Philippe Villiers de L’Isle Adam, of the Langue of France. Was elected in Rhodes on 13th November 1521. On his arrival in Malta on the 26th October 1530, was greatly disappointed to find the island nothing else but an arid rock with the Castle of St. Angelo for its only protection, and a few houses called the Bourg grouped around the foot of the Fort. In the Fort itself one gun and two falconets were the only defences. The capital of the island, supposed to have been erected by the Greeks in 1404 BC, and called Notabile by King Alphonse of Aragon, lay in the centre of the island surrounded by feeble fortifications. Several small villages were scattered here and there. like specks over the island. The magnificence of the grand harbour was the only point of attraction.
Disaffection soon rose among the Knights on account of the uninviting appearance of the island which was to be their new home. But L’lsle Adam, although not averse to removing his Order to a more favourable situation than Malta, soon perceived the advantages that the island would offer if properly fortified. Having assumed sovereignty over the islands of Malta and Gozo he fixed his temporary residence in the Castle of St. Angelo and established the Convent of the Order in the Bourg, which was in a very short time enclosed by a line of entrenchments, for the protection of the new Hospital and of the Convent itself.
The thoughts of the Grand Master were next turned to fortifying the capital of the island, then Notabile, where he had made his solemn entry on the 13th November 1530. Accordingly the old fortifications were restored and the city strongly garrisoned. The island of Gozo was entrusted to the care of a Governor, and its defence confided to a company of Infantry.
The island was strongly entrenched, provided with artillery and ammunition, and an abundant supply of provisions.
L’lsle Adam next, devoted himself to the interior administration of the island, the revenue of which he greatly increased.
After a severe illness which had utterly prostrated him, Villiers de. L’lsle Adam died on the 22nd August 1534, at the age of 75, after having reigned for twelve years in Rhodes and nearly four in Malta. His body was embalmed and interred in the chapel of Fort St. Angelo, whence thirty years later, with the greatest pomp, it was transferred to the Conventual Church of the Order, erected by the munificence of Grand Master La Cassiere, in 1567, in the city of Valletta.
The heroism and grandeur of L’lsle Adam’s character were such that the clouds of adversity only set it forth in brighter lustre. The loss of Rhodes, the greatest disaster which had befallen the Order since that of Jerusalem, has connected itself so imperishably with his name that he has gained a higher renowne for his conduct in that calamity than other men have achieved by the most brilliant victories. As the establisher of his Order in the island of Malta and the prime agent in its resuscitation after its late desperate losses, he may be looked upon as its third parent and founder. Raymond du Puy has associated his name with the original foundation of the Institution. It was to Fulke de Villaret that the Order were indebted for their establishment in their lovely island home of Rhodes; and it is to L’lsle Adam that the merit is due of having guided their fortunes to that rocky island in the centre of the Mediterranean, where for upwards of two centuries and a half the banner of St. John waved proudly, an honour to Christianity and a terror to the Infidel.
From instructions given by this Grand Master to the Knights de Lara and Bernard Salviati, Prior of Rome, envoys to the Holy See and to Charles V., it seems that the sovereign privilege of striking money had been disputed to L’lsle Adam by the Viceroy of Sicily. This dispute, which had hindered the Grand Master from proceeding to his new home, was finally adjusted, but there is no authority to prove whether the coins issued by this Grand Master were struck in Malta or in Rhodes.