Over the years, several historical figures who would leave their mark on the world also happened to grace Maltese shores at one point or another in their lives. We thought listing a few would be a good idea; this way, you get to broaden your knowledge of the island and might additionally get a kick out of some fun facts!
Queen Elizabeth II
Of course, the queen of the UK hardly needs an introduction. But before she became queen, Elizabeth spent some time living in Malta. This was between 1949 and 1951. The princess resided in Villa Guardamangia, and even celebrated her 24th birthday there with her husband, Prince Philip. She was able to lead a normal life in Malta, wandering through the various towns, visiting friends, and even going to the hairdresser!
- FUN FACT: Initially, the princess knew little about money, as even when royals make a purchase with their own (ample) funds, they seldom conduct their end of the transaction themselves, much less if cash is involved. The future queen had to familiarize herself with hard currency and master the art of producing the right banknotes when informed how much she owed for this or that item in a particular store. This took some time, and Her Royal Highness was sometimes responsible for causing a queue to form behind her, one composed of increasingly irritable shoppers!
Lord Baden-Powell lived here for three years as a young military man, serving as an assistant to his uncle, Henry Smyth, governor of Malta in the late 19th century. Baden-Powell is best known for founding the Boy Scouts Association, now a worldwide organization and a mainstay of extra-curricular activity for schoolboys around the world, including Malta. He would return to Malta several times over the years, one such occasion being his honeymoon with Olave Baden-Powell, who ended up playing a prominent role in the Girl Guide Association established by her husband and his sister.
- FUN FACT: Lord Baden-Powell’s wife, who was 32 years his junior, had the same birthday as her husband: February 22.
Napoleon Bonaparte, the renowned French military strategist and leader who crowned himself emperor, is not normally associated with Malta. Yet it was during Bonaparte’s rule that the French occupied the Maltese Islands. Although an uprising by the Maltese people ensured that French rule proved short-lived, spanning all of two years (1798 to 1800), its reforms left a major impact. Bonaparte abolished slavery, the feudal system, and the nobility. Yet Napoleon’s army wasn’t always equally high-minded; it was accused of widespread looting of some of Malta’s prized possessions, including gold and other church property, and defacing countless of the Order of St. John’s coats of arms.
- FUN FACT: Napoleon was very competitive and hated losing. To guarantee that he’d win, he often cheated in card games!
Caravaggio was an Italian painter who influenced the Baroque style through his masterful use of chiaroscuro. One of the most famous artists to work in Malta, he was commissioned to paint the interior of St John’s Co-Cathedral in Valletta. “The Beheading of Saint John the Baptist” was completed in the year 1608, and is regarded by many as one of the finest paintings of the 17th century. It is also the only painting that Caravaggio signed.
- FUN FACT: Caravaggio is not actually his surname, but that of the small town in northern Italy where he was born and raised.
President George H.W. Bush
During the 41st American president’s term in office, the historic Malta Summit took place. This was in December 1989, a few weeks after the fall of the Berlin Wall. During the summit, President George H.W. Bush and his Soviet counterpart Mikhail Gorbachev issued a momentous declaration: the Cold War was over. Their meeting took place off the coast of Marsaxlokk and ushered in a period of warmer ties between the US and the Soviet Union.
- FUN FACT: The former president is well-known for his curious collection of socks, wearing colorful pairs even when attending formal events. He also has a habit of presenting people with such socks as gifts – hopefully, they’re newly bought!
James Miranda Barry
James Miranda Barry, a famed military surgeon, was a woman who posed as a man in order to study medicine at university and then join the army in a medical capacity. Barry came to Malta aged 50, in the mid-1800s, and served here for four years, living in Sliema. She had disguised herself as a man ever since she started her medical training; her identity as a woman was not revealed to her colleagues until her death in 1865.
- FUN FACT: Despite the fact that virtually nobody knew it at the time, Barry was the first woman in Britain to qualify as a doctor, and one of the first to carry out a successful caesarean.
Paul Golding isn’t exactly a household name, and those of you who think you might be familiar with the guy probably have in mind his namesake, a British far-right figure much in the news these past few years. But the other Paul Golding, who also happens to be British, is an acclaimed novelist. About a decade ago, he moved to Malta, buying a dilapidated 18th century townhouse in Naxxar. The plan was to work on a third novel – and refurbish the house.
FUN FACT: It’s unclear what became of that planned third novel, but Golding did succeed in both fixing up and expanding “Palazzo Nasciaro,” as his spiffy pad is known. And he’s put it up for sale for a cool 10 million euros.
Were you aware that these famous people resided in Malta at some point in their lives? If you know of any others, take a moment to inform us about them in the comments section below!