|Sir Alexander John Ball, Bt|
|Died||October 25, 1809(1809-10-25) (aged 51–52)|
|Allegiance||Kingdom of Great Britain|
|Years of service||1778–1809|
|Rank||Rear-Admiral of the Red|
|Battles/wars||American Revolutionary War|
|Other work||Civil Commissioner of Malta|
He was born in Ebworth Park, Sheepscombe, Gloucestershire.
He was the fourth son of Robert and Mary (Dickinson) Ball and the younger brother of Ingram Ball.
Ball entered the Royal Navy, and on 7 August 1778, was promoted lieutenant.
Three years later he began a close association with Sir George Rodney.
On 20 March 1783 he became captain.
With peace restored, Ball was furloughed on half-pay.
He then spent a year in France, hoping to learn the language and live economically.
Captain Horatio Nelson was at this time by no means favourably impressed by his future friend and comrade, and described Ball as a "great coxcomb".
In 1790, Ball received a command and from then on he was continuously employed.
Once when Nelson's HMS Vanguard had lost her fore- and topmasts, Ball towed Vanguard to Sardinia.
Under Nelson's command, Ball took part in the Battle of the Nile, and his ship, the Alexander, was the second British ship to fire on the French Admiral's flagship, L’Orient, which later blew up during the battle.
Alexander Ball and Malta
Alexander Ball was an important figure in the diplomatic and military events that brought Malta under British rule.
Universally loved by the Maltese, Ball visited the islands for the first time on 12 October 1798.
Whenever Ball appeared in public, the passers-by in the streets stood uncovered until he had passed; the clamours of the market-place were hushed at his entrance and then exchanged for shouts of joy and welcome.
His mission was to sustain and continue the siege and blockade of the French forces in Malta, aided by certain Portuguese naval forces.
The Maltese leaders of the blockade were immediately attracted by Ball's charisma and sympathy.
Moreover, they might have realised that after the eventual French surrender, their island would have to find another ruler, since no Maltese in the nineteenth-century considered independence.
In a letter sent by one of the Maltese leaders to Ball, written by Vincenzo Borg, the Maltese expressed the wish to Ball that the vast majority of us wish to see the islands fall under English jurisdiction.
The destiny of Malta was to be decided by the events occurring in Europe during this period.
For the Maltese this meant that only Britain could guarantee Malta's safety.
It was at this stage that problems emerged between the supporters of the Neapolitans and those preferring the Royal Navy.
Captain Alexander Ball succeeded in calming the situation, and this led to his eventual election as the President of the National Assembly that took place on 9 February 1799.
According to Ball's wishes, the Assembly changed its name to National Congress in order to emphasise the need for a compromise.
However, the increasingly precarious situation faced by King Ferdinand IV made Ball pass more powers to the British forces stationed in and around Malta.
In fact, it was at this time that the Union Flag was flown for the first time alongside the Neapolitan flag.
Nelson wrote to Ball in January 1799:
As a representative of the Maltese people, Ball was not allowed to take part in the negotiations, while the Neapolitans were excluded for diplomatic reasons.
The French were allowed to leave with full military honours, and after a few days Ball and the Maltese could enter the liberated capital.
In February 1801 Ball was appointed commissioner of the navy at Gibraltar and had to leave Malta.
Control passed to Major General Henry Pigot, whose tyrannical administration angered the Maltese, a fact noted in a letter Ball wrote to Nelson in June of the same year.
Ball reported that the Maltese would have rebelled against Pigot had Ball not promised them that he would convey their grievances to the authorities.
Nelson himself wrote back to Ball from the Baltic on 4 June 1801:
The British were uncertain of their policy towards Malta, as with Napoleon on the rise they could not afford problems with their allies.
Ball was made a baronet on 24 June 1801.
The British government then sent him back to Malta as the Plenipotentiary Minister of His British Majesty for the Order of Saint John to coordinate the departure of the British in accordance with the provisions of the Treaty of Amiens.
The situation, however, changed quickly as the likelihood of war between Napoleonic France and the United Kingdom increased.
Ball now received instructions to delay the evacuation of British troops from the island.
Napoleon was anxious for the moment to see the British out of the Grand Harbour, stating that he would prefer to see the British in possession of a Parisian suburb than of Malta.
In May 1803 war was rejoined because of the British refusal to evacuate the islands.
Sir Alexander Ball was possibly the British leader most loved by the Maltese population.
Samuel Taylor Coleridge became an assistant to Ball in 1804 and later described his administration in The Friend, going as far as describing Ball as "a truly great man".
Restored in 1884, this neoclassical monument remains a testament to the Maltese peoples' love and respect.
Flag rank appointments
- 9 November 1809, Rear-Admiral of the Blue
- 28 April 1808, Rear-Admiral of the White
- 25 October 1809, Rear-Admiral of the Red
Credits to the contents of this page go to the authors of the corresponding Wikipedia page: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexander Ball.