The Malta Commonwealth Walkway, in the capital Valletta, celebrates the important Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting held in Malta in November 2015.
Malta has a long and rich history, dating back to the Phoenicians in 800 BC. In 600 BC the Greek traders arrived and in AD 60, there was the famous shipwreck of St Paul. The Arabs took over in 870, and in 1500 the Knights arrived. Valletta itself was founded by Jean Parisot de Vallette in 1566, following the first great Siege of 1565 in which the Maltese resisted invasion by the Turks.
The French ousted the Knights in 1798 and in 1800 the British removed the French. In 1815 British possession was confirmed by Treaty. The island has always been close to Great Britain. Queen Adelaide, widow of William IV, started the vogue for the British to come here for their health, when she came for a prolonged stay in 1838. Many members of the British Royal Family have been stationed here with the Royal Navy, including Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh (Queen Victoria’s second son), Prince Louis of Battenberg, Admiral of the Fleet the Earl Mountbatten of Burma, and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.
In recent years Malta has been to the forefront in conflicts and turmoil. Because it was strategically placed between Italy and Africa, Malta has always been an important seaport. In the Second World War it underwent the Great Siege. Sir Winston Churchill wrote: “The heroic defence of Malta in 1942 formed the keystone of the prolonged struggle for the maintenance of our position in Egypt and the Middle East.” By the end of 1942 over 3,000 Maltese civilians had been killed or injured. So impressed was King George VI by the way the Maltese defended their island against ceaseless bombing raids that, in a unique gesture, he bestowed the George Cross on the island “to bear witness to a heroism and devotion that will long be famous in history”.
When The Duke of Edinburgh was stationed in Malta after the war, Princess Elizabeth spent many months on the island as a naval officer’s wife. She has later said that Malta is the only place in the Commonwealth, other than Great Britain, that she can consider as home. As part of the Commonwealth tour, in May 1954, The Queen unveiled the RAF memorial at Floriana.
The Queen has visited it several times since, paying a State Visit in 1967, opening the Santa Maria Bell in 1992, and celebrating her Diamond Wedding here on 20 November 1997. She returned to Malta to preside over the opening ceremonies of CHOGM in 2005 and 2015.
In 1964, Malta achieved Independence, and ten years later severed its connections to the British crown, while remaining part of the Commonwealth.
In 1979 Valletta was declared a World Heritage Site, containing some 320 historic monuments within 55 hectares. In 2012 Valletta was chosen as European Capital of Culture for 2018.
Many thanks to photographer Henry Zammit Cordina for sharing so many great photos with us.
Download the leaflets here