Knights of Malta

The Order of Malta, officially known as the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of Saint John of Jerusalem, of Rhodes, and of Malta, traces its roots back to the 11th century. It was established as a religious and military order in Jerusalem during the early 12th century with the primary mission of caring for sick and injured pilgrims traveling to the Holy Land during the Crusades. Following the loss of Jerusalem in 1291, the Order relocated its headquarters to the island of Rhodes, where they continued their defensive operations against various adversaries. In 1530, Emperor Charles V granted them the island of Malta, which became their new operational base.

The knights adopted the distinctive white eight-pointed Cross as their emblem, a symbol they have proudly carried for over 900 years. Under the leadership of Phillippe de Lonvilliers de Poincy, a high Chevalier in the Order of Saint John of Jerusalem, French influence in the eastern Caribbean expanded, with troops seizing control of St. Bart’s and half of St. Martin. Upon hearing about the unrest in St. Croix caused by conflicts among Dutch, English, and Spanish factions, de Poincy sent 160 men to capture the island. He then resettled numerous families from St. Kitts to St. Croix and eased trading restrictions that had been previously imposed.

Despite his achievements, de Poincy began to defy orders from the French King, even resisting stepping down when a replacement was appointed. In a bid to strengthen his authority, he suggested in 1649 that the Knights of Malta acquire St. Kitts, St. Barts, and St. Croix from France to govern as their private territories. The Knights and other French settlers began to colonize St. Croix, notably clearing extensive forested areas for agriculture and disease prevention. During this period, it is estimated that over 600 Knights resided on St. Croix, although most were nobles unsuited for farming. In 1665, the French West Indian Company bought the island from the Knights of Malta, ushering in two decades of prosperity on St. Croix with 90 plantations cultivating various crops such as tobacco, cotton, sugar cane, and indigo.

While the Knights of Malta did not establish any additional colonies and lost control of Malta itself in 1798, they maintained their independence under international law, retaining the authority to issue their own currency, stamps, and passports. Throughout their history, the Order encountered numerous challenges, including conflicts with other powers and territorial losses. In modern times, the Knights of Malta have evolved into a humanitarian organization, offering medical assistance and charitable services worldwide.

Scroll to Top