Malta has a wealth of history. With ancient temples, forts, catacombs and fortified medieval cities. It has beautiful and distinctive architecture covering many centuries.
Malta’s Historic Route to Independence Day
Malta was always a country of interest. Situated in the middle of the Mediterranean sea. The island’s location was of strategic importance. Both for international trade and military operations. This made it an invaluable to its conquerors. Throughout its history, a plethora of empires ruled over Malta. To name but a few were the Phoenicians, Romans, Arabs, French, and the British. All its rulers wanted to construct naval ports and reinforce their trade routes. Needless to say all conquerors left an impact on the Maltese culture.
The Knights of St. John served as Malta’s longest rulers. In the 1530, the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V gifted them with the Maltese islands. They governed Malta for 250 years. Until the French led by Napoleon Bonaparte invaded Malta in 1798.
The French commanded by Napoleon’s fleet conquered Malta on its way to invade Egypt. They required a place to rest. Malta denied Napoleon’s demand to dock in its ports. With the result that Napoleon invaded and occupied the island. The French occupation evolved in two restless years. At the time the Church and the nobility dominated the Maltese. As a consequence the French found a strong opposition when they tried to put in place reforms. These reflected those of the French Revolution. On top of that the French stole national treasures and artwork. Then transported them to France. This led to a rebellion between the Maltese and French in 1799. When the riot failed the Maltese asked Britain for help. In 1800 the British assisted the Maltese expel the French. Britain governed over the islands until 1974.
Throughout the first years of British occupation the islands were a base for the British Mediterranean Fleet. Yet during the Second World War Malta became a station in charge of operations in North Africa and the Mediterranean. After the war the Maltese brought forward the interest of self-government.
Queen Elizabeth II granted Malta’s independence in 1964. Yet she was still the nation’s ruler and Head of State. A governor-general executed authority on her behalf. This changed in 1974 when Malta was declared as a Republic with the president serving as the Head of State. It elects its representatives to parliament through democratic elections. Today, Malta forms part of the European Union.
Malta under the British Rule
By requesting the British for help Malta willingly joined the British Empire in 1800. At the time Admiral Lord Nelson led the siege that overthrew the French. It became a sovereign nation in the British Empire. Malta was a major asset to the British. Becoming a naval and military headquarters for the British Mediterranean Fleet.
The British defended the Maltese islands during the Napoleonic wars. These took place between 1803 and 1815. Then secured full control over the archipelago of Malta in 1814.
Malta prospered under the British control. Changes took place in their educational system, legal and social structures. A walk through throughout the British rule highlights some major events in Malta’s history. The construction of St. Paul’s Anglican Cathedral in Valletta commenced in 1839. Termination of the censorship of the press took place during that same year. The Malta Railway started its operations in 1882. The use of postage stamps commenced by 1855. In 1869, Malta was used as a central stop between the British occupied Gibraltar and Suez Canal.
In 1904 the first tram started servicing the main localities. Throughout World War I, Malta was a military hospital base. Wounded soldiers were sent to Malta to receive treatment and to recuperate.
Tensions started flaring during the mid 1930’s. Political unrest between the Maltese Catholic Church, the Maltese political elite and the British rulers led to violent clashes on the streets.
In 1934, Maltese was proclaimed as an official language. This being native tongue of the island. In 1936, both Maltese and English became the official languages of the country. This stands till today.
Between 1940 and 1942 Malta was under incessant bombardment. This by the Germans and Italian forces. Much of the island was ruined during the raids. Malta was essential to the Nazi’s war plans as it stood at a crucial location of supply lines. British control over Malta allowed the disruption of supplies to North Africa. Through their attacks the Italians and Germans wanted to obliterate Malta. As it was a British air and naval base. This would grant them a steady flow of supplies across the Mediterranean sea to their forces in Libya and Egypt.
