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The Maltese title of Fiddien.

 

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 “Marchese del Fiddien” as being inheritable through a female line. However, the circumstances of the extension to the original grant clearly imply that this is not the case. 

It is noteworthy that the Royal Commissioners found that originally this title was originally only granted “ad personam”. When the grantee subsequently attempted to obtain a wide extension, this was only partially complied with.. (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. 67-69).

The actual report says the following:

“The thirteenth title in order of date is the Marquisate of the Feud Fiddien, conferred by Grand Master De Rohan upon Salvatore Mallia Tabone, by a patent of the 15th October 1785. The terms of the patent are identical with those of the three preceding grants of BaroneAzzopardi, Marchese Barbaro and Conte Gatt, and it contains no description of children or descendants, but only the name of the person ennobled: ‘Tibi donamus ac te Marchionishujusmodi titulo decoramus’”

This grant was also taken by the Grand Master to be personal to the grantee, for after the grant, the Marchese Salvatore presented a petition praying that, in consideration of the merits of his ancestors, the grant might be made to extend to his legitimate and natural male descendants successively, and in default of male issue to his female descendants: and by a rescript of the 15th June 1793, the request was partly complied with, in the following terms: “Fiat pro primogenitis maribus tantum.

The gentleman who claims the present title is Salvatore Mallia Tabone, grandson of the first titled person, as appears from the documents he has produced, and he is the first-born descendant in the primogenial line of the grantee. 

We think therefore that the claimant has made out his right, and will consequently, be referred to in our list as “Salvatore Mallia Tabone Marchese del Fiddien.”

In support of the view that this title is only inheritable in the male-to-male line, it is sufficient to consider the following:

1)        It is a settled rule that any interpretation of Magistral assent to a rescriptmust be restrictive. Wide interpretations are only allowed in grants made “motuproprio”. This maxim is explained by the Commissioners thus: 

“The claimant lastly contends that the diploma and the rescript must be extensively construed; for although it is a legal maxim, ‘Privilegia sunt stricteinterpretanda’, the privileges, however, granted by a sovereign authority, and which do not act to the prejudice of third parties, are susceptible of a wide and liberal interpretation. Although this is admitted by the common opinion of civilians, yet that principle holds good with regard to those privileges which are granted by the sovereigns mere motion (moto proprio) and not at the request of the party concerned (Jasonii Comment. Quoted by Altograd.Consilia Con. 71, No. 9, 10, 11, and by many other legal writers). Now as a general rule, patents of nobility in Malta were granted by the Grand Masters at the request of the grantee, and it was moreover upon an application by BaroneAzzopardi that the rescript of 1778 was issued. It is likewise a settled opinion that, when the patent of creation does not contain the expression motuproprio, the grant is taken to have been made at the request of the party concerned.” (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. 41-57).

2)        The circumstances of the extension show that t he grand master only contemplated the agnatio. .This rule was likewise explained by the same Commissioners thus: 

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 grantee’s 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. (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 Supplemental Report Part I).

All this points to one conclusion, namely that insofar as concerns the title of “Marchesede Fiddien” as granted in 1785 and extended in 1793, succession in the female line is notallowed.