The Maltese title of Culeja.


Footnote: The title of “Barone della Culeja” was conferred by Grand Master Despuig, by patent of the 2nd June 1737, on Ignazio Bonnici. 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 Ignazio Bonnici 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 similar to that of Tabria (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 Para. 33).

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 fifth title is that of “Barone della Culeja”, conferred by patent dated the 2nd June 1737, by Grand Master Fr. Raimondo Despuig, upon the nobleman Ignazio Bonnici, with succession to one of his issue, male or female, and with power to each of the holders of the title to name as his successor one of the descendents of the grantee. The terms of the patent of creation being identical with that contained in the charter of the "Barone della Tabria" are, for the sake of brevity, omitted. The claimant and present holder of the title is BaronessaVincenza Bonnici, wife of Barone Pietro Paolo Galea who inherited the title from her father, Barone Ignazio Bonnici, junior, who left no male issue. No one having called in question her claim, and she having fully proved by documents, her descent from the person first ennobled, she will be included in our list, and designated as “Vincenza Galea, Baronessa della Culeja”

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 descendentalline. 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 Ignazio Bonnici, any succession happening after 1975 should be reckoned in accordance with the primogenial descent from Ignazio Bonnici.