Identifying the criteria adopted by the Royal Commissioners appointed to enquire into the claims of the Maltese Nobility, for rendering simple fiefs into noble fiefs.
In this section we consider the criteria which were adopted by the Royal Commissioners to enquire into the claims of the Maltese Nobility for determining whether a mere fief is to be regarded as the basis of a title of nobility, and we see how these criteria whether these criteria were later applied consistently
As a rule, a fief consists of property granted at the pleasure of the King. This means that the property could at any point in time revert back to the King. The Royal commissioners report that this was in fact the fate which befell the fief of Ghariescem et Tabia originally granted to Enrico de Sosa by King Frederick of Sicily in 1372. The report explains that the same fief was granted again in 1416 by King John Infante of Spain to Stefano Lo Blundo.
As indicated above, the ownership of the fief remained firmly in the name of the Sovereign. Therefore although the property could – sometimes – be sold or transferred to someone else there always remained a real risk that the property could revert back to the soveeign. The Commissioners report that Lo Blundo had sold the said fief of Ghariescem et Tabia to Antonio Inguanez, from whose family it was acquired by Gio Maria Cassia. The Commissioners explain that at one point in time Gio Maria’s son Giacinto was (wrongly) claiming to hold this property in his own right but he was dispossessed of it after the Rota Romana (a court of law) had by various decisions declared the feudal nature of the aforesaid land meaning that the property had reverted to the Crown.
This did not necessarily mean that the Sovereign could always terminate the fief on a whim; sometimes the sovereign had to pay good money to terminate the fief. Thus, elsewhere in the Commissioners’ Report we find that the lands of Gomerino had been granted by Frederick King of Sicily to Guglielmo Surdo, but the fief was bought back by Grand Master La Valette.
All this shows that a fief is not an absolute title of ownership but something akin to a long lease. Unlike a property granted in allodiumwhich accorded the grantee the full ownership of the allodial property, in the case of a property granted in fief the high dominion was retained by the sovereign.
If a property was previously granted in fief, the sovereign was not obliged to regrant it by the same title. Thus, elsewhere in the Commissioners’ Report we find that after the buy-back of the lands of Gomerino, the Grand Master Alosio Wignacourt conferred the same lands in allodium to Gio Maria Cassia.
Thus, Gio Maria Cassia held in mere jure feudi the lands of Ghariescem et Tabia, but held by allodial title (full ownership) the lands of Gomerino.
As seen above, Gio Maria’s son (Giacinto) forfeited the lands of Ghariescem et Tabia. However, the Commissioners report that in 1638 Giacinto arrived at a compromise with his rulers and a deed was notarised on the 14th April 1638. Two days later, the Grand Masrer Giovampalo Lascaris de Castellar and his Council gave their formal assent to the deed. The Commissioners report that by virtue of that transaction, the land ta’ ghariescem was ceded to Giacinto Cassia and to his children and descendants for ever, and the feudatories were to discharge the annuity which their predecessors were bound to pay. It was also agreed that the land should be possessed jure feudi; that it could be transferred to or divided among the descendants of both sexes of Giacinto Cassia, without the Grand Master’s licence, untril the total extinction of the descent of Giacinto; and that the holders of it should annually pay into the Treasury of the Order, fifty Sicilian ounces of general weight, equivalent to 10/.8s.4d sterling. Giacinto was to obtain the investiture, take the oaths of fealty, and procure the Bulls from the Cancelleria, and all his successors in the fief were to receive the investiture from the Grand Master.
As seen above, none of the fief holders were styled barons.
In this regard, the Commissioners explain that as a rule there are two classes of fief namely: simple fiefs and noble fiefs.
The first class of fief is described by the Commissioners as those properties granted in fee to some of their faithful and deserving subjects, the grantees obliging themselves to perform military service or to pay an annual rent as an acknowledgment of the feudal tenure. The Commissioners report that these grants were made by letters from the Sovereign and called privilegia. For example, the Commissioners report elsewhere that the lands of “Diar el Bniet” were first granted to Francesco Gatto and the heirs of his body by Louis King of Sicily (House of Aragon) on the 4th January 1350 by a privilegium given at Messina. Also elsewhere the Commissioners report that the fief of Bucana had been granted by a privilegium on the 4th November 1372 by King Frederick to Guglielmo Murina and his desdendants “sub servitio imius equi alforati curiae nostrae perinde praesando.”
