JEAN PARISOT DE LA VALETTE
The following are great excerpts from the book Great Siege: Malta 1565 by Erle Bradford
Jean Parisot De La Valette was the rarest of human beings, a completely single minded man. Born in 1494,he had joined the Order of St. John of Jerusalem when he was 20. He came from a noble and ancient Provencal family, descended from the first hereditary Counts of Toulouse, and could count among his ancestors Knights who had fought in the Crusades with St. Louis. It was a family which had already given several knights to the Order, but La Valette was more dedicated to his vows tham most of his ancestors. He never revisited his family estates, or returned to his native country. From the day he joined the Order, he never left the Convent except on duties.
As the Abbe de Brantome described him, "He was a very handsome man, tall, calm and unemotional, speaking several languages fluently-Italian, Spanish, Greek Arabic and Turkish". The last two languages he had learned when, suffering a fate not uncommon in those days, he had been captured and made a Turkish galley-slave, It was in action against the corsair Abd-ur-Rahman Kust Aly in 1541 that Valette was badly wounded and lost his ship, the galley San Giovanni. For a year he lived and survived in this terrible world of the galley slave. Only an exchange of prisoners between the Order and the corsairs of the Barbary coast secured his release.
In that century, a man adventuring by sea in the Mediterranean was likely to find the wheel of fortune turn full circle in a matter of a few hours. Dragut, greatest of all the corsairs after Barbarossa, saw La Valette when he was a galley slave and secured for him slightly more favorable conditions. Eight years later, when Dragut himself was captured by the Genoese admiral Giannettino Doria, Valette happened to be present. He sympathized with the corsair's anger and remarked: "Monsieur Dragut--it is the custom of war." To which Dragut wryly replied, "And change of Fortune". Valette's own captor, Kust Aly was in his turn taken by La Valette, then chief admiral of the Order's fleet, in 1554 and sent to the oars along with twenty-two other prisoners.
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