Introduction

En route to Egypt, Napoleon Bonaparte and the Army of the Orient arrived off Malta on June 9th, 1798. A little opposition was encountered, but this was rapidly overcome, and on June, 12th 1798 Bonaparte in person supervised General Charles Vaubois' assault that seized the aqueduct and soon after the Old City of La Valetta. Baron Hompesch, Grand Master of the Order of St. John of Malta, surrendered, and Bonaparte spent 5 days reordering the affairs of the island before sailing on toward Egypt on June, 19th. General Vaubois was left with 4,000 men to garrison the island.

Following the battle of the Nile on August 1st, 1798, a British Naval blockade was imposed by Admiral Nelson and a British Expeditionary corps was soon landed to support the revolt of the island's inhabitants against the French. General Vaubois withstood a two-year British siege inspired by Captain Alexander Ball, Royal Navy, but signed the capitulation on September 5th 1800. Paul I, tsar of Russia (1754 - 1801) having learned about French occupation of Malta declared himself Grand Master of the Order of St. John. Soon in 1798 he sent three armies (to fight for the second Coalition in North Italy, Holland and Switzerland, but the successes won by the great Souvorov at Cassano against Morcau, at the Trebbia against Macdonald and at Novi against Joubert, all failed in 1800 after Marcngo, Hochstadt and Hohenlindcn.

Meanwhile, in North Italy General Brune had defeated Bellcgarde on the river Mincio on December 18th, 1800 and by the New Year the Austrians had lost the line of the river Adigc. On January, 11th, 1801 the victorious French crossed the Brenta, while away to the North General Macdonald, alter his famous winter crossing of the Splugen Pass, occupied Trent, and as in Bavaria, Austrian resistance collapsed. This string of disasters marked the end of the Second Coalition and on February, 8-th 1801 the peace of Luneville was duly signed[1].

A little earlier with his typical inconsistency Paul I regarded the British occupation of Malta as treachery and transferred his admiration to Napoleon as First Consul. He observed with enthusiasm Napoleon's great actions. He kept tirelessly listening to stories about him and seemed to presentimate his high destiny. He ordered and placed his bust in the palace of Hermitage and often saluted him as a great man.[2] "He makes deals, why not to make deal with him", the Russian tsar said once about First Consul. It seems Paul I earlier than British realised the difference between Jacobin France and France under Consulate. He judged Napoleon not only by the attributes (Consul or King) but also by the character and measure of power available in his hands. This was very important for Russian Orthodox Monarchy.

The last months of 1799 and the first months of 1800 marked the visual change in policy of Russian Foreign Office. On January 8-th Souvorov received the final order to come back to Russia. Russian troops have to leave British islands Jersey and Gernsey in La Manche where Russians stayed with British as Allied forces. Soon after Brumaire (November 9-th 1799) Bonaparte makes the attempts to reconciliation with Russia and to establishing closer links. Baron de Krudener, Russian envoy in Berlin, receives early in February 1800 the proposals from French Ambassador to start French-Russian negotiations. Count Panin, Russian Vice-Chancellor, instructs Krudener "not to agree with any proposals of Corsican usurper"[3]. Bonaparte, however, is looking for other ways of co-operation and since that time Napoleon's and Paul's reconciliation begins.

Dr. Alex Zotov, FINS, St.Petersburg, Russia


Historical magazine Gatchina Over the Centuries