Notes to exclude applying foreign rules to the succession of a Maltese title of Nobility.


The article at  (“La necessità del Regio Assenso (Reale Beneplacito) nella legislazione nobiliare napoletana con particolare riferimento alla Successione femminile dei titoli nobiliari”) contradicts the position described (“Notes on succession of Maltese titles of Nobility since 1798”). The latter demonstrates the historic need for a female to obtain consent from the Fons Honorum to succeed even a merely honorific title, whilst the former excludes this requirement altogether. 

Very few of the grants issued by the Grand Masters during their government of Malta make specific allowance for female succession. These are regarded as exceptional to the general rule which favours male-to-male succession as expressed in the 1739 and 1795 legislation. 

Some Maltese titles which do not make provision for female succession, have been succeeded by males descending in the female line but this, it must be stressed, is not the result of a reading of the grant but the result of an interpretation of the Maltese rule of primogeniture as seen in the Supplementary Report of the said Commissioners when they considered the title of Grua.

Contrary to the position that may be under Neapolitan law, Maltese law and history indisputably records investitures even in regard to merely honorific titles which do not have any lands attached to them. 

For example, we find the 1737 investiture of Ercole Martino Testaferrata, the 1783 investiture of Paola Gatto Moscati, the 1784 investiture of Giuseppe Testaferrata Viani and that of Calcedonio Azzopardi in 1788. All these investitures refer to the succession of purely honorific titles to which no land was attached, namely Gomerino, Benwarrad, Tabria and Buleben. The greater number of titles created by the Grand Masters were honorific without any requirement of land tenure. However, all required an investiture irrespective of whether the successor was male or female. 

This requirement was no different to that where “titled-properties” were concerned where the possession of a determinate property held in fief gave rise to a title. Thus in the case of the fief of Ghariescem et Tabia we find the investitures dated 1678, 1721 and 1797. The only other titled fief identified by a Royal Commission appointed to enquire into the claims of the Maltese Nobility was that of Djar el Bniet et Bucana.

It may be that Neapolitan titles did not have to satisfy this requirement as explained in but the documented, historic Maltese record proves a different rule insofar as Maltese titles are concerned. 

It should be remembered that a Maltese title of nobility is regulated by the grant by which it was created as well as the general laws enacted by Grand Masters Vilhena (1725), Despuig (1739) and Rohan (1795). Maltese legislation has nothing to do with Neapolitan or Italian law. 

On the other hand, Neapolitan and Italian law may affect those titles which, in Malta, are regarded as foreign originating in the Kingdom of Naples. For example the title of Castel Cicciano (1695) is Neapolitan in origin, and therefore a foreign title insofar as Malta is concerned. 

The error of applying a foreign rule to a Maltese title is found in the published succession of the baronial title of Gomerino created in 1710. Many publications report that title to have been succeeded in 1713 and 1744 which are the dates when the property of Gomerino was transferred from Paolo Testaferrata to his elder son Fabrizio, and from Fabrizio to his younger brother Ercole Martino. In fact these publications ignore the 1737 investiture altogether. One could argue – at best – that the tenure of the Gomerino property gave rise to a separate title of a “titled-property” which is perfectly acceptable in many pre-Savoian Italian states, and appears to have obtained a general acceptance in Malta. But this should not be confused with the transmission of the principal honorific title created in 1710 which was succeeded in 1737 in accordance with Maltese law. One says “at best” because the Royal Commission described the Gomerino property as “allodial” not “in fief”. Because of the application of the foreign rule, there are two conflicting positions insofar as the title of Gomerino is concerned, one line asserting its primogenital right under the 1737 succession of the title, the other asserting its hereditary right under the 1713 and 1744 transmissions of the property.