The Commissioners explain that in this first class of fiefs, the feudatories were sometimes styled miles or magnificus. The Commissioners further state that these designations conferred no title of nobility descendible to the feudatory’s heirs and successors in the fief, but merely a personal mark of distinction. Thus elsewhere in the Report, the Commissioners observe that the original feudatories of the fiefs of Djar el Bniet (1350) and Bucana (1372) were never expressly granted a title of nobility. Neither Gatto nor Murina are described as either miles or magnificus. As seen below, it was their successors not the grantees, who were first given the personal style of miles and magnificus. Similarly the Commissioners report that the 1638 grant of Ghariescem does not mention the title of “Barone”. In addition the Commissioners go on to state that there is no clause in the 1638 deed from which it may be inferred that a noble fief or jurisdiciton was conferred on the feudatory, who is therein simply styled “Dominus Hiachyntus Cassia feudatarius”.
The second class of fief is described by the Commissioners as that to which the dignity of Baron was annexed. This Commissioners report that this title was held to be annexed to a fief in cases where the Sovereign, in the deed of the grant, erected, by a special clause, those feudal lands into baronies, which were said to be holden of the King, and where the possessor of those lands transferred them to others, with the King’s license, provided however, they continue to be held in fee, and such conveyance was entered into the Rolls or Royal Pandects; in which latter case, the fief was called quaternato. As seen elsewhere, the foreign lands of Mont’ Alto in the Duchy of Parma and Piacenza were granted in fief to Bernardo Piscopo in 1720 (__) specifically together with the title of ‘Conte’ of those lands. Such grants were rarely given in Malta. In this regard, we note that elsewhere in their Report, the Commissioners state that of all the titles of nobility created in Malta by the Grand Masters, “although it appears that those titles 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”. It should be recalled that this general observation was made in relation to the following titles:
- Title of Barone (Testaferrata and Testaferrata Cassia (joint)) di Gomerino (cr: 1710)
- Title of Barone (Depiro) di Budaq (cr: 1716)
- Title of Barone (Castelletti) della Marsa (cr: 1725)
- Title of Barone (Galea Feriolo) di San Marciano (cr: 1726)
- Title of Barone (Viani) della Tabria (cr: 1728)
- Title of Barone (Bonnici) della Qlejja (cr: 1737)
- Title of Barone (Gatt) di Benwarred (cr: 1737)
- Title of Barone (Dorell Falzon) della Marsa (cr: 1776)
- Title of Barone (Azzopardi) di Buleben (cr: 1777)
- Title of Marchese (Barbaro) di San Giorgio (cr: 1778)
- Title of Conte (Gatt) della Beberrua (cr: 1783)
- Title of Marchese (Mallia Tabone) del Fiddien (cr: 1785)
- Title of Marchese (Alessi) della Taflia (cr. 1790)
- Title of Conte (Teuma Castelletti) di Ghajn Tuffieha (cr: 1792)
- Title of Marchese (Apap) di Gnien is-Sultan (cr: 1792)
- Title of Barone (Carbott Testaferrata) della Grua (cr: 1794)
- Title of Marchese (Delicata) di Ghajn Qajjet (cr: 1796)
Therefore it cannot be said that the Commissioners regarded any of the aforesaid 17 titles as fiefs.
The Commissioners remarked that there were only some estates which prior to the grant were held in allodium by the grantees, and which were subsequently erected into noble feuds. The Commissioners identified these as three in number namely:
- Title of Conte (Muscati Falsone Navarra) della Bahria (cr: 1743). The terms of this grant read as follows:- “Te Dnum Ignatium Muscati Falsone Navarra tuosque filios, haeredes, et successores etiam extraneos, comitem et comites Territorii seu Tenutae della Bahria positae in hac Nostra Insula a Te et antecessoribus tuis jure pleni dominii et proprietatis possessae constituimus et in perpetuum creamus, dictamque tenutam seu territorium, illiusque membra et districtum in feudum nobilem sub titulo comitis erigimus atque extollimus”.
- Title of Conte (Perdicomati Bologna) della Catena (cr: 1746). The terms of this grant read as follows:- “Te supradictum Dominum Petrum Cajetanum Perdicomati Bologna tuosque filios jam natos vel nascituros, haeredes et successores primogenitos et etiam extraneos, Comitem et Comites Territorii seu Tenuta della Catene hodie vero delli Mori appellati positi in hac Nostra Insula a te et antecessoribus possessi jure pleni dominii et proprietatis, nec non Primogeniturae masculinae ordinatae per bon mem canonicum Don Alessandrum Perdicomati Bologna…in feudum nobilem sub titulo comitus erigius atque extollimus.”
