Extinct titles of Baron of Marsa
The title Barone della Marsa is a title of Nobility in Malta. It was granted on three occasions by the Grandmasters of the Order of Saint John during their rule over the Maltese Islands. All three grants are extinct.
Since 1975, a general duty is imposed in the Republic of Malta not to recognize any title of nobility.
ORIGIN AND NATURE OF TITLE
The title of Barone della Marsa was conferred by Grand Master Manoel de Vilhena, by a patent of the 12th June 1725, to the nobleman Ferdinando Castelletti, and to such of his male or female children and successors as the holder of the title in perpetuum should appoint. By the death of Ferdinando without issue the title was extinguished.
By another diploma of, bearing date the 4th December 1753, the title of Barone della Marsa was granted anew to Giovanni Antonio Azzopardi Castelletti and to one of his descendents, in the same terms as the preceding patent. This second grant was also determined by the death without issue of Giovanni Antonio.
The title of Barone della Marsa was conferred by Grand Master Fr. Emmanuel de Rohan, by a patent dated the 10th March 1775, upon Gio Francesco Dorell Falzon (the third and last grant). This grant was made in the following terms: - Tibi Magnifico ac Nobili D. Joanni Francisco Dorel Falzon tuisque descentibus masculis tribuimus concedimus et donamus, hujusmodique Baronis titulo insignimus, ac Baronem dicti feudi della Marsa constituimus, et ita nominari posse et debere.... The aforesaid Barone Dorell having left on his death no issue, the title of Barone della Marsa, became for the third time extinct.
In all three cases 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 Marsa.
PRECEDENCE ENJOYED BY THE HOLDER OF THE TITLE OF BARONE DELLA MARSA
In terms of the general 1739 legislation it follows that in all of the grantees’ respective male-to-male descendants (“Il discendente per linea mascolina”) were made automatically entitled to a precedence. However, in fact one of the grantees had any issue.
The later general legislation of 1795 is of no relevance to the Barony of Marsa because by then all three grants were already extinct.
THE ROYAL COMMISSION APPOINTED TO ENQUIRE INTO THE CLAIMS OF THE MALTESE NOBILITY
After the Capitulation of the Order of Saint John the new French Rulers formally abolished all titles of nobility. A total of 3 general orders were made to this effect. The French in turn lost Malta in 1800 when the Commander in Chief Vaubois surrendered to His Britannic Majesty. On the 30 May 1814 (Treaty of Paris) it was stipulated that the island of Malta and its dependencies belong in full right and sovereignty to his Britannic majesty.
In time, the use of nobiliary titles was resumed. However, it appears that 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. Throughout this period, a group known as the Assembly of Maltese Nobles is known to have functioned at this time but it did not enjoy any official role.
In 1876, the British Secretary of State for the Colonies commissioned a report on those titles alleged to have been conferred to Maltese families before the annexation of Malta to the British Dominions, namely 1800. The Commissioners’ Report and Supplemental Report were published in 1878 together with relative correspondence.
To facilitate the preparation of the report, an “ad hoc” Committee of Nobles was requested to provide a list of claimants. In that list, Alessandro Testaferrata Sceberras Damico Inguanez is listed with the 1725 title of “Barone della Marsa”. This listing is in agreement with that published in 1870 by the Marchese Giorgio Crispo Barbaro in his “Maltese Nobility and the Maltese Gentry holding Foreign Titles”. However as seen above, the 1725 title had already become extinct.
The last creation dated 1775 was claimed by the Marchesa Maria Francesca Sceberras Bologna, widow of the Marchese Dr. Filipo Apap. This claim was not made through the committee of nobles but made directly to the Commissioners.
UNSUCCESSFUL CLAIM OF ALESSANDRO SCEBERRAS TO THE TITLE GRANTED IN 1725
In 1878, this title was claimed by Alessandro Sceberras who described himself as “Alessandro Testaferrata Sceberras Damico Inguanez”
Although this is not reported by the Commission, the only conceivable basis for Alessandro’s claim was the very liberal interpretation “his male or female children and successors as the holder of the title in perpetuum should appoint”.
The Commissioners decided that the claim of Alesandro Sceberras cannot be admitted because the 1725 was already extinguished by the death of Ferdinando Castelletti without issue.
The 1878 Report also describes how Alessandro Sceberras made an unsuccessful claim to the honours associated with the Fiefs of Djar il-Bniet et Bucana, but was successful in the title of Barone di Ciccianowhich had previously devolved to Fabrizio Testaferrata in 1695.
NO CLAIM TO TITLE GRANTED IN 1753
There is no record of any claim to the grant dated 1753. However, as seen above nobody could make a claim to this title because Giovanni Antonio Azzopardi Castelletti died without any descendants. This is in fact stated by the Commissioners’ Report.
UNSUCCESSFUL CLAIM OF MARIA APAP TO THE TITLE GRANTED IN 1775
In 1878, this title was claimed by the Marchesa Maria Francesca Sceberras Bologna, widow of the Marchese Dr. Filipo Apap.
Apap Bologna explained that as her own father Paolo Sceberras was the testamentary heir of the Barone Dorell Falzon, she was entitled to succeed the title.
The Commissioners denied her claim explaining that as the Barone did not have any children of his own, he did not, and could not, transmit to his testamentary heir, Paolo Sceberras, the title of “Barone della Marsa”. Consequently Paolo Sceberras never conveyed that title to his daughter Maria Apap.
Moreover, the Commissioners also explained that as Maria Apap was a female, she could never be comprised in the grant, even if she descended from the said Dorell, because the title could only be enjoyed by the male issue of Dorell. (In fact the grant provides for “tuisque descentibus masculis”)
Ruvigny lists these extinct titles, probably for the purpose of retaining for memory the reasons for dismissing the respective claims of Alessandro Sceberras and Maria Apap. In fact, the reasons prove that the implied terms of the grant cannot be widened to accommodate a claimant who is not within those terms, that one has to establish a relationship between the original grantee and the claimant, that the possession must be lawful in terms of the grant, and that where only males are contemplated by the grant, as in the 1775 grant, one cannot extend these terms to include females.
For the purposes of precedence amongst the Nobility in Malta, this title ranked according to antiquity of creation.
According to the 1878 Report, this title was considered before the title of Barone di Buleben granted by Grand Master Rohan to Gaetano Azzopardi on the 23 July 1777 and after the title of Conte della Catena granted by Grand Master Pinto to Pietro Gaetano Perdicomati Bologna on the 20 January 1745.
Since 1975, a general duty is imposed in the Republic of Malta not to recognize any title of nobility. (Act 29 of 1975 dated 17 October 1975).
For full Genealogy of the Barons of Marsa please see:
1. Grant of title of Barone della Marsa by Grand Master Vilhena to Ferdinando Castelletti on the 12 June 1725. (Recorded in the Archives of the Order, National Library, Malta Ref. AOM 529 ff. 140r-140v)
2. Grant of title of Barone della Marsa by Grand Master Pinto to Giovanni Antonio Azzopardi Castelletti on the 4 December 1753 (Recorded in the Archives of the Order, National Library, Malta Ref. AOM 557, ff. 175r-176v)
3. Grant of title of Barone della Marsa by Grand Master Rohan to Gio Francesco Dorell Falzon on the 10 March 1776 (Recorded in the Archives of the Order, National Library, Malta Ref. AOM 579, ff. 345r-346v)