La Valette by Jen

Jean Parisot De
La Valette
Jennifer Grech
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.
Thank you