- Title of Conte (Fontani) della Senia (cr: 1795). The terms of this grant read as follows:- “Nobili Puero Vincentio Fontani Crespi, te tuosque descendentes comitem et comites territorii seu possessionis dictae ta Senia positae in hac nostra insula, in loco della Marsa, tuosque utriusque sexus filios et descendentes, comitem et comites prafati territorii sive possessionis ‘ta Senia’ dicimus et nominamus”.
It would appear that neither the fiefs of “Ghariescem and Tabia” nor those of “Djar il-Bniet et Buqana” qualify as “noble fiefs”.
However, the Commissioners went on to identify a third class of fief as follows: “In feudal times, however, the possessors of a fief, though not entitled to enjoy the dignity of Baron, commonly styled themselves barons, an appellation which was intended to designate the holder of an estate in fee, and not to confer a particular title of nobility on the descendants of the person who had originally obtained the grant and the feudal investiture.” – The Commissioners continued with the following emphasis:- “But when a fief which, according to the original deed of grant was a simple and untitled fief, and all its successive possessors were acknowledged and styled as barons, in that case, the title and dignity of baron was considered as annexed to the posession of that fief, and inheritable by all the holders of it.”
It is in this third context that the Commissioners considered the claims to the title of Baron by two feudatories, namely Gio Francesco Sant as possessor of the fief of “Ghariescem” and “Tabia”, and Alessandro Sceberras as holder of the two fiefs of “Diar il Bniet” and of “Bucana”.
The Commissioners’ Report details these claims and it clearly results that in neither case was a title created in or together with the property grant. Both cases were deemed to be acts of creating a title only by reason of subsequent events which followed the grant of the fief. This clearly shows that, at least insofar as the Commissioners’ Report is concerned, it is not the mere grant of a fief that gives rise to a title but this must be supplemented by circumstances which raise the possession of that fief to a dignity. The Commissioners were most explicit to classify in this third class, the claim to the title of Barone di Ghariescem et Tabia:- “Conte Sant, therefore, deriving his claims from the deed of transaction of 1638, cannot maintain his pretensions to any particular title of nobility by virtue of the sovereign grant made to Giacinto Cassia and his descendants; he might only assert, as the holder of a fief which is not titled, the right of bearing the denomination of Barone, which was borne by other feudatories, who were formerly styled Barons or holders of fiefs.”
Moreover, in considering this third class of fief, the Report details these claims and it clearly results that in neither case was a title created in or together with the property grant. Both cases were deemed to be acts of creating a title only by reason of subsequent events which followed the grant of the fief. This clearly shows that, at least insofar as the Commissioners’ Report is concerned, it is not the mere grant of a fief that gives rise to a title but this must be supplemented by circumstances which raise the possession of that fief to a dignity. The Commissioners were most explicit to classify in this third class, the claim to the title of Barone di Ghariescem et Tabia:- “Conte Sant, therefore, deriving his claims from the deed of transaction of 1638, cannot maintain his pretensions to any particular title of nobility by virtue of the sovereign grant made to Giacinto Cassia and his descendants; he might only assert, as the holder of a fief which is not titled, the right of bearing the denomination of Barone, which was borne by other feudatories, who were formerly styled Barons or holders of fiefs.”
Finally, the Commissioners did not give any importance to a qualified descent. The Commissioners showed that they were content that the claimants proved any form of descent. That is to say one need not necessarily be the primogenital descendant of the original grantees of the simple fiefs.
This third class of fiefs therefore paved the way to justify two claims to certain titles of nobility.
In regard to the fief of “Ghariescem” and “Tabia”, the Commissioners reported that: “Although no particular title of nobility appears to have been conferred upon Giacinto Cassia and his descendants in 1638, we must, however, submit that since the date of the above-mentioned transaction, seven investitures of the fief “Ghariescem” and “Tabia” were granted under the government of the Knights. The first was given to Giacinto Cassia on the 27th April 1638; the second to Gio. Antonio Cassia, on the 15th January 1655; the third to Pietro Cassia, on the 13th August 1658; in which three investitures each of the feudatories is designated as Magnificus . The fourth investiture was granted to Domenica Cassia, wife of Stanislao Xara, on the 21st August 1678, in which she is called filia vero quondam Magnifici Petri Cassia J.U.D. olim Baronis de Ghariescem et Tabia’. The fifth to Pietro Paolo Xara, on the 28th August 1721, in which the following words occur: quod quidem Pheudum ad eum uti dicta quondam Nobilis Baronissae Domonicae Cassia et Xara filium primogenitum pervenit, ad quod supradictum Nobilem Petrum Paulum Xara” The sixth was granted to Stanislao Xara, styled Nobilis Stanislaus Xara quondam Nobilis Petri Pauli Xara Pheudi de Ghariescem et Tabia Baronis filius primogenitus”; and the seventh was given on the 20th August 1797, to Felicita Chiara Sant filia vero primogenita quondam Magnificae Antoniae Bonnici sororis secundogenita quondam Magnifici Stanislai Xara olim Baronis De Ghariescem et Tabia.”.
