Catalogue description Secretaries of State: State Papers Foreign, Malta

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Details of SP 86
Reference: SP 86
Title: Secretaries of State: State Papers Foreign, Malta

Mainly original in-letters to the Secretary of State from the English (later British) Vice-consul at Malta, together with some signed letters from the Grand Master of Malta or his servants, including the Maltese Ambassador (resident in Paris). A number of draft replies from the Secretary of State may be found, though there are very few in the earlier years. The series includes some correspondence with the British consuls in Milan, 1713-1714, and Zante (a Venician possession in the Ionian Islands), 1703-1755.

Date: 1664-1769
Held by: The National Archives, Kew
Legal status: Public Record(s)
Language: English, French, Italian and Latin
Physical description: 4 volume(s)
Access conditions: Available in digital format
Administrative / biographical background:

From 1530 Malta was governed by the Knights of St John of Jerusalem (the Hospitalers), a Roman Catholic military order.

The position of the British Vice-consul in Malta seems always to have been a difficult one. The Consul for Malta was resident at Messina in Sicily, and was usually also the Consul for Messina. The consul had power to appoint the vice-consul, but the Grand Master of Malta would not willingly accept such an appointment, believing that the nomination should come from him. It appears that other countries allowed the grand master to nominate their consuls or vice-consuls in Malta. The grand master would choose individuals with whom he could easily work, and thus friendly relations could be guaranteed.

However, Vice-consul John Dodsworth was arrested in February 1763 and appealed to the Secretary of State against the 'barbarous' treatment he had received from the Maltese. Commodore Thomas Harrison of HMS Centurion, in command of the Mediterranean Squadron, was sent to investigate. Harrison arrived at Malta in January 1764 and reported that Dodsworth had been imprisoned through his own misconduct: he had refused to satisfy his many creditors or acknowledge the authority of the lawful tribunals of the country. Consequently he was dismissed from his post, and replaced by Angelo Rutter. Dodsworth remained in prison until his release in 1767, writing numerous letters to the Secretary of State concerning his plight.

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