An exhibition celebrating the association of the Order of St Michael and St George with Malta highlights the contribution made by Maltese and British subjects employed in the Mediterranean – a service that was rewarded with honours, pageant and splendour.

The origins of the Order of St Michael and St George lie in the aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars when the Maltese Islands passed under British sovereignty and rule by the 1st Treaty of Paris in 1814 and the Ionian Islands became a British Protectorate the following year by the 2nd Treaty of Paris.

These two new British acquisitions had much in common: being small Mediterranean nations they had become accustomed to foreign domination by the Romans, Byzantines and Angevins. In later times the Ionian Islands were ruled by Venice for 400 years until Napoleon Bonaparte abolished the Venetian Republic in 1797 and in the following year Napoleon ousted the Knights of St John from Malta where they held sway for 268 years.

Despite the Greek origin of the inhabitants of the Ionian Islands their official language was Italian, as with Malta. The similarities between the Maltese and the Ionians went further: both were devoutly Christian and they both shared a veneration for saints.

The Order of St Michael and St George is nowadays awarded to men and women of high office, or who render extraordinary or important non-military service in a foreign country.

Meanwhile, Christopher Grech, shall tomorrow give a public lecture on the subject at 6.30pm.

The exhibition is on at the Malta Postal Museum, 135, Archbishop Street, Valletta. It is open Monday to Friday from 10 am to 4pm and on Saturday from 10am to 2pm. Admission is free. It runs until December 6.

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