Moreover, the Commissioners also noted that “From the records of the Cancelleria it appears that in the year 1659, by a Magistral Bull, the office of Capitano della Verga was conferred upon Nobili ac Magnifico Pietro Cassia J.U.D. Baroni de Ghariescem et Tabia and that in the years 1776 and 1777 the office of Giurato was bestowed on Magnificum et Nobilem Baronem Stanislaum Xara.” For these reasons, the Commissioners after having seen these explicit declarations of the Grand Masters from 1659 to 1797, made not only on the occasions of the investiture of the fiefs, but also of the appointment of some of the descendants of Giacinto Cassia to important offices under the Government of the Maltese islands, on which occasions they were styled barons and constantly designated as nobles, declared “we do not think ourselves justified in refusing to Conte Gio Francesco Sant the title of barone, notwithstanding the non existence of the authentic and original grant of the title, and his name will therefore be inserted in our list, not only with the addition of Conte but also with that of “Barone de Ghariescem e Tabia, though the family name Cassia will not be appended to the latter title. For the foregoing reasons the date of creation is stated to be the 16th of April 1638.”
The claim of Alessandro Sceberras in regard to the fiefs of “Diar el Bniet” and “Bucana”, was a more complex issue because that claimant was not the actual possessor of those lands. In fact the Commissioners reported that those land were held by Maria Teresa Damico. The Commissioners were pragmatic and instead of dismissing the claim altogether, they considered whether Maria Teresa D’Amico would qualify under the third class of fiefs. The Report states that “in an old and highly authoritative work, La descrizionedi Malta del Commendatore Gio Francesco Abela, written in 1647, the two fiefs of Diar el Bniet and Bucana are referred to as noble fiefs, with the title of barone annexed thereto. From old memorial accounts it appears that Giacomo Arginaldo Inguanez, who possessed the said two fiefs in 1512, was sent by the Government of Malta in the capacity of ambasciatore (as such agents were then styled) to the court of the Viceroy of Sicily for the object of obtaining certain franchises, on which occasion he was designated as Barone of Bucana (vide: Abela, Lib. 4, Notiz. 3 #38)”.
Moreover the Commissioners held that the first time that the Grand Masters acknowledged a title of Barone in regard to the possessor of both lands Djar il-Bniet et Buqana was only as late as the 30 April 1725 in favour of Marc Antonio Inguanez. In fact the Commissioners reported as follows:- “Although this does not appear to have been expressly granted in the diplomas or Privilegiagiven in 1350 and in 1372, yet there are sufficient grounds for holding that at a later period that title was conferred or recognized, for Grand Master Manoel, on the 30th April 1725, issued a Prammatica or Ordinance, by which in order to remedy abuses and inconveniences, which had for some time prevailed in regard to titles, that Grand Master ordered and commanded that thenceforward no advocate, notary, or attuario should take upon himself to give in any instrument, contract, or other public act drawn up by him, the title of illustrissimo or of noblile to any of the prince's vassals, with the exception of the Capitano della Verga pro tempore, of the two Magistrati of the cities of Valeltta and Notabile, and the Milite barone Marc’Antonio Inguanez our feudatory, and Baronessa Inguanezhis wife, and their descendants. Other nobles who will be mentioned hereafter were subsequently excepted from the provisions of the above Prammatica. Barone Marco Antonio Inguanez is the ancestor of Maria Teresa Damico, the present Baronessa. By the foregoing legislative act he, as the holder of the two fiefs in question, and his descendants were recognized by the former Government as barons. Marc’ Antonio was moreover thirty-four times between the years 1705 and 1760, appointed Capitano della Verga, and always designated as Barone Inguanez”.
The criteria for this third class of fief, of which the aforesaid fiefs of “Ghariescem and Tabia” and “Djar il-Bniet et Buqana” form part are therefore three in number, namely (1) descent from the original grantee of a simple fief, (2) actual possession of the fief and (3) proof that in the interim period there is a sufficient number of declarations showing that previous holders of that fief is considered to be a baron. Logically, if either fief were to be lost or sold, then one cannot, anymore, claim to be a baron.
