Maltesenobles22

REFERENCE VALUE OF 19TH CENTURY REPORTS ON CIRCUMSTANCES AND GRANT.

 

The 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.) is a veritable repository of information relative to the various titles of nobility. Many published sources indicate that the titles described therein are those recognized by the British Monarch. However, and in fact, the purpose of that report (as the report reads) was to identify those titles which were recognized by the Maltese authorities before the annexation of Malta to the British Dominions. Any title obtained after 1800 was not considered by the Report. 

The Report consists of 4 basic sections: a list of claimants, the main report, a supplemental report and a summing up by the British Secretary of State for the Colonies.

In all, the Report considered various claims to 45 titles of nobility and hereditary distinctions. The findings of the Report are detailed in the parts relative to each title/distinction.

The Report also describes the historic development of regulation of Maltese Nobility as a body during the 18th century as well as the progressively different terms and remainders of nobiliary grants. That century is significant as the first legal instrument dealing with the Maltese nobility as a body was only promulgated by Despuig as late as 1739, (N.B. That is to say many centuries after 1090 which is the much vaunted date when Roger the Norman is supposed to have organised Maltese society into nobles, burghers and rustics). The only other legislation enacted by the Grand Masters was that by Rohan in 1795. (See Report, para. 104). (N.B. That is to say prior to 1739, Malta had noble families, but not an organised nobility: These local families acted as a nobility but had no corporate existence or jurisdiction, and lived independently of the (Sicilian) feudal overlords to whom the whole of the Maltese Islands were, from time to time, bestowed in fief as a County or a Marquisate.)

The aforesaid rules first promulgated by Grand Master Despuig in 1739 as subsequently amended by Grand Master Rohan in 1795, are reproduced hereunder. These enactments which are referred to throughout the Report are not cited verbatim in the Report:

Hosplis Mgr et Hierlem Sti. Sepulchri. - Per togliere le differenze di precedenze tra le persone che saranno promosse alla giurazie dell’ Universita’ della Notabile e della Valletta, vogliamo, ordiniamo e comandiamo che tutte siano precedue dagli infrascritti, e che fra queti si regoli la precedena call’ ordine seguente cioe’: Primieramente, chi fu Capitano della Verga della Sudetta Citta’ Notabile e nostra Isoladi Malta.; Secondo. Il Titolato che ha un titolo fondato sopra un feudo in realta’ esistente qui, benche’ non lo possegga.; Terzo. Il titolato che non ha un titolo fondato sopra fondo realmente esistente nel nostroDominio, registrato che sia il titolo nella Cancelleria nella nostra Religione e nella Gran Corte della nostra Castellania, e pagato per i rispettivi registramenti il diritto di scudi cento sedici di questa moneta, da dividersi per meta’ tra la Cancelleria e la Castellania sudetta.; Quarto. Il discendente per linea mascolina da chi fu Capitano della Verga, se vive colle proprie rendite, e se i di lui ascendente intermedievissero pure colle proprie rendite.; Quinto. Il discendente per linea mascolina da un titolo con titolo fondato sopra un feudo qui realmente esistente, se vive colle proprie rendite, e se i suoi ascendentiintermedie cosi vissero; Sesto. Chi fu primo Giurato della Notabile; Settimo. Chi fu primo Giurato della Valletta; Ottavo. Il piu’ anziani di Giurazia di quella Universita’ della quale sara’ creato giurato.; Nono. Chi fu Giudice d’Appello Criminale o Civile della Gran Corte della Castellania e della Corte Capitanale e Governatoriale; Diecimo. Il Dottore di Leggi ed il Dottore di Medicina.: - Dichiariamo che fra le persone d’un stesso grado si deve attendere l’anzianita’ del titolo primordiale e che chiunque fu Giurato, se sara’ fatto Console di Mare, fra i quali s’attendera l’anzianita d’ufficio. Dat. In Palatio, die xvi. Septembris 1739 (f. Despuig) 

Hosplis Magr. Hierlem. Sti. Sepulchri, et Ordinis Sti Antonii, Viennensis Essendo una massima universalmente ricevuto, che il maggior lustro della Nobilta’ principalmente dipende dalla sua maggioreantichita’, niente che il piu’ giusto e ragionevole che il piu’ antico Nobile preceda il piu’ moderno. Siamo pertanto venuti nella determinazione di Ordinare che nel regolarsi la precedenza tra le persone Nobile di questo nostro Dominio, cosi’ primogeniti che cadetti indistintamente, si abbioa ad avere unicamente riguardo alla maggiore o minore antichita’ del titolo che nobilito le loro famiglie, e cio tanto se il titolosara’ stato concesso da Noi o Nostri predecessori, che se lo avessero ottenuto da Principi esteri, purche’ pero sara’ stato questo debitamente registrato nella Nostra Cancelleria e Gran Corte della Castellania; nel consorso pero’ di ugual data quello nella di cui persona concorreranno piu’ titoli dovra’ essere preferito, all’ altro che ne avesse meno, secondo la graduazione stabilita nel Chirografo Magisteriale delNostro Predecessore Gran Maestro Despuig di Gl. Em. Del 16 Sept 1739, quale in quelle parti che non contradicono la questa nostra disposizione intendiamo di pienamente confermare. Datum in Palatio die xvii Martii 1795 (f.) Rohan

The Report (paras. 83-95) described how previous to the 18th century, Malta had its fair share of much older families which at that time were the established and historic noble families or barones, albeit not even in receipt of an actual patent of nobility. The Commissioners, however observed that these older families enjoyed successive, generational appointments to key posts particularly the Universita’ and the Capitano della Verga under the government of the Order, on which occasions they were sometimes styled barons, and constantly designated as nobles. The Report (ibid.) describes how by the 18th century, the only two surviving feudatory families (as known to the Commissioners) had by custom achieved the status of baroni by the end of the 17th century. 

