History – 1697 – 1720 Ramon Perellos y Roccaful

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Ramon Perellos y Roccaful, of the language of Aragon and Bailiff of Negropont, was sixty years of age when he was unanimously elected to assume the magisterial office on the death of Adrian de Wignacourt on the 7th February 1697.

Still possessed of a vigorous activity, Raymond, on first assuming the reins of government introduced several important laws for the better internal administration of the Convent. In this he was warmly seconded by Pope Innocent XIL, who from the very beginning of his reign had invariably shown the greatest interest in the welfare of the Order of the Knights of Malta. He restored to them one of their most important privileges, that of filling the vacant commanderies in the language of Italy by their own selection, which prerogative had been exercised exclusively by the Court of Rome. Nor did the conciliating policy of Innocent XII stop here: through his good offices he reconciled several disputes which had arisen between the Bishop of Malta and the Prior of the Conventual Church touching their respective authorities, and freed the Order from further annoyance, which had been caused by the pretensions of Inquisitor Delci relative to the management of the infirmary. As a mark of recognition of the continual support that had been received at the hands of this Sovereign Pontiff, Roccaful caused a bust of Innocent XII. to be placed on the high front of the facade of the church dedicated to Our Lady of Victory, in Valletta, and an appropriate inscription was added in perpetual commemoration of the gratitude of the fraternity towards the Holy Pontiff.

The Knights throughout the reign of Roccaful continued the naval expeditions against the Turks, which had added so Much to the prosperity of the island. Although a large Turkish man-of-war of eighty guns was captured, still the necessity of augmenting the navy with vessels of larger size was greatly felt in order to be able to cope with more advantage with the Turkish fleet, which of late years had been considerably increased.

To place the navy of the Order on a surer footing, Roccaful built at his own expense the ” St. Raymond,” and three more vessels of the same type were built at the expense of the treasury. The command of the new fleet was entrusted to the Knight St. Pierre. Under whose superintendence the ships had been built, and, as a result of his first cruise, he captured a Tunisian flag-ship of eighty guns, which was at once added to the navy of the Order, under the title of “Santa Croce.” In 1707 this vessel, under the command of the Knight De Langon, fought its way through the midst of the powerful Algerine fleet, then blockading Oran, and was able to disembark a strong Maltese contingent, together with a large supply of ammunition, to assist the besieged Spaniards.

In the following year a descent on Gozo was attempted by the Turks, but overtaken by De Langon, they suffered the loss of two of their vessels, and over 400 men were taken prisoners, the famous Tripolitan commander Stamboli being amongst the captives.

The gigantic armament which at this time was being prepared at Constantinople, and the uncertainty of its destination, called for preparations for the defence of the island, which were at once carried out. Under the superintendence of De Tigné and De Modion, engineers to Louis XIV of France, fortifications were repaired and in some cases even reconstructed with marvellous rapidity. A strong reinforcement of Papal troops was placed by Innocent XII. at the disposal of the Order, and many a valiant Knight journeyed from afar eager to fight under the white cross banner of the redoubtable Knights of St. John. This alarm, however, proved groundless, as it was the Republic of Venice against which the Ottoman Empire had declared war.

After a long illness, Roccaful died on the 10th January 1720, at the advanced age of eighty-four, mourned by all classes which for a period of twenty-two years had experienced the effects of his wise and successful administration.

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