Fra’ (Brother) Antoine de Paule (c. 1551 – 1636) was a knight from the Provence ‘langue’ – one of the seven loosely national groups that together made up the Order of St John of Jerusalem (the Knights Hospitaller).
De Paule entered the Order after he and his brother had been involved in some local strife in Provence (in which his brother was killed). He became Commander of Marseilles and Grand Prior of St Gilles before being elected as the 56th Grand Master of the Order on 10 March 1623 – giving him status comparable to a Cardinal in the Roman Catholic church.
De Paule strengthened the order both financially and physically (in terms of fortifications in Malta). The town of Paola in Malta is named after him and he laid its foundation stone in 1626.
In Tom’s memoir, de Paule sends Tom and Edward on a secret mission to foil Richelieu’s assassination plots in order to further and protect the Order’s interests.
De Paule was not without his enemies, some of whom complained to Pope Urban VIII describing de Paule as “a man of loose life and conversation”, “guilty of simony” (i.e. selling of ecclesiastical privileges, for example pardons or benefices), and as having “bought his dignity with money”. Antoine de Paule sent a delegate to the Vatican, to quash these allegations.