In regard to the “new” families, that is the 18th century nobility described in the first and third parts of the main report (Paras. 24-82 and (106-226), some of these were already extinct by the time of the 1877-8 Commission, as the very same Commission observed. The fourth part of the report shows a number of other distinctions received by Maltese during the 16th to the 18th Century (Paras. 227-239). 

The Report emphasised that creation of titles of nobility was certainly an indisputable right of the twenty eight Grand Masters who governed Malta as Sovereign Princes, separate and distinct from the Kingdom of Sicily. The Grand Masters exercised all the power inherent in a real and full sovereignty on the territory subject to their jurisdiction. However, it appears that the Commissioners identified only six Grand Masters who actually made use of the prerogative to create a title, the others preferring to merely renew titles which had previously become extinct. The grantor Grand Masters so identified by the Report, were: Lascaris (1 grant), Perellos (2), Manoel de Vilhena (4), Despuig (2), Pinto de Foncesca (2) and Rohan (11). (The Commissioners omitted Grand Master Ximenes who granted a title of Barone di Frigenuini in 1773). In their findings, the Commissioners reported a number of Magistral titles which were extinct as well as a number of titles which were amended by applications of the party concerned.  The Report specifically considers 19 grants by the Grand Masters, of which 3 were found to be extinct.

The remaining noble fiefs (2), foreign titles (14) and distinctions (10) considered by the Commissioners, have their own origins and are likewise amply described in the report. All were subjected to an investigation whether such noble fiefs, foreign titles and distinctions were duly registered, or at least directly recognized by the Grand Masters. – Not all were found to satisfy this criterion. Whilst both noble fiefs were allowed, 1 foreign title was declared extinct whilst 4 foreign titles and 8 distinctions were found to be ineligible; the remaining 2 distinctions were dismissed altogether by the Secretary of State for the colonies. Of the remaining 9 foreign titles, 1 was decided directly by the Secretary of State and 1 remained yet to be substantiated. 

Thus by the time the final Report was published the list of approved claimable titles approved by the Commissioners and the Secretary of State numbered 16 Magistral titles + 2 fiefs + 8 foreign titles + 1 to be substantiated, or a maximum of 27 eligible titles. 

The Report also emphasized the requirement of due registration and recognition of titles emanating from foreign authorities as yet another aspect of the Grand Masters’ Sovereignty over the islands. This applied even to those titles that were granted from time to time by the Kingdom of Sicily, of which Malta formed part prior to 1530. - The Commissioners considered this aspect with particular attention and concluded that even when Emperor Charles V, as King of Sicily, ceded the Maltese islands on the 24 March 1530 to the Knights, there was no condition reserved in the King’s favour that provided that the privileges granted by him should be recognized and enforced in the territory he had granted to the Grand Masters and the Order of St. John: Moreover the Commissioners also observed that any possible doubt was done away with by Philip II’s ulterior grant of 27 June 1559.

Interestingly, the Report does not detail the French period (1798-1800) when titles of nobility were formally abolished. (General Bonaparte issued two orders dated 13 and 16 June 1798 prohibiting the use of any title “ORDRE (1) QUARTIER GENERAL DE MALTE, LE 25 PRAIRAL, AN VI (13 JUIN 1798): Le General en Chef ordonne……(ARTICLE 2.)… Toutes les armoires seront abbatuesdans l’ espace de 24 heures. Il est defendu de porter dest livrees, ni aucune marque et titre distinctif de noblesse. ORDRE (2) AU QUARTIER GENERAL DE MALTE, LE 28 PRAIRAL, AN VI (16 JUIN 1798): Bonaparte Membre de l’Istitut National, General-en-Chef ordonne…(ARTICLE CINQUIEME)….Dix jours apres la publication du present ordre, il est defendu d’avoir des armoires soit dans l’interieur, soit a l’exterieur des maisons, de cacheter des lettres avec des armoires, ou de prendre des titres feodaux. ……(ARTICLE DOUZIEME)….Tous les contrevenants aux articles cidessous, seront condamnes pour la premier fois, a une amende du tiers de leurs revenus; pour la seconde fois, a trois mois de prison; pour la troisieme fois a un an de prison; pour la quatrieme fois, a la deportation de l’ile de Malte, et a la confiscation de la moitie de leurs biens. Il devra toujours y avoir 10 jours d’intervalle entre la recidive.”)

The only reference (of the Commissioners see Paras. 144 and 173) to the French Period is to another Order issued by Bosredon Ransijat, President of the Commission du Gouvernement dated 18 Messidor Year 6 (6 July 1798), where it was enacted that all honorary titles should be burnt on the 14th of that month and that every holder of a title should carry his patent at the Arbre de la Liberté

The Report implies that after the French capitulation, the use of nobiliary titles was resumed. The Report describes at length how after Malta came to form part of the British Empire, the unregulated and improper use of titles of nobility and other honours was tolerated by the local authorities who were themselves found to be at fault for encouraging such improper use, up to the time of the Commission. The following paras. 165-166 neatly describe the muddled state of affairs of the time: We also found in several lists of the electors of the members of council for Malta and Gozo, published under the Government authority, the said Gio Paolo Testaferrata referred to as ‘Marchese” in the list of electors for Gozo, and as ‘dei Marchesi” in the list of those of Malta. In some notices the late Francesco Gauci Bonici, who was for several years member of the Council of Government, is designated as Barone, which title had originally been granted to one of his ancestors, for the term of his natural life only. (Sua naturali vita perdurante). The above stated circumstances lead us to conclude that no great importance was formerly attached by the Local Government to a proper use of the titles of nobility. In confirmation of this statement, we may mention that in several Government notices, the late Baldassare Sant was styled Count, to which title he had no right. His son and heir, Lazzaro Sant, does not claim but the titles of Conte and Barone Fournier de Pausier, which he inherited from his mother Luigia, wife of the said Baldassare, to whom they were not certainly communicable. It must, however, be remarked that since 1870 the said Gio Paolo Testaferrata and Lorenzo Cassar Desain have been styled Marchesi in several Government Notices concerning the Agrarian Society, and the Society of Arts, Manufactures, and Commerce.