The Maltese and British forces deterred the German and Italian attacks. The Maltese never gave in. The stern resistance of the Maltese led to reward. The people of Malta were awarded the George Cross on the 15th April 1942 by King George VI. To “bear witness to the heroism and devotion of its people”. This the highest civilian award for gallantry. Besides King George VI pledged independence to the people of Malta. In 1947, Malta was granted self-rule. This after its valiant resistance and allegiance to Britain during the Second World War.
The Maltese movement for self-government surged in support and popularity. After acknowledgment of the self-rule. The British Parliament approved the Malta Independence Act in 1964. A new Constitution was enacted. On the 21st September 1964 Malta became an independent constitutional monarchy. Elizabeth II remained the Queen of Malta and the Head of State. Until Malta became a Republic ten years later.
Malta became a Republic on the 13th December 1974 and its first President was Sir Anthony Mamo. Yet, the final British forces to leave the island was on 31st March 1979. This upon termination of defense treaty. This day is a national holiday known as Freedom Day. Malta maintained its ties with Britain when it joined the Commonwealth of Nations.
When is Independence Day?
For years on years Malta was conquered and governed by different rulers. Britain granted independence to Malta. The Maltese obtained independence on the 21st September 1964. It was the beginning of the country’s parliamentary democracy. Independence Day is one of the most significant dates in Maltese history.
Known in Maltese as “Jum l-Indipendenza”. Independence Day in Malta a national holiday. It is one of the five national holidays. Celebrated every year with a variety of events. Crowds convene at the Granaries in Floriana to commemorate Independence Day.
At the entrance to the Mall in Floriana you will find a bronze and marble monument. This was inaugurated on 25th anniversary of Malta’s independence. The sculptor of the monument was Ganni Bonnici. The monument stands at a height of 8.5m. At the time the sculpture was the tallest statue-based monument in Malta.
The monument is a metaphor and symbol of Malta. This monument integrates the abstract with the figurative. The female figure holds the national flag which flies high above her head. She marches ahead into the unknown while freeing herself from the restraints of the past. The abstract bands situated underneath her represent these restraints.
Maltese celebrations on Independence Day in 1964
Archive recordings and documents of the day show how the Maltese celebrated Independence. This was a significant event after centuries of foreign ruling powers being in command of the islands.
There was jubilation as people gathered in Floriana. To be part of the special and distinctive ceremony. It was the Duke of Edinburgh who relinquished the legal documents over to Malta’s current Prime Minister, George Borg Olivier. These documents formed the new Maltese Constitution.
Malta joined the Commonwealth of Nations once granted Independence. It obtained the same status as Australia and Canada. Fifty six sovereign states make up Commonwealth. Most of which are former countries which made up the British Empire.
Malta Independence Day Events
The best way to celebrate Independence Day is to attend the commemoration held at parliament and open theater. This area makes up Malta’s freedom, democracy and liberty. This location is ideal for Independence Day festivities.
Take part in Malta’s Independence Day parade. A band plays during the parade which marches throughout Valletta. You will see Maltese flag flying high over Maltese buildings. This patriotic display strengthens Malta’s freedom. Its pride as an independent nation.
Listen to Maltese music. A song contest takes place at the Granaries in Floriana. The song competition is known as the “Konkors Kanzunetta Indipendenza”. The competing songs are in Maltese. This contest is one of the awaited events of the Maltese musical calendar. Since 1997 this musical event happens yearly.
Enjoy the amazing firework shows which take place around Valletta. These can be seen from several locations. Especially towns and villages around the Grand Harbor.
While in Malta to enjoy Independence Day festivities relish a Maltese dish. As lampuki pie, bragioli, kapunata. Try other tasty Maltese nibbles such as pastizzi, bigilla dip and galletti.
Visit one of Malta’s historical temples, palaces, forts, catacombs and museums. Year or year Heritage Malta organises events to celebrate Independence Day. It either reduces the entrance fee to several sites or sets a free entrance. At times it opens places which are usually closed on the day.