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The Maltese title of Tabria.

 

Footnote: The title of “Barone della Tabria” was conferred by Grand Master Vilhena, by patent of the 11th December 1728, on Isidoro Viani. The 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).

This title was conferred on Isidoro Viani with power given to him and his descendants of nominating a successor, and in failure of such nomination with automatic transmission to the first born descendant in the primogenial line. The grant is precisely as in the title San Marciano (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. 31-32).

Altogether the Grand Masters created six titles which are disposable by nomination, namely Gomerino (Perellos), Budack (Perellos),San Marciano (Vilhena); Tabria (Vilhena), Culeja (Despuig)  and Benuarrat (Despuig). 

The actual report says the following:

“The fourth title is that of ‘Barone della Tabria’, granted by Grand Master Manoel, by patent, on the 11th December 1728, to the nobleman Isidoro Viani, and to one of his male or female descendents, with power to each holder of the title to name his successor, precisely as in the preceding title ‘barone di San Marciano’ - Tibi Nobili Isidoro Viani et post tui obitum uni ex filiis vel filiabus legitimis et naturalibus ex telegitime procreatis vel procreandis, quem vel quam omni futuro constitutus seu respective constituta, malueritis eligendum vel eligendam. Et in casu tui vel tuorum in infinitu decessus absque ulla nominatione vel elctione successoris in dicto titulo, ex nunc censeatur nominatus et electus primogenitus, nisi erit ad sacros ordines promotus et in religione professus, et in defectu marium, foemina primogenita..."This title is held by Dr. Giuseppe Testaferrata Viani a lineal descendent of Isidoro Viani, first baron, as appears from documents exhibited by him. He does not however, uninterruptedly descend from a male line, for Barone Isidoro was succeeded in the title by Barone Gio Battista Viani, his son. Barone Gio Battista having left on his death no male issue the title was inherited by his daughter, Anna Viani, who married Mario Testaferrata, the claimant’s great-grandfather. It is for this reason that the real claimant’s family name is Testaferrata and not Viani. But as in the grant it is provided that in default of male issue the title is inheritable by female descendents, the said Dr. Giuseppe, although he descends from the grantee through a female line, is entitled to enjoy the present barony. No person having appeared to dispute his claim, he will be therefore included in the list, under the name of Dr. Giuseppe Testaferrata, “Barone di Tabria” This gentleman claims also the title of “Marchese” as one of the descendents of Mario Testaferrata. This point will be considered in another part of the present Report when we shall inquire into the titles granted by foreign sovereigns. 

It is to be remarked that after the Commissioners Report a court case took place between Testaferrata Viani’s nephews ex sorore. It appears that Testaferrata Viani decided to nominate his younger nephew to succeed him in the barony. The elder nephew claimed that the nomination was invalid. However the court did not enter the merits of the validity of the nomination because it held that at that time, the only person who could exercise such an action was the parties aunt because she was older than their predeceased mother and therefore the primogenita. The court thus concluded that unless the action was exercised by Isidoro Viani’s primogenialdescendant, the nomination is to take effect. 

 

Atteso che, inoltre lo stesso Gran Maestro, dopo di avere disposto dell’ annua consegna di un fucile che doveva essere fatta a lui e a tutti i suoi successori nel Magistero, si i expresso nei termini seguenti: Qua stante recognitione tam Te Nobilem Isidorum Viani quam tuos in hujusmodi Baroniae titulu successors ex te descendentes ab omni alio onere eximus et liberamus. Il Gran Maestro adunque contemplr tutii i discendenti dal concessionario, come persone capaci a posedere la detta Baronia, e le quali egli esentava da qualunque uleteriore prestazioneannua. Or se i vero, come i verissimo che quella Baronia pur essere posseduta da tutti i discendenti di esso Isidoro, come i altresi vero checiascun successore per regola generale ha da esere eletto e nominato, egli i sufficiente che siffatto successore per potere essere valildamentenominato appartenga alla discendenza di detto Isidoro, quantunque talora non sia discendente dal nominante. Atteso che, quindi qualunquerestrizione del diritto di nominare accordato ad ogni possessore della Baronia a favor dei discendenti die so Isidoro Viani, sarebbeinconciliabile coi termini liberi della concessione del Principe, secondo la quale la sola volont` del possessore doveva regolare chi dovessegodere il detto Titolo di Nobilt`, tra i discendenti del detto concessionario, senza veruna distinzione di grado, di et` e talora di sesso di talidiscendenti elilgibili: salvo il provvedimento dato pel caso di eventuale mancanza di nomina. Atteso che, stante quanto precede in riguardoal detto Titolo Baronale, non i necessario ni utile di esaminare se sia anche di ostacolo alle proposte istanze dell’ attore, la esistenza di dettaNobile Orade Testaferrata Viani supposta la legittima succeditrice nel Titolo suddetta, come primogenita nella discendenza di Isidoro Viani.Poichi il primogenito o la primogenita avrebbe diritto a succedere nel detto titolo nel difetto di nomina da parte del possessore, ovveroqualora la fatta nomina fosse riconoscuta inefficace; e la nomina dall’ ultimo possesore fatta in persona del convenuto relativamente al dettoTitolo Baronale, ha, per le ragioni che precedono, da produrre il suo effetto.

 

 

Today it is no longer possible to effect any nomination. In the Gieh ir-Repubblika Act (ACT XXIX of 1975), the law dictates that it is “the duty of every public officer or authority, and of every body established or recognised by law and of every member thereof, to refrain from recognising in any way, and from doing anything which could imply recognition of, any title of nobility”. A similar duty is imposed in regard to other foreign honours which have not obtained approval by the local authorities. By reason of this ACT, it is therefore legally impossible (an offence?) for any notary to receive an instrument by which somebody can be ‘nominated’ to succeed a title simply because such nomination would be made contrary to law. It therefore reasonable to assert that it is impossible for any ‘possessor’ of the aforesaid title to make use of the faculty to nominate a successor.

 

It follows that one may disregard any ‘nomination’ purportedly made at any time after 1975, and instead follow the general remainder of the grant. 

 

According to the Code de Rohan of 1783, a primogeniture is a regular individual entail consisting of chattels which devolved from first-born to first-born in the descendental line. It can pass on to collaterals, the determining criteria operating in the following order: line (the first line excluding all the others), degree (the closer degree of relationship excluding the remoter) sex (the male sex being preferred to the female), and age (the elder being preferred to the younger). Accordingly, it follows that regardless of any nominations that may have been made in the meantime, in terms of the grant made out to Isidoro Viani, any succession happening after 1975 should be reckoned in accordance with the primogenial descent from Isidoro Viani