The need for a proper study being so necessary, the British Secretary of State for the Colonies commissioned a report in 1876, on those titles alleged to have been conferred to Maltese families beforethe annexation of Malta to the British Dominions, namely 1800. In order to ascertain who are the gentlemen thus entitled to precedence, Governor Straubenzee was by the same Despatch instructed to call upon a committee of nobles, already formed on a previous visit of the Prince of Wales, to furnish him with a list of the “Titolati”, and the dates of their respective creations. On the 24th February 1877, the Governor received from the said committee a letter accompanied by a list of 31 “Titolati” claiming various titles. 

This list was in turn forwarded to Judges Naudi and Pullicino together with the terms of reference contained in the Governor’s letter dated 8th March 1877 appointing them Commissioners to conduct an inquiry. 

No pre-set formality being required, the Commissioners thought it advisable to request the attendance of 28 claimants (3 claimants not being called for reasons explained in the report) to supply the Commissioners with supporting documentation. Two claimants declined to comply with the Commissioners’ invitation, without giving any explanation for their refusal. In addition, seven other claimants, not included in the Committee’s list, appeared in the course of the inquiry. Two persons in whose favour two titles were successfully confirmed are neither in the Committee’s list, nor did they appear before the Commission. In one instance a third party called into question a claimant’s claim. The Commissioners did not make any written queries to any of the applicants, all communications being oral. 

A later correspondence of 1883 (REPORT OF THE COMMITTEE OF PRIVILEGES OF THE MALTESE NOBILITY ON THE CLAIMS OF CERTAIN MEMBERS OF THAT BODY WITH THE SECRETARY OF STATE’S REPLY (C 3812).), between a new Committee and the Secretary of State, found sufficient grounds to reverse the Commission’s decision about the extinction of two of the aforesaid four titles, as well as the Commission’s decision to disallow two claims alleging a direct recognition from the Grand Master. Moreover, the same 1883 correspondence implies that a title which the Secretary of State left unimpaired, had in fact been settled in the interim period, resulting in the acceptance of another title. 

The holders of these titles were thereafter regarded as the official nobility of Malta

The conclusions reached by the reports of 1878 and 1883 were as follows (in the order as considered by the original Report):

(1) Joint title of Barone di Gomerino (granted jointly to Paolo and Beatrice Testaferrata on the 24 December 1710 by Grand Master Perellos). In their report the Commissioners stated that this title was disputed by Pietro Paolo Testaferrata Abela Moroni and Augusto Testaferrata Abela, the former claiming that the title had been annexed in 1734 to a Primogenitura erected in 1714, the latter claming a nomination. The Commissioners decided not to ask either claimants to appear before them to furnish the necessary information and did not decide on the claims. (From a detailed analysis, it appears that the claimants were in fact talking about two different titles, one granted in 1710, another which was approved by Grand Master Despuig in 1737).

(2) Title of Barone di Budack (granted to Gio Pio De Piro on the 23 April 1716 by Grand Master Perellos); In their report the Commissioners stated that this title was claimed by Monsignor Salvatore Grech Delicata but his claim was disputed by Giuseppe Depiro, the former claiming he was nominated, the latter claiming that the title was extinct and that he was in possession of a Primogenitura. The Commissioners decided not to take notice of the documents produced by Giuseppe Depiro nor to ask for information from Monsignor Grech Delicata. (From a detailed analysis, the title was found to be valid but invalidly nominated to Monsignor Grech Delicata).

(3) Title of Barone di San Marciano (granted to Diego Antonio Galea Ferriol on the 14 June 1726 by Grand Master Manoel de Vilhena); In their report the Commissioners stated that this title had been successfully claimed by Pietro Paolo Galea who proved his descent from Barone Diego Antonio Galea Feriol and the regular transmission of the title through first-born male descendants successively down to his person. 

(4) Title of Barone della Tabria (granted to Isidoro Viani on the 11 December 1728); In their report the Commissioners stated that this title had been successfully claimed by Giuseppe Testaferrata Viani who although he descends from the grantee in the primogenial line through a female line, is entitled to enjoy the present barony; The Commissioners also noted that the claimant’s real name is Testaferrata not Viani.

(5) Title of Barone della Culeja (granted to Ignazio Bonnici on the 2 June 1737 by Grand Master Raimondo Despuig); In their report the Commissioners stated that this title had been successfully claimed by Vincenza Bonnici, wife of said Pietro Paolo Galea, who inherited the title from her father Barone Ignazio Bonnici, junior, who left no issue.

(6) Title of Barone di Benuarrat (granted to Saverio Gatto on the 18 August 1737 by Grand Master Raimondo Despuig); In their report the Commissioners stated that this title had been successfully claimed by Angiolino Attard Montalto, who descends from the first title person, although through a female line, as appears from documents produced by him; and he is the first-born descendant in the primogenial line of the grantee.

(7) Title of Conte della Bahria (granted to Ignazio Muscati Falsone Navarra on the 16 May 1743 by Grand Master Emmanuel Pinto de Fonceca); In their report the Commissioners stated that this title had been successfully claimed by Antonio Stagno-Navarra-Muscati-Falsoni, the holder of the lands of Bahria, his pedigree through a female line is fully proved, and no one has appeared to dispute his right to the exclusive right of conte, which unquestionably belongs to him as the possessor of the feud to which it is annexed.

