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The Maltese title of Ghain Toffieha.

 

Footnote: The title of “Conte di Ghain Toffieha” 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).

It is noteworthy that the Royal Commissioners found that originally this title was granted upon a rescript of the grantee that is to say upon an application by FerdinandoTeuma Castelletti. This application was 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. 72-73).

The actual report says the following:

“The grant conferring the title of Conte of the feud magistrale (i.e. belonging to the Grand Master) of Ghain Toffieha was made by Grand Master Rohan to Ferdinando TeumaCastelletti to be held by  the grantee and his issue. It was granted not by patent, but by a rescript of the 7th January 1792, on the petition of the same Ferdinando. This title was always held to be inheritable by the first-born descendant only. The claimant Pietro Paolo Teuma Castelletti, as he proved by the documents produced before the Commission, is the grandson of the original grantee. We think therefore that his right to the title has been fully established, and he will be included in our list as “Pietro Paolo Teuma Castelletti Conte diGhain Toffieha”

Undoubtedly, this title is subject to a restricted interpretation. In this regard, it should be recalled that it is a settled rule that any interpretation of Magistral assent to a rescript must be restrictive whilst wide interpretations are only allowed in grants made “motu proprio”. 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 sovereign’s mere motion (moto proprioand 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).

It follows therefore that the remainder extending in favour of the grantee’s “issue” should be interpreted as restrictively as possible.