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The Maltese title of Grua.

 

Footnote: This title is purely nominal and does not have any property attached to it. In their general observations, the Royal Commissioners observed that most of the titles granted by the Grandmasters were merely honorary and had no relevance on property tenure “although it appears that those titles (granted by the Grand Masters) have derived their different denominations from several feudal lands existing in these islands, this annexation, however, is in most cases purely nominal, for those lands were never in reality conveyed to the grantees, but they remained as they are still Government Property.” The Commissioners also identified the only three exceptions to this purely nominal phenomenon, where tenure of property was a prerequisite namely Bahria, delle Catene, and Senia, the last being a divisible property. See:- “Correspondence and Report of the Commission appointed to enquire into the claims and grievances of the Maltese Nobility”, May 1878, presented to both Houses of Parliament by Command of Her Majesty (C.-2033.) (See Report Paras. 82).

Published sources show the title of “Barone della Grua” as being inheritable by males and females. In fact Giovanna Carbott Montalto (died 1855) is many times referred to as having held this title. This is not in accordance with the grant. 

It is noteworthy that the Royal Commissioners (in their supplemental Report) found that although the title cannot be held by a female, it remains inheritable through a female line. 

See:- “Correspondence and Report of the Commission appointed to enquire into the claims and grievances of the Maltese Nobility”, May 1878, presented to both Houses of Parliament by Command of Her Majesty (C.-2033.) (See Report Paras. 76-77; Supplemental Report Part I).

The actual report says the following:

“The same Grand Master Rohan on the 30th December 1794 issued a diploma conferring the title of ‘Barone dellaGrua’ upon the ‘Magnifico Saverio Carbott Testaferrata’, and his first-born sons and descendants, under the rule of primogeniture (de primogenitor in primogenito). The following is an extract form the patent of creation: ‘Tibituisque filiis et descendentibus masculis de primogenito in primogenitum tribuimus et concedimus et te hujusmodiBaronis titulo decoramus’.

The claimant of the present title, Nicola Maria Delicata, who is styled in the committee list as Nicola Maria Delicata Carbott Asciack, descends lineally from the original grantee Saverio Carbott, as appears from the document he has forwarded to us through the committee. 

We must, however, state that the male descending line of the said Saverio is extinct, for Saverio Carbott left Giuseppe Carbott, seond Barone, of whom Saverio Carbott Montalto, junior, was born. Saverio Carbott, junior, had no male issue, but only a daughter Giovanna Carbott Montalto, the claimant’s mother. The instructions conveyed to us by the letter of the 8th March 1877, do not require us to determine the question whether a grant made to the male issue of a person is to be taken to extend to the sons of female descendants.”

This question having been reserved to the British Secretary of State for the Colonies, the Commissioners did not include the claimant’s name in the list. The Secretary of State for the Colonies then wrote to Governor Straubanzee to ask the Commissioners to address this issue.

In their Supplemental Report, the Commissioners described as follows, the circumstances where it is permissible for a title to be transmitted through a female line, as well as those circumstances where such transmission through a female line  is disallowed:

“The title and dignity of ‘Barone della Grua’ was, as already stated in our former report, conferred on the 30th of December 1794, by Grand Master De Rohan, upon Saverio Carbott Testaferrata, with succession to his sons and male descendants, from firstborn to firstborn. The operative clause of the patent of creation is as follows: - ‘Tibituisque filiis et descendentibus masculis de primogenito in primogenitum tribuimus et concedimus ‘”’.et tehujusmodi Baronis titulo decoramus’The Barone Saverio Carbott, left on his death his son Giuseppe, on whose decease the title devolved upon Saverio Carbott, who had no male issue, but only a daughter Giovanna, wife of Dr. Giuseppe Delicata, of whom Nicola Maria Delicata, the present claimant, was born. 

The question involved in this claim is whether the son of a female descendant is called to the succession of a title originally conferred on one of his ancestors and his male descendants, from firstborn to firstborn, or, on the contrary, the title is determined by the extinction of the grantees male line. With reference to that question, we beg to submit that it is a settled point of jurisprudence that the appellation of male descendants includes not only the sons issuing from the male line (masculi ex masculis), but also those issuing from the female line (masculi ex foeminis), when, however, some other expression occurs in the deed of grant which controls the meaning of that term, as for instance when the grantor limits his grant to such among his male descendants as should belong to the male line (descendentes masculi ex linea masculina);, or when he employs other words which clearly show that he contemplated the grantees agnatio, in such case, the effect of the disposition is limited to the male line, and on the failure of males issuing from that line the grant becomes extinct, the male issue of daughters not being called into succession

In the present case, the order of succession settled in the charter granting the title in question includes generally the grantee’s male descendants, and therefore taking the law relative to the transmission of lands (primogeniture) to be applicable to the transmission of titles, that charter comprehends the claimant who is descended from the grantee through a female line. We are consequently of the opinion that the said Nicola Maria Delicata has established his claim, and that he is to be included in the list of titled gentlemen appended to our former report and styled “Nicola Maria Delicata Barone della Grua”. If the Maltese Nobility are to rank inter se  according to the date of their patent of creation, as provided by the decree issued by Grand Master De Rohan in 1795, the claimant is to take precedence immediately after Felicissimo Apap “Marchese di Gnien Is-Sultan”.” 

It is therefore clear that the 1794 grant (and the Commissioners report) excludes the possibility of a female coming to hold this title.