Admiralty House (Dar l-Ammiraljat), formerly known as Palazzo Don Raimondo and Casa Miari, is a baroque palace in South Street, Valletta. It was built in 1569, after the Great Siege, as two private residences commissioned by Fra Jean de Soubiran dit Arafat, a knight of the Order of St. John.
The properties were passed down to a knight, François le Petit de la Guerche, and following his death in 1663, they were taken over by the Treasury of the Order of St. John. After 1668, the houses were leased to several knights of the Order.
In the 1760s, the houses were leased to Fra Raimondo de Sousa y Silva, a wealthy Portuguese knight who decided to rebuild the houses into a single residence to their present format. Thereafter, the building became known as Palazzo Don Raimondo after Fra Raimondo de Sousa y Silva. The reconstruction was completed in 1763 and is attributed to Andrea Belli, the same architect who redesigned Auberge de Castille.
Fra Raimondo de Sousa y Silva died in 1782, and for some years the house was divided into several apartments. Eventually, the building was converted back to a single residence and was again let out to several knights. The palace was known by various names throughout its history, depending on its occupants, including Maison Arafat, Casa de Guerche and Maison Fleurigny. In the late 18th and early 19th century, it was known as Casa Miari after Fra Antonio Miari di Belluno who lived in the palace during the last years of the Order of St. John, from 1795 to 1798. He was Secretary to Grand Master Ferdinand von Hompesch.
In the late 18th century, during the French occupation of Malta, the government offered the building to Bishop Vincenzo Labini as a seminary. Due to the Maltese uprising against the French, these plans were never implemented. The façade was originally decorated with the coats of arms of the Order and Grand Master Manuel Pinto da Fonseca, but these were defaced following orders by Napoleon.
In 1800, Malta became a British Protectorate and Civil Commissioner Alexander Ball occupied the house. Between August 1802 and June 1803, the palace was rented out to Alexander Macaulay, Secretary to the Civil Commissioner. In 1808, the palace received Louis Philippe, Duke of Orléans and Louis Charles, Count of Beaujolais. On 29th May 1808, Louis Charles died of tuberculosis and was buried at Saint John’s Co-Cathedral in Valletta.
In 1821, when Malta was already a Crown Colony, the building was officially leased to the naval authorities as the official residence of the Commander-in-Chief of the Mediterranean Fleet, and thus receiving the name Admiralty House. The building received various personalities as residents or guests, including Lord Mountbatten, Winston Churchill, King George V and Queen Elizabeth. The building was eventually handed over to the Government of Malta in 1961.
On 7th May 1974, the building was restored to house the National Museum of Fine Arts. In 2018, the National Museum of Fine Arts moved from Admiralty House to Auberge d’Italie, and it was called MUŻA (from the Maltese acronym Mużew Nazzjonali tal-Arti).
Admiralty House is a Grade 1 monument listed on the National Inventory of the Cultural Property of the Maltese Islands. The building consists of halls built around a central courtyard and has two floors above ground along with a basement. The building has a monumental free-standing staircase, said to be one of the finest in Malta. The staircase might have been influenced by those found at Auberge de Castille in Valletta.