(8) Title of Conte delle Catene or delli Mori (granted to Pietro Gaetano Perdicomati Bologna on the 20 January 1745 by Grand Master Emmanuel Pinto de Fonceca); In their report the Commissioners stated that this title was disputed by Felicissimo Apap and Luisa Strickland in her own name and on behalf of her son Gerardo, to the exclusion of each other. The Commissioners noted that the last holder of the Primogenitura and of the title of Conte was Sir Nicolo’ Sceberras Bologna KCMG and that one of the two suitors, Luisa, widown of Captain Strickland, is the daughter of Maria Teresa Bonici nee Sceberras, eldest married sister of the last possessor, and that the other suitor, Marchese Felicissimo Apap, is the son of the Maria Apap nee Sceberras, youngest sister of the said Sir Nicolo’. (From a detailed analysis, it was Gerardo who was to be preferred as the primogenial descendant).

(9) Title of Barone della Marsa (granted to Gio Francesco Dorell Falzon on the 10 March 1775 by Grand Master Emmanuel de Rohan); In their report the Commissioners stated that this title was unsuccessfully claimed by Maria Francesca widow of Filippo Apap because that title was extinct upon the death of Barone Dorell. The Commissioners also noted that another title of Barone dellaMarsa (and earlier grant oto Ferdinando Castelletto by Grand Master Vilhena of the 12 June 1725) was also unsuccessfully claimed by Alessandro Sceberras-Testaferrata-Damico-Inguanez because that earlier grant had become extinct with the death of Ferdinando Castelletti.

(10) Title of Barone di Buleben (granted to Gaetano Azzopardi on the 23 July 1777 by Grand Master Emmanuel de Rohan, as extended in favour of Calcedonio, his son, by Rescript of the same Grand Master, on the 25 April 1778); In their report the Commissioners stated that this title was unsuccessfully claimed by Calcedonio Azopardi-Zamitt junior because that title became extinct with the death of Barone Calcedonio Azzopardi senior on the 20 February 1799. By means of a later decision dated 1883 of the British Secretary of State, authorization was given through the grace and favour of the Crown to Calcedonio Azopardi junior, his sons and descendants, to hold the said title of Barone di Buleben as it was held previously and possessed by the “Primogeniti” Azopardipossessors of a “Primogenitura” erected in favour of Barone Gaetano’s children.

(11) Title of Marchese di San Giorgio (granted to Carlo Antonio Barbaro on the 6 September 1778 by Grand Master Emmanuel de Rohan, as extended in favour of Gioacchino Ermolao, his son, by Rescript of the same Grand Master, on the 2 January 1779, and further extended in favour of the latter’s descendants in perpetuity, by Rescript of the same Grand Master on the 5 June 1792); In their report the Commissioners stated that this title was unsuccessfully claimed by Giorgio Crispo Barbaro because his father Gustavo the first-born male descendant in the primogenial line of the first titled person, was still alive at the time. The Commissioners also noted that the extension was to all of Gioacchino Ermolao Barbaro’s descendants in perpetuum.

(12) Title of Conte di Beberrua (granted to Luigi Gatt on the 23 October 1783 by Grand Master Emmanuel de Rohan); In their report the Commissioners stated that this title was unsuccessfully claimed by Nicolo’ Gatt because that title became extinct with the with the death of the orginal grantee Luigi Gatt. By means of a later decision dated 1883 of the British Secretary of State, authorization was given through the grace and favour of the Crown to Nicolo’ Gatt and that it should continue to descend, “de primogenito in primogenitum in infinitum”, to the male descendants of the grantee.

(13) Title of Marchese del Fiddien (granted to Salvatore Mallia Tabone on the 15 October 1785 by Grand Master Emmanuel de Rohan, as extended by Rescript of the same Grand Master on the 15 June 1793); In their report the Commissioners stated that this title had been successfully claimed by 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.

(14) Title of Marchese della Taflia (granted to Saverio Alessi on the 13 November 1790 by Grand Master Emmanuel de Rohan); In their report the Commissioners stated that this title had been successfully claimed by Bernardo Alessi, the grandson of the person first ennobled, and the first-born male child in the family. The Commissioners also noted that there is nothing in the patent whether the title should be enjoyed by al the grantee’s descendants simultaneously, or by one of them under the rule of primiogeniture.

(15) Title of Conte di Ghain Toffieha (granted not by patent, but by Rescript, to Ferdinando Teuma Castelletti on the 7 January 1792 by Grand Master Emmanuel de Rohan); In their report the Commissioners stated that this title had been successfully claimed by Pietro Paolo Teuma Castelletti, as he proves by the documents produced before the Commission, to be the grandson of the original grantee. The Commissioners also noted that the grant was in the family always taken to be limited to the first-born descendant only.

(16) Title of Marchese di Gnien Is-sultan (granted to Filippo Apap on the 1 December 1792 by Grand Master Emmanuel de Rohan); In their report the Commissioners stated that this title had been successfully claimed by Felicissimo Apap-Pace-Bologna, who is the great grandson of the person first ennobled. The Commissioners also noted that this title was always held to be inheritable by the first-born descendant only. 

(17) Title of Barone della Grua (granted to Saverio Carbott Testaferrata on the 30 December 1794 by Grand Master Emmanuel de Rohan); In their report the Commissioners stated that this title was claimed by Nicola Maria Delicata-Carbott-Asciack, who descends lineally from the grantee. The Commissioners noted that the male descending line of the said Saverio is extinct, for SaverioCarbott left Giuseppe Carbott, of whom Saverio Carbott Montalto was born; Saverio Carbott junior, had no male issue, but only a daughter, Giovanna Carbott Montalto, the claimant’s mother. The question having been reserved to the Secretary of State, the Commissioners did not include the claimant’s name in the list. In their Supplemental Report, the Commissioners opined that Nicola Maria Delicata Carbott Asciak established his claim because 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.

