Alexander Ball

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Sir Alexander John Ball, 1st Baronet (1757 – 20 October 1809) was a British Admiral and the first British governor of Malta. He was born in Ebworth Park, Sheepscombe, Gloucestershire[1]. He was the fourth son of Robert and Mary (Dickinson) Ball.

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Early naval experience

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. Ball was promoted commander on 14 April 1782, two days after his chief’s crowning victory, and 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 Nelson was at this time by no means favorably 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. In May 1798, Ball commanded the HMS Alexander in the Mediterranean. Once when Nelson's HMS Vanguard had lost her fore- and topmasts, Ball towed Vanguard to Sardinia.[2] 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. The fear of the return of the increasingly oppressive Order of St. John may have pushed Malta indirectly toward becoming a British protectorate. In a letter sent by one of the Maltese leaders to Ball, written by Vincenzo Borġ, the Maltese expressed the wish to Ball that the vast majority of us wish to see the islands fall under English jurisdiction.[3]

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