Writing in 1980, John Attard Montalto lists (page 385) a number of legislative and official publications, amongst which “Act No. XXX of 1969: An Act to extend the provisions of the Entailed Property (Disentailment) Act, 1950, to property held in fief.” Looking at this piece of legislation, we find that provision is made so that “nothing shall affect any title of nobility, and the laws in force concerning any such titles shall continue to have effect”. The purpose of this provision is clearly to avoid the automatic extinction of a nobiliary title founded on a fief (of the second or third class) in the event of an extinction of the fief to which the title refers. Thus although the fiefs of “Ghariescem and Tabia” and “Djar il-Bniet et Buqana” were extinguished in 1969 the titles were to remained unaffected.
It is therefore clear that for anyone now to be styled “Baron of Ghariescem and Tabia” or “Baron of Djar il-Bniet et Buqana”, such person must be a descendant of the original grantees of the simple fiefs and actually hold the erstwhile fief.
A quirky question remains regarding the aforesaid title of “Baron of Gomerino”. As seen above, the lands by that name were conferred in allodium and not in fief, to Gio Maria Cassia by the Grand Master Alosio Wignacourt. The Commissioners’ Report says that these lands were later conveyed to Beatrice Cassia. The Report goes on to say that among the titles conferred by the Grand Masters, the most ancient is the barony of Gomerino, created by Grand Master Perellos, by a patent dated 24th December 1710, and granted to Paolo Testaferrata and Beatrice Cassia his wife with succession to one of their legitimate and natural successors for ever. The Report continues that by the this diploma the Grand Master in creating the barony of Gomerino gave to the said Paolo and Beatrice Testaferrata Cassia, and to all and each of the holders of the title of “Barone di Gomerino” in perpetuum, the power of nominating to the succession of the title one of their male descendants at their will and pleasure, and on failure of such nomination it was provided that the title should descend to their first born child. The subjoined is an extract from the original diploma registered in the Government Cancelleria.: Praefeatos Paulum et Beatricem et post eosdem, omni futuro tempore et in perpetuum, unum ex omnibus et singulis eorumdem successoribus de suis corporibus legitime et naturaliter descendentibus, semper Baronis Gomerini titulo decoarus et insignimus, et barones creamus et constituimus......Tribuentes iisdem Paulo et Beatrice omnibusque ac singulis aliis qui omni futuro tempore ax in perpetuum titulo ac prerogativa Baronis Gomerini fruentur, facoltatem nominandi et eligendi unum ex dictis eorum descendentibus sive marem sive foeminanam, ad ipsorumet libitum et beneplacitum, pro hujusmodi titulo Baronis Gomerini consequendo et adipiscendo, dictaque nominatione et electione minime facta, ex tunc censeatur per eosdem eorumque singulos barones, nominatus et electus ipsorum Primogenitus, nisi eri ad Sacros Ordines promotus et in Religione professus et in defectu marium foemina primogenita.”
As indicated by the Commissioners themselves, no land was attached to this title of nobility. The title was merely honorific and did not give rise to any right of possession of the land called Gomerino.
However, we find that the Commissioners report that the same title of Barone di Gomerino was claimed by two persons, both male, namely Pietro Paolo Testaferrata Abela Moroni and Augusto Testaferrata Abela. Pietro Paolo explained in the first place that he was the first born son in the primogenital line of Paolo and Beatrice Testaferrata. Secondly he explained that the title belonged to him also because he was the holder of the entail to which Beatrice had annexed the baronial title. On the other hand, Augusto explained that the title belonged to him in the first place because he was the possessor of the garden and lands of Gomerino. Secondly because he was appointed to the title by Francesco by a testament published on the 12 January 1861.
The Commissioners report that this issue first arose in 1861. In that year 1861 a suit to the succession to the lands of Gomerino was instituted in the civil courts of these islands by Ettore Testaferrata against Augusto his brother, after the death of the last possessor of those lands, Francesco, their common brother. The court gave judgment in favour of Augusto, who was thereby put in possession of the lands of Gomerino, but no decision was delivered as to the title, which was claimed by Ettore as annexed to the lands of Gomerino. Whilst the cause between the two brothers was pending, Giuseppe Testaferrata, father of Pietro Paolo, in a protesto, which he presented on the 21st April 1862 against the two contending parties, asserted that the title belonged to him, for he contended, it was not annexed to the lands of Gomerino, but to the primogenitura founded by Beatrice Testaferrata and her predeceased husband Paolo Testaferrata, on the 7th March 1714, in the acts of Notary Benedetto Vassallo, of which primogenitura he was the possessor.