(18) Title of Conte della Senia (granted to Vincenzo Fontani on the 6 June 1795 by Grand Master Emmanuel de Rohan); In their report the Commissioners stated that this title had been successfully claimed by Luigi Fontani, the first-born and only surviving son of the said Caonte Vincenzo Fonato, original grantee. The Commissioners also noted that there was no reason for inquiring, at present, who will have the right to bear the title after the present holder’s death, whether his first-born son alone or simultaneously his daughters also.

(19) Title of Marchese di Ghain Kajet (granted to Gerolamo Delicata on the 4 June 1796 by Grand Master Emmanuel de Rohan). In their report the Commissioners stated that this title had been successfully claimed by Gaetano Delicata, the first-born grandson in the primogenial line of the original grantee

(20) Fief of Ghariescem and Tabia (granted to Giacinto Cassia by deed of compromise on the 14 April 1638 and assented by Grand Master Lascaris and his Council on the 16 April 1638). In their report the Commissioners stated that in view of explicit declarations of the Grand Masters from 1659 to 1797, on the occasions of the investiture of the fiefs, on which occasions the persons invested were styled barons, the Commissioners did not think themselves justified in refusing to Gio Francesco Sant (who proves his descent from Giacinto Cassia through a female line, and who is the possessor of the fief “ta ghariescem” and “Tabia”) the title of barone, notwithstanding the non-existence of the original and authentic grant of that title. The Commissioners also noted that for the foregoing reasons the date of creation of the title is stated to be the 16th of April 1638.

(21) Fiefs of Djar el Bniet and Buqana (the first granted to Francesco Gatto by Louis King of Sicily on the 4 January 1350, the second granted to Guglielmo Murina by King Frederick on the 4 November 1372). In their report the Commissioners stated that this title was unsuccessfully claimed by Alessandro Sceberras-Testaferrata-Damico-Inguanez (who proved his decent) because he was not the possessor of the two fiefs in question, the same being actually held by Maria Teresa Damico. In their report the Commissioners stated that although no title of barone appears to have been granted in the diplomas of 1350 and 1372, that there are sufficient grounds for holding that at a later period that title was conferred or recognized on the 30th April 1725. The Commissioners also noted that for the foregoing reasons the date of creation of the title is stated to be the 4 January 1350.

(22) Title of Barone di Cicciano in the Kingdom of Naples, (exact date of creation unknown but held by Fabrizio Testaferrata by Royal Assent on the 11 July 1695). In their report the Commissioners stated that this title had been successfully claimed by Alessandro Sceberras-Testaferrata-Damico-Inguanez, the first-born son descending from the only surviving line of the said FabrizioTestaferrata. The Commissioners also noted that the claimant’s lawful patronymic is Sceberras, the other surnames affixed to his name being taken from his maternal ancestors.

(23) Title of Marchese di San Vincenzo Ferreri in the Kingdom of Naples, (conferred upon Mario Testaferrata on the 10 November 1716 by Philip V, King of Spain and Naples). In their report the Commissioners stated that this title was claimed by Emmanuele Testaferrata Bonici Ghaxaq, first born son of Daniele Testaferrata, junior, who was the eldest son of Gregorio Augusto, first-born son of Daniele Testaferrata, senior, the latter being the first-born son of Enrico Testaferrata, who in a chirografo dated 1 August 1718 is referred to as the first-born son of the Marchese Mario by the late Anna De Noto. This claim was opposed by Lorenzo Antonio Testaferrata, one of the descendants of Gilberto Testaferrata, second-born son of the original grantee who explained that EnricoTestaferrata was disinherited in 1758 by the original grantee. In addition, another claimant Gio Paolo Testaferrata Olivier who subjected his claim to the “hereditary quality” of the title claimed the title as one of the heirs of the Enrico Testaferrata. The Commissioners did not give any decision. (From a detailed analysis, it appears that the claimants were in fact talking about three different titles, one granted in 1716, another in 1745 and another in 1749). By means of a later decision dated 1883 of the British Secretary of State, authorization was given through the grace and favour of the Crown to Gio. Paolo Testaferrata Olivier and Lorenzo Cassar Desain and those of their respective eldest sons be successively entered into the official list of Titolati, with the honorary title of “Marchese” as already enjoyed by their respective lineal ancestors.

(24) Title of Marchese, (conferred upon Mario Testaferrata on the 13 July 1717 by Victor Amadeus, King of Sicily and Duke of Savoy. In their report the Commissioners stated that this title was unsuccessfully claimed by Emmanuele Testaferrata-Bonici-Asciack, Lorenzo Antonio Testaferrata, Giuseppe Testaferrata Viani, Gio. Paolo Testaferrata-Olivier de Puget, Lorenzo Antonio Cassar-Desain, ne’ Testaferrata, Ignazio Testaferrata Bonici, Enrico Testaferrata, and Luigi Testaferrata because this title was not duly registered and no documents had been exhibited to the Commission except by Gio Paolo Testaferrata Olivier and Lorenzo Cassar Desain to prove that the title had in fact been recognized by the Grand Masters. However the documents so produced were deemed insufficient by the Commissioners. 

