The gardens around Verdala Castle (Palace), situated on a high ridge overlooking Buskett Gardens, form part of an extensive green area in Malta. Verdala Palace was built in 1586 by Gerolamo Cassar, a Maltese architect, for Grand Master Verdalle (1582-1595) in a remote area of Boschetto, on the site where Grand Master La Valette had his modest hunting lodge.
The valley, filled with trees, was an ideal place for hunting game and was the only wood in the Maltese islands. De Verdale planted trees, built fountains and planned to make this locality a restful resort. This intention is spelled out by the Latin motto inscribed on the main doorway: 'Caedant curae loco' (all cares end here).
The castle is a quadrangular structure with an elegant turret at each angle. It is oriented in such a way that the sun shines on it at all hours during daytime. From the rooftop one can enjoy an extensive view of the island.
Subsequent Grand Masters embellished the castle and made it their favourite retreat. It consists of three stories made up of three large halls and twelve smaller rooms. The main hall on the groundfloor, is painted with frescoes by F. Paladini exalting Grandmaster de Verdale. The Grand Master had his apartments on the left of the entrance corridor.
The attendants' quarters, stables and coach-houses are to be found in the large courtyard fronting the main entrance. The church of St. Anthony the Hermit, built by Grand Master Nicholas Cottoner, is next to the castle.
Verdala Castle was turned into a prison in 1800 when the French surrendered to the British and Allied troops; French prisoners were kept here.
For several years the palace remained empty and fell into disrepair. Governor Sir Frederick Ponsonby (1827-1836) was the first to attempt to improve it and would, occasionally, take a holiday with his family there. Governor Sir William Reid (1851-1858) is given the credit for repairing it in 1855 and it became one of the Governor's country residences. Later improvements continued to be made by subsequent governors.
The Palace has hosted many distinguished personalities and visitors: King George V and Queen Mary in 1912, Prince Albert in 1913 and again as King George VI in April 1943 when he attended an official lunch and a dinner at Verdala Palace, King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra, Empress Marie Feodorovna of Russia in 1909 and 1919, and Kaiser Wilhelm II.
Verdala castle was converted in 1982 into the official Government guest house for visiting Heads of State. New electricity was installed, the stones were re-painted and private facilities improved. It was used as a State Guest house until around 1987. When Paul Xuereb became acting President he adopted Verdala as his official residence. It is now used as the official summer residence of the President of Malta. State banquets are held here and also large events which are open to the public, such as the annual August Moon Ball and concerts.