The Commissioners went on to detail Pietro Paolo’s claim by reporting that Beatrice in fact, in a public instrument bearing date 5th November 1734, and received by Notary Tomaso Gatt, availing herself of the power given her by the sovereign, named to the succession of the title of Barone di Gomerino, her son Ercole Martino Testaferrata and his legitimate and natural children and descendents and annexed the present title to the possession of the primogenitura, in the following terms:- “Cum hac tamen conditione, quod praedictus titulus Baroniae Gomerini, ut supra, praedicto Don Erculi Martino ejus filio, suisque filiis et descendentibus datus et relaxatus, sit et esse debeat, cunctis futuris temporibus et in perpetuum, adjunctus datus et concessus ili filio seu filiae et descendenti, qui vel quae consequutus vel consequuta fuerit Primogenituram fundatam per praedictos dominos jugales De Testaferrata, in quodam donationis instrumento rogato in actis quondam Magnifici Benedicti Vassalli, sub die septima Martii Millesimi Septingentesimi decimi quarti."
Presented with these different claims, the Commissioners thought that the matter will reach the courts. They therefore thought it fit not to ask the claimants to appear before them. Consequently neither Pietro Paolo nor Augusto appeared on the list of approved title holders.
Strangely, the Commissioners did not take note of the 1737 investiture of Ercole Martino Testaferrata in the title of Barone di Gomerino which was made pursuant to the 1734 deed. Equally strange is the Commissioners’ omitting to mention that 1713 Paolo and Beatrice had divested themselves of the Gomerino property and that Ercole Martino only came to hold that property in 1744.
As predicted the matter was taken to Court. In fact Augusto Testaferrata Abela filed a case against Pietro Paolo Testaferrata Abela Moroni claiming that he was the rightful holder of the Gomerino title on the basis that he possessed the Gomerino property and that his rights stemmed from various nominations. Augusto explained that in 1713 Paolo and Beatrice donated the lands of Gomerino to their son Fabrizio Testaferrata, and that in 1744 Fabrizio willed the property to his brother Ercole Martino Testaferrata.
A decision of the Corte Civile di Sua Maesta Prim Aula on the 9 January 1882 upheld Augusto’s claim to the title of Baron of Gomerino in the sense that it upheld a series of private nominations of the lands of Gomerino, stemming from Paolo to Fabrizio Testaferrata in 1713, to Ercole Martino in 1744 down to Augusto Testaferrata Abela in 1861. Effectively the Court regarded the Gomerino property as a noble fief with the implication that Fabrizio Testaferrata was thereafter regarded as having succeeded the title in 1713 and that Ercole Martino was regarded as having succeeded the title in 1744 and not 1737.
On the other hand, the acts of the 1737 investiture by Grand Master Despuig make clear reference to the 1734 deed quoted by the Royal Commissioners. Moreover there is no historical record that Fabrizio Testaferrata was ever acknowledged by the Grand Masters as the Baron of Gomerino. In this regard reference may also be had to the fact that in 1725 Grand Master Manoel de Vilhena, who after having issued on the 30 April 1725 an order regulating the use of the Titles of Illustrissimo and Nobile amended it by another decree dated 11 May 1725. By that second enactment the Grand Master also excepted the Baronessa di Gomerino Beatrice Cassia Testaferrataand Fabrizio Testaferrata calling him only Barone di Cicciano. Had Grand Master Vilhena ever recognized the title of “Baron of Gomerino” in favour of Fabrizio Testaferrata, he would not have omitted to mention it in the decree of the 9th July 1725 and would not have excepted Mario Testaferrata from the enactment of the relative Prammatica, by styling him only as “Barone di Cicciano” .
Therefore although the 19th century judgment says otherwise, it would be historically incorrect to ignore the 1737 succession and one must necessarily conclude that in the wake of the judgment there are different criteria for the two lines of succession of this honorific title: The first line is the primogenital male line (the “Barons Testaferrata”) which holds the primogenital property described in the 1734 deed and which claims succession from Paolo and Beatrice to Ercole Martino (1737); and the second is the junior line (the “Barons of Gomerino”) which holds the property of Gomerino and claims succession from Paolo and Beatrice to Fabrizio (1713) to Ercole Martino (1744).