(25) Title of Conte (granted to Giuseppe Preziosi on the 19 October 1718 by Victor Amadeus, King of Sicily, Duke of Savoy). In their report the Commissioners stated that this title was claimed by Amadeo Preziosi, Antonio Preziosi, Camillo Preziosi, Alessandro Preziosi, and Vincenzo Camilleri. Whilst the Commissioners acknowledged Amadeo Preziosi was the first-born son in the primogenial line of the original grantee, the Commissioners did not give any decision on the claims of Antonio Preziosi, Camillo Preziosi, Alessandro Preziosi, and Vincenzo Camilleri who were all lineal descendants of the original grantee. In their Supplemental Report, the Commissioners opined that these other gentlemen were unsuccessful in their claim because the this title must be deemed Sicilian and therefore descendible to the firstborn son only, according to the order of succession prescribed by the ius feudale francorum

(26) Title of Conte di Mont’ Alto (conferred at the request of Bernardo Piscopo on the 8 July 1720 by Francis I., Duke of Parma and amended on the 19 September 1724). In their report the Commissioners stated that this title was unsuccessfully claimed by Monsignor Manduca-Piscopo-Macedonia because it had become extinct upon the exhaustion of the line of Bernardo’s nephew Felice Manduca in whose favour the amendment was contemplated.

(27) Title of Conte enjoyed by the Wzzini family, (exact date of creation unknown but held by Ignazio Wzzini in the year 1722). In their report the Commissioners stated that this title had been successfully claimed by Giorgio Serafino Duca Comninoe Lascaris Ciantar-Paleologo, the first-born descendant of Ignazio Wzzini. The Commissioners also noted that the claimant has not shown that his family was in possession of the title of ‘Conte” prior to the year 1722.

(28) Title of Marquis in the Kingdom of Castille (granted to Gio Pio de Piro on the 6 November 1745 by Philip V, King of Spain, the title of Marquis being revived on the 28 September 1870 by the Kingdom of Spain in favour of Saverio De Piro); In their report the Commissioners stated that this title had been successfully claimed by Saverio De Piro, in whose favour the title was revived. 

(29) Title of Barone (granted on the 31 March 1768 by Empress Maria Theresa, Empress of Austria, upon Giorgio Fournier de Pausier); In their report the Commissioners stated that this title was unsuccessfully claimed by Lazzaro Sant-Fournier-de-Pausier because no proof was made of the recognition of this title by the Grand Masters, which might have supplied the want of registration.

(30) Title of Count in the kingdoms and provinces of the Austrian Empress (granted to Giorgio Fournier de Pausier on the 29 January 1770 by Maria Theresa, Empress of Austria); No decision was reached by the Commissioners in either their report or their supplemental report on the claim of Lazzaro Sant-Fournier-de-Pausier, who descends from the grantee’s granddaughter. The British Secretary of State then permitted the claim of Lazzaro Sant Fournier and his successors, for the purpose of precedence, to take the place to which they would be entitled under the principles of legal interpretation applicable to the grant if it had emanated in 1770 from the Sicilian or Maltese Sovereign authority.

(31) Title of Count in the Italian Provinces of the Austrian Empress (granted to Baldassare Salvatore Sant on the 22 December 1770 by Maria Theresa, Empress of Austria); In their report the Commissioners stated that this title had been successfully claimed by Gio Francesco Sant Cassia, who is the first born son of the Conte Luigi Maria, eldest son of the Conte Gio Francesco, who was the eldest son of the first titled person..

(32) Title of Conte (presumed to have been granted to Salvatore Manduca on the 28 December 1776 by one of the Dukes of Parma (probably Don Ferdinand)); In their report the Commissioners stated that this title was claimed by Monsignor Salvatore Manduca-Piscopo-Macedonia, but did not give any decision as the claimant had yet to produce evidence of the existence and recognition of the title. It appears that by 1883, such proof had been produced.

(33) Title of Barone di San Giovanni conferred upon Serafino Ciantar on the 16 July 1777 by Ferdinand I, King of the Two Sicilies; In their report the Commissioners stated that this title had been successfully claimed by Giorgio Serafino Duca Comninoe Lascaris Ciantar-Paleologo, who is the first-born surviving descendant of the original grantee.

(34) Title of Barone di San Paolino granted to Matteo de Ribera on the 16 July 1638, by the President and Captain-General of Sicily by authority of Philip IV, King of Spain and Sicily. In their report the Commissioners stated that this title was unsuccessfully claimed by Angiolino Attard Montalto because the title was never registered and no evidence was produced of its recognition on the part of the sovereign authorities during the Government of the Knights of Saint John.

(35) Title of Conte di Casandola (presumed to have been granted by Charles II, King of Spain and Sicily, on the 6th January 1685). In their report the Commissioners stated that this title was unsuccessfully claimed by Antonio Stagno Navarra Muscati because no proof was made of the existence of this title

(36) Distinction of Knight of the Order of Noble Tornearii and Armigers of the Holy Roman Empire (granted motu proprio at Vienna to Giacomo Testaferrata de Robertis on the 6 November 1637 by Ferdinand 3rd Emperor Elect of the Romans and of Germany); In their Report, the Commissioners stated that this dignity received direct recognition from the Grandmasters but were unsure whether this title, although recognised, was in any way affected by the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire in 1806. The dignity was claimed by various persons including EmmanueleTestaferrata-Bonici-Asciack, Lorenzo Antonio Testaferrata, Guseppe Testaferrata Viani, Gio. Paolo Testaferrata-Olivier de Puget, Lorenzo Antonio Cassar-Desain, ne’ Testaferrata, IgnazioTestaferrata Bonici, Enrico Testaferrata, and Francesco Gauci Testaferrata. The Commissioners also noted that a similar claim might be asserted by all other male and female descendants of the aforesaid Don Mario, who did not appear before them, the number of such descendants amounts to no less than 157. The British Secretary of State decided that there was no proof that the dignity ever received recognition.

