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www.maltagenealogy.com is dedicated to celebrating and reassessing the history of the Maltese People.
The heraldic representation of the Republic of Malta is regulated by a special law and it is an offence tovilify the Emblem of Malta.
www.maltagenealogy.com has no intention of vilifying this emblem, but it would like to help improve what it stands to represent.
The law says that the Emblem of Malta consists of a shield showing an heraldic representation of the National Flag of Malta. It is Malta's Constitution not the special law which provides that the National Flag of Malta consists of two equal vertical stripes, white in the hoist and red in the fly, with a representation of the George Cross, edged with red, in the canton of the white stripe. This is shown in figure 1.
The colours red and white are the old arms of Malta.
Some people http://flagspot.net/flags/mt.html hold the tradition that the two colours come from the last two squares of the chequered flag of the Norman family of Hauteville who were the Norman family that under Count Roger, conquered Sicily (and in 1090 also Malta). Some even venture that the original white and red come from Count Roger's flag which was chequered in white and red and before he left Malta he cut out a corner and gave it to the Maltese.
Neither claim appears substantiated by documentary evidence. We find reference to the two colours in Abela’s ‘Descrittione di Malta’ published in 1647 as follows:
“L’Insegna, & Arme della Nostra Citta’ Notabile, e’ un corpo di scudo dal su’ all’ in giu’ bipartito in color bianco, e vermiglio; presagio indubitato, & infallibile della futura insegna, e Vessillo, che si doveva alberare, e campeggiare perpetuamente sovra le sue mura, e bastioni, poiche premise il Signore saggio e prudentissimo Governatore dell’ Universo, che doppo la felicissima venuta dell’ Apostolo S. Paolo in Malta , il quale vi pianto’ l’albero della fede Christiana, indi havese per Gloria de’ nostri paesani a trasferirvisi l’Eminentissima Republica della Sagra Religione Gerosolimitana nostra Padrona, per piantarvi il gloriosissimo segna della Santa Croce Bianca in campo vermiglio, accio’ dovesse esser quest’ Isola, il Propugnacolo, e Baluardo di tutta la Cristianita’, la Corona del Mare, la Reggia di Nettuno, l’Academia dell’ armi, l’Hospitio de’ naviganti, Terrore all’ Africa, & Asia, Asilo, e sicurezza dell’ Europa tutta.”
Abela does not attribute any link between these colours and the Norman conqueror. http://www.saidvassallo.com/SME/maltesenobility/oldfamilies1647.htm It is unlikely that there is any such link to the Hauteville. Here, it must be remembered that Abela describes the political structure of the Maltese nation as enjoying a quasi independent status, not of a colony but as an equal to its Sicilian counterpart:
Furono altresi’ molti nobili allettati all’ habitatione di Malta, & a’ predervi moglie dall’occasione di diverse mercedi, e d’una quantita’ di feudi, ch’ a’ Benemeriti dalla Real Grandezza liberalmente si conferivano, & eziando per le francgigie, & essentioni, che da naturali dell’ Isola si godevano, che sono stati sempre trattati come veri regnicoli Siciliani, e governati da’ proprij officiali, con giurisdittione di mero, e misto imperio, in riguardo non meno della fedelta’ loro (doppo essersi per due fiate ricomperati, accio’ fussero con lIsola riuniti alla corona) che dalla difesa, che facevano in questob antemurale con incredibili disagi, che ben spedito pativano dale scorrerie, & invasioni de’ Barberi, e d’altri.”
In any event, the colours of Malta had already been established as being white and red (vermillion) before the arrival of the Knights, and we know that these were displayed on the original gate of Mdina in 1447 http://www.maltagenealogy.com/libro%20d'Oro/djarilbnietA.html Abela used Malta and Notabile interchangeably. There is no evidence suggesting that other major towns such as Vittoriosa e.g. http://www.maltagenealogy.com/libro%20d'Oro/sanvincenzoferreri.htmlor the comune of Gozo e.g. http://www.maltagenealogy.com/libro%20d'Oro/Castelletti.htm had their own coat of arms. It should also be remembered that the Consiglio Popolare and Universita’ represented by the arms of Notabile had jurisdiction over all of the Maltese islands before the arrival of the knights in 1530. http://www.saidvassallo.com/SME/SME2/ConsiglioPopolare.html
The George Cross is a recent addition: it commemorates the bravery of the besieged Islanders during the Second World War. See figure 2.
The George Cross first appeared (on 28th December 1943) on a blue canton and this was the design until independence on 21st September 1964, when the arms and flag were changed again. This time the blue canton was removed and substituted by a narrow fringe of red.
Even though the correct flag now shows the George Cross, it is quite possible that individuals still feel this unique augmentation as an alien addition to Malta's ancient flag. Although the predominant one is the current official one, some elements, mainly in the southern part of the island still fly the undefaced version. http://flagspot.net/flags/mt.html
The National Emblem, like the National Flag, of Malta does not show any representation of the Knights of Saint John. During 1530-1798, Malta was the seat of an international Christian order. This episode saw the distinctively uniform eight points being first adopted in Malta by the Order of Saint John during the mid-16th century. Historians still debate whether the eight pointed Cross was inspired by crosses used earlier in Amalfi, or even by the Order itself in Jerusalem.
Till this day, the Maltese Cross is today a very cherished symbol of the Maltese people and it has become part of the Malta's heritage and culture. Moreover, the distinctive cross is to this day also used in various forms of official marks, including gold and silver assay marks, schools, financial institutions, watermarks and so on.
Other present uses of this Cross are made by various international orders such as the Venerable Order of Saint John, the Russian Succession of the Order of Saint John and the Sovereign Military Order of Saint John. During the British Colonial times, the Order of Saint Michael and Saint George was established in which the Maltese Cross features prominently in the relative insignia.
During the Order’s domination the cross was shown on a red field (see Abela above).
It is quite possible that individuals will regard the Maltese cross associated with a foreign order as a wrong imposition on the historical flag of the Maltese nation. We are therefore suggesting that such other orders’ use of the Maltese Cross should not be confused with that to be shown in the National Emblem of Malta. Hence the need to “Maltese-ize” the Maltese Cross. We are suggesting the use of the colours of Malta in a distinctive way.
Because the Order’s period was after Malta already had its own colours, and before the British period, the Maltese Cross should be shown in a corresponding way.
The dominant element should be the colours of Malta representing their prevalence.
All this is shown in figure 3, and is blazoned as follows: Per pale, argent and gules (representing the colours of Malta, white and vermillion), surmounted by an eight pointed cross (representing the Order of Saint John which dominated the Maltese Islands between 1530 and 1798) countercharged in pale gules and argent, surmounted by a George Cross (representing the honour bestowed to the Maltese People by Britain in 1943) Azure; above the shield a mural crown in gold with a sally port and five turrets representing the fortifications of Malta and denoting a City State; and around the shield a wreath of two branches: the dexter of Olive, the sinister of Palm, symbols of peace and traditionally associated with Malta, all in their proper colours, tied at base with a white ribbon, backed red and upon which are written the words “Repubblika ta' Malta” (Republic of Malta, in Maltese) in capital letters in black.