to procure a principality for the Grand Master, equivalent to the one he gives up". [Porter, 451.] Hompesch was also given an annual pension.

Hompesch left Malta for Trieste on 18 June. [Porter, 457.] He resigned as Grand Master on 6 July 1799. In 1804 he went to Montpellier in France where he died one year later of asthma. [Porter, 460.] He is buried in the Church of Sainte Eulalie in Montpellier. [ [http://www.orderofmalta.org/notizia.asp?IDNotizia=266&idlingua=5 "200° Anniversary of the Death of Grand Master von Hompesch".] ]


Further reading

* Galea, Michael. "Ferdinand von Hompesch, a German Grandmaster in Malta: A Monograph". Malta: Deutsche Gemeinde, 1976. There is an expanded version in German by Joseph A. Ebe, entitled "Ferdinand Freiherr von Hompesch, 1744-1805: letzter Grossmeister des Johanniterordens/Malteserordens auf Malta" (Padenborn: Melitensia, 1985, ISBN 3980107116).

* "Hompesch and Malta: A New Evaluation", edited by Maurice Eminyan. San Gwann, Malta: Enterprises Group, 1999. ISBN 9990902372.

* "Ferdinand von Hompesch, der letzte Grossmeister auf Malta: Ausstellung im Maltesermuseum Mailberg". Mailberg: Arbeitsgemeinschaft Maltesermuseum Mailberg, 1985.

External links

* [http://www.educ.um.edu.mt/militarymalta/html/g_m__fra_ferdinand_von_hompesc.html Portraits of Grandmaster Fra Ferdinand Hompesch]
* [http://coins.mos.net.au/28-hompesch.htm Coins of Grandmaster Ferdinand Hompesch]

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