(37) Distinction of Knight of the Order of Noble Tornearii and Armigers of the Holy Roman Empire (granted motu proprio at Vienna to Massimiliano Balzano on the 19 November 1698 by Leopold I Emperor Elect of the Romans and of Germany); In their Report, the Commissioners stated that this dignity received direct recognition from the Grandmasters but were unsure whether this title, although recognised, was in any way affected by the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire in 1806. The dignity was claimed by Luisa, widow of Captain Walter Strickland, in her own name and on behalf of her sons, who are all minors. The Commissioners also noted that upon the same grounds this dignity might be claimed by other descendants of Balzano, who all bear family names different from that of the grantee, the male line of Balzano having become extinct, and the female descendants having married into different families. The British Secretary of State decided that there was no proof that the dignity ever received recognition.

(38) Dignity of Patrician of Messina (granted to Mariano Testaferrata on the 20th December 1553 by the Jurats of the city or municipality of Messina). In their Report, the Commissioners stated that this dignity was unsuccessfully claimed by Pietro Paolo Testaferrata-Abela-Moroni, Augusto Testaferrata Abela, Monsignor Salvatore Grech-Delicata-Testaferrata Cassia-De Piro, EmmanueleTestaferrata-Bonici-Asciack, Lorenzo Antonio Testaferrata, Gio. Paolo Testaferrata-Olivier de Puget, Lorenzo Antonio Cassar-Desain, ne’ Testaferrata, Ignazio Testaferrata Bonici, EnricoTestaferrata, and Francesco Gauci Testaferrata because independently of the circumstance that the dignity is a municipal concession, the said instrument was never registered nor have the claimants produced any proof of its ever been recognized by the local sovereign. 

(39) Dignity of Patrician of Messina (granted to Marchese Don Mario Testaferrata Castelletti, Don Daniele and Don Pandolfo Testaferrata De Noto, and the Barone P.P. Testaferrata Abela on the 28 August 1792 by the Senate of Messina); In their Report, the Commissioners stated that this dignity was unsuccessfully claimed by Pietro Paolo Testaferrata-Abela-Moroni, Augusto Testaferrata Abela, Lorenzo Antonio Testaferrata, Gio. Paolo Testaferrata-Olivier de Puget, Lorenzo Antonio Cassar-Desain, ne’ Testaferrata, Ignazio Testaferrata Bonici, Enrico Testaferrata, and Francesco Gauci Testaferrata because independently of the circumstance that the dignity is a municipal concession, the said instrument was never registered nor have the claimants produced any proof of its ever been recognized by the local sovereign. 

(40) Dignity of Roman Patrician (conferred upon Monsignor Don Leonardo Abela, Bishop of Sidonia, Placido and Alessandro Abela his brothers, and upon his three nephews ex sorore Pietro di Ferro, Ascanio Surdo and Paolo Testaferrata on the 11th day of the calends of June of the year 1590 by the Roman Senate); In their Report, the Commissioners stated that this dignity was unsuccessfully claimed by Pietro Paolo Testaferrata-Abela-Moroni, Augusto Testaferrata Abela, Monsignor Salvatore Grech-Delicata-Testaferrata Cassia-De Piro, Lorenzo Antonio Cassar-Desain,ne’ Testaferrata, Saverio De Piro and (f) Felicissimo Apap-Pace-Bologna because independently of the circumstance that the dignity is a municipal concession, the said instrument was never registered nor have the claimants produced any proof of its ever been recognized by the local sovereign.

(41) Dignity of Roman Patrician (reputed to date 6 July 1674, origins unknown); In their Report, the Commissioners stated that this dignity was unsuccessfully claimed by Emmanuele Testaferrata-Bonici-Asciack, and Lorenzo Antonio Cassar-Desain, ne’ Testaferrata, because no proof or document whatever have been produced.

(42) Dignity of Roman Patrician (reputed to date 4 July 1744, origins unknown); In their Report, the Commissioners stated that this dignity was unsuccessfully claimed by Giorgio Serafino DucaComninoe Lascaris Ciantar-Paleologo because no proof or document whatever have been produced.

(43) Dignity of Venetian Patrician, (origins unknown); In their Report, the Commissioners stated that this dignity was unsuccessfully claimed by Giorgio Crispo Barbaro because no proof or document whatever have been produced.

(44) Distinction of Knight of the 1st class of Charles III., King of Spain, (origins unknown). In their Report, the Commissioners stated that this dignity was unsuccessfully claimed by Luigi Fontanibecause no proof or document whatever have been produced. Moreover the Commissioners noted that this distinction cannot according to the law then in force (1872) be borne in Malta without Her Majesty’s permission.

(45) Dignity of Messinese Patrician, (origins unknown). In their Report, the Commissioners stated that this dignity was unsuccessfully claimed by Antonio Stagno-Navarra-Muscati-Falsoni because no proof was made of the existence of this title

In answering the Governor’s query on the use of two or more surnames, the Commissioners noted that assumed surnames are added after the lawful surname (patronymic), the lawful surname being that coming from his father, grandfather, and other male ancestors. The Commissioners reported that the practice adopted by the “titolati” was to prefix their respective titles to their name without any mention of lands or other designation. The Commissioners observed that those titolati who added maternal surnames, did so for either of three reasons (i) to show connection to the ennobled family (ii) to show connection to a family from whom a primogenitura derived, and (iii) for the simple expedient of distinguishing the different branches of the family. In preparing their list of allowed claims, the Commissioners stated that they were disregarding the assumed surnames and refering to the titolati merely by their respective patronymics, thus Antonio Stagno NavarraMuscati was referred to as Antonio Stagno, Gio Francesco Sant Cassia as Gio Francesco Sant, and Giuseppe Testaferrata Viani as Giuseppe Testaferrata. It is interesting to note however that the Commissioners did not do so in regard to the claimants Mallia Tabone and Teuma Castelletti.

