7

The Order of St John from 1798 to the present day

RAND MASTER HOMPESCH with twelve knight-brothers, two sergeants- GRAND MASTER HOMPESCH with twelve knight-brothers, two sergeants- at - arms and a fewof the Order's most precious relics left Malta for Trieste on the Adriatic on 17 June 1798. Here the Emperor Francis II (Holy Roman Emperor 1792―1806, Emperor of Austria 1804―35) gave him asylum. The fate of the Order now appeared to be in the hands of the Holy Roman Emperor; but this situation soon changed. The news of the loss of Malta reached the brothers of the newly formed Russian priory in August; the priory chapter, believing that Hompesch had betrayed Malta, declared him deposed as grand master, and the brothers `threw themselves into the arms' of their protector Tsar Paul I. They repudiated the terms of surrender which had been negotiated with Bonaparte, 'the Convention'. Tsar Paul I agreed to maintain the Order and its institutions and to do all he could to re-establish it. His capital city of St Petersburg would become the Order's centre of administration. He invited the other tongues to accept this arrangement. The priories of Russia and Germany agreed, although the German grand prior did not. The priories of Spain, Bohemia and Bavaria did not. The other priories of the Order had been destroyed or reduced to impotence in the recent upheavals in France and Italy.

In Trieste, Hompesch defended his actions and denied accusations of treachery. The priory of Castile supported him. It was left to Pope Pius VI to decide what to do. Meanwhile, the tsar had taken the Order's habit ― although he had taken no religious vows, and could not enter the Order as he was of the Russian Orthodox faith and therefore a schismatic in Catholic eyes. The priory of Russia elected him as the new grand master, and the ambassadors of two countries whose priories still recognised Hompesch as grand master ― Spain and Bavaria ― were told to leave Russia. The tsar created new Russian Orthodox commanderies, and gave the Order money and a small fleet. It appears that the tsar did not do this for political motives or hopes of recovering Malta and dominating the Mediterranean so much as from romantic dreams of chivalry and a hatred of the French revolutionary republicans. He declared that the

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