Emmanuel Vitale

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Emmanuel Vitale
Emmanuel Vitale stamp.png
Emmanuel Vitale on a Maltese stamp
Born (1758-04-30)30 April 1758
Rabat, Malta
Died 8 October 1802(1802-10-08) (aged 44)
Gozo
Allegiance Unofficial Flag of Malta (pre-1943).svg Malta
Years of service 1798-1800
Rank General
Unit Maltese Irregulars
Battles/wars Siege of Malta (1798-1800)

Emmanuel or Emmanuele Vitale (30 April 1758 - 8 October 1802) was a Maltese notary, commander and statesman. During the Siege of Malta (1798-1800), he commanded 10,000 irregular Maltese soldiers.

Biography[edit]

Early life[edit]

Emmanuel Vitale was born in Rabat on the 30th of April 1758. He was the son of Notary Saverio Vitale and Rosa née Caruana. Influenced by his father, he studied in Malta and became a notary. Also between 1785 and 1795 he succeeded his father and held the position of Chancellor of the Università at Mdina, for whom he was a great benefactor.

French Occupation of Malta[edit]

The French seized Malta from the Knights of St. John in 1798. The French troops left in Malta, under the command of General Claude-Henri Belgrand de Vaubois, immediately became unpopular. They frequently looted the churches of Malta, which led to Vitale hiding the treasures of the Church of Saint Joseph (Rabat) in his house. When the French attempted to loot damask and silver from a convent in Mdina, through Vitale's efforts, an angry mob amassed in order to prevent the French from doing so. The protests soon became an insurrection against the French, and Vitale was made commander-in-chief of the Maltese irregular forces (with the exception of the forces from Zebbug and Siggiewi who recognized Canon Francesco Saverio Caruana as their general). Under his command, they pushed the French out of Mdina, using a passageway behind St. Paul's Cathedral and by the following day the Maltese recaptured Imdina for themselves, massacaring the French garrison there. Taken by surprise the French retreated into Valletta, where they held out throughout the rest of the siege.[1]

Meanwhile Vitale and the other leaders set up a provisional government, the National Assembly, at the Banca Giuratale of Mdina on 3 September. The Assembly appealed for foreign help and sent a representative to ask for aid in Naples. Vitale, Count Salvadore Manduca, Marquis Vincenzo de Piro and Count Ferdinand Thurna Castelliti sent a letter to the British Admiral Horatio Nelson for help. He and, soon after, Captain Alexander Ball arrived to provide reinforcements and later the Portuguese Marquis Nizza provided troops, muskets and gunpowder. Due to disagreements on whom should lead, between Vitale and Caruana, Ball became the President of the Assembly. Afterwards a National Congress was set up, made up of the village leaders and a couple of priests. Vitale was seen as a representative of Mdina, not as a general in the Congress. At first, Ball was highly critical of Vitale, describing him as ambitious and a bad administrator. This changed however upon seeing his leadership skills throughout the course of the siege. On 31 March 1800 he along with about twenty other representatives signed a letter stating that the Maltese wanted to become subjects of Great Britain. The French capitulated on 5 September 1800.

Later life[edit]

After the French left Malta, Britain set up a Protectorate over Malta, with Ball becoming a Civil Commissioner. He nominated Vitale to become luogotenente (village leader) of Senglea. On 21 August 1801, under the Civil Commissioner Charles Cameron, he was given the honour of being Governor, Superintendent and the Health Director of Gozo. He died on 8 October 1802 at the young age of 44.

Legacy[edit]

Vitale is remembered in Malta for being one of the Maltese leaders in the insurrection. He was depicted on a postage stamp in 2002, though it is not known for certain if the stamp shows Vitale or a member of the Reggimento dell’Artiglieria e Bombardieri of the Order of Saint John.[2][3]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Castillo, Dennis Angelo (2006). The Maltese Cross: A Strategic History of Malta. Westport: Praeger Security International. p. 119. ISBN 0313323291. 
  2. ^ Darmanin, Denis (18 March 2012). "Was the real Vitale depicted on stamp?". Times of Malta. Retrieved 30 September 2014. 
  3. ^ Darmanin, Denis (1 July 2012). "Emmanuele Vitale on a stamp". Times of Malta. Retrieved 30 September 2014.