As a rule, the titles described above were merely honorific, that is to say without property tenure. The requisite of wealth and security of status which is implied in the Despuig and Rohan rules, appears to have prompted some of the grantees/their descendants to set up or modify separate, individual entails known as fideicommissae or “Primogenituri” so that such entails, usually consisting of valuable buildings and large tracts of lucrative land, work in tandem with the succession of these otherwise, merely-honorific titles. In the Report, references to such entails is found in the descriptions of Gomerino (a Primogenitura described as having been formed in 1714), Budaq (details whereof are not specified in the Report), delle Catene (an entail described as the Primogenitura Bologna), Bulebel (a Primogenitura described as being existing in 1778), Mont’ Alto (a Primogenitura and Maggiorato described as existing in 1725), and Manduca (referring to the same Primogenitura in Mont’ Alto). 

The possession of a primogenitura did not necessarily imply any right to nobility (Para. 155); however it did prompt some successors to add the surnames of the founders of the primogeniture to their own (para. 243). The Commissioners also identified one instance where a primogenitura could continue to subsist even though the title associated with the family that enjoyed it would have fallen into extinction (Para. 187). In another instance, the remainder of a title was granted specifically to follow the succession of an entail set up by a third party (Para. 38), whilst in another case (Para. 25) a question arose whether the grant of a title was in fact somehow amended following the erection of an entail.  (N.B. The holding by entail was eventually abolished in Malta in 1950).

(N.B. Although the Commissioners do not state it, the apparent wealth and lifestyle of the contemporary claimants appears to have been of some concern to them. This is alluded to in their commentary (Para. 235) on the very wide remainder of two hereditary knighthoods which were granted motu proprio by a foreign sovereign:- Among such descendents there are people of all classes, and whilst some live on income from their own property, others pursue mean occupations and have slender means of support. (N.B. This apparent prejudice against claimants living in less fortunate circumstances may perhaps explain why other titles granted by the Grand Masters were not presented by the respective descendents. The titles which were granted by Grand Masters but not considered by the Report include: (1) Barone di Frigenuini (to Alessandro Mompalao on the 17 September 1737 by Grand Master Despuig; regranted to Gaetano Pisani on the 17 June 1773 by Grand Master Ximenes) (2) Marchese di Sciorp il-Hagin (to Claudio Muscati Xiberras on the 8 March 1776 by Grand Master Rohan), (3) Barone (to Francesco Gauci on the 6 September 1778 by Grand Master Rohan) (4) Barone di San Cosmo (to Ugolino Calleja on the 27 November 1792 by Grand Master Rohan), (5) Conte di Santi (to Romualdo Barbaro on the 1 December 1792 by Grand Master Rohan), (6) Conte di Meimun (to Saverio Marchesi on the 8 March 1794 by Grand Master Rohan). It appears that no descendant of these grantees made any claim to the Commissioners.)

Notwithstanding their efforts to ensure a comprehensive study of these titles, the Commissioners made a caveat that their report being based on a list of titles prepared by an ad hoc Committee of nobles formed on the occasion of a visit by the Prince of Wales, cannot be assured to “correspond to all the existing titles of nobility, and still less that the thirty one gentlemen …(mentioned in the list)… represent all those who, under certain conditions, would have the right of claiming a title by virtue of the same grant. On the contrary, as it will be hereafter remarked, many gentlemen not comprised in that list are exactly in the same condition as others therein mentioned. As no notice has appeared in the Government Gazette, informing the public of the existence of our Commission, and inviting all those who might have a right to a title of nobility to lay their claims before us, our inquiry must necessarily be incomplete, and limited to those titles which are included in the list, or which after its presentation have been claimed. On the other hand, we could not ascertain how far the committee are invested with a representative character, with regards to the interests of the Maltese nobility.” This caveat was later regarded as unnecessary by Governor van Straubenzee who stated that he had no reason to suspect that anyone having any pretension to be a “Titolato” was ignorant either of the existence of the Committee of Nobles, or of the appointment of the Commission. He also commented that the publication of a notice to the effect above stated would hardly be consistent with the instructions contained by the Despatch of the Secretary of State. At all events, he added, if there were more “Titolati” they were at liberty at any time to prove their claims, and take the precedence to which they are entitled.

 

Whatever criticism may be leveled at the 1878 report, to date it remains the only impartial description and interpretation of those titles - of which the Commissioners had cognizance - which were related to the period when the Grand Masters ruled Malta. The 1878 report is a veritable repository of the grants, circumstances and legal principles and it is the first-ever careful enquiry into the origin, nature, and extent of Maltese titles of nobility on an “as is” basis. Whilst conceding that a later correspondence dated 1883 (in which the Commissioners did not participate), allowed the revival of two of the extinct titles and by delved deeper into certain sub-formations approved by the Grand Masters, the 1878 report remains the principal point of reference for a study on the titles forming part of the Maltese Nobility. 

In terms of the Gieh ir-Repubblika Act of 1975, titles of Nobility are not recognized in Malta whilst although today one witnesses in Malta the use of the very same nobiliary titles described in the aforesaid reports, such use is neither legal, nor regulated, nor protected. The implication of the ACT is that these titles, which are undoubtedly part of Malta’s heritage, are now subjected to private interests which may, or may not, allow correct transmission or even revive a title which has become extinct. A more complete frustration of Malta’s heritage can hardly be conceived.

The Report of 1878 can be criticised from various angles, particularly in view of the Commissioner’s admission that its own findings could not be looked upon as a complete representation of all potential claims. Despite all this valid and compelling criticism, it is submitted nonetheless that the report should be the basis of formulating any argument for the purposes of reconciling Maltese historic titles with our National Heritage.