Maltesenobles56

Title of Count della Catena

 

 

 HISTORY

The title “Conte delle Catene” or “delli Mori” is a title of Nobility in Malta. It was granted in 1745 by a Grandmaster of the Order of Saint John during its rule over the Maltese Islands. The remainder of this title is remarkable as it is not governed by the instrument which created the title but by the terms of a private entail founded earlier. Succession to this title is according to the general rule of Primogeniture but in this case the rule is varied as the title may only be held by males. This title is often referred to as “Conte della Catena”.

Since 1950, succession by entail was abolished in Malta by Act 12 of 1950 dated 5 May 1950. 

Since 1975, titles of nobility are no longer recognized in the Republic of Malta by Act 29 of 1975 dated 17 October 1975. 

ORIGIN AND NATURE OF TITLE

The title of ‘Conte delle Catene,’ or ‘ delli Mori,’ was conferred by Grand Master Pinto, by a patent of the 20th January 1745, upon Pietro Gaetano Perdicomati Bologna and his sons, as well as on his heirs and successors, whether relations or strangers. The terms of the patent are almost identical with those of the title of Conte della Bahria, and this dignity is annexed to the landed estate delle Catene or delli Mori. The following is an extract from the deed of grant:- "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 Tenutae delle Catene hodie vero delli Mori appellati, positi in hac Nostra Insula a te et antecesoribus possessi jure pleni dominii et proprietatis, nec non Primogenitura masculinae ordinatae per bon mem canonicum Don Alessandro Perdicomati Bologna.....in feudum nobilem sub titulo comitis erigimus atque extollimus.".

No land was attached to this title of nobility. However, this title is attached to an entail, known as the “Bologna entail”. The possession of the entail gives rise to the right to succeed the title of Conte della Catena. 

Some publications show a number of ladies as having succeeded this title as “Countesses of Catena”. These ladies are neither counted nor included here because the entail to which the grant is subject does not comprehend any remainder in favour of females. If any lady held the entail, this would seem to have been held under some family arrangement and not under the terms of the entail which is stated to be a “Primogenitura masculinae”. As seen in “Barone della Grua” it is a settled point of jurisprudence that the appellation of male descendants includes not only the sons issuing from the male line (masculi ex masculis), but also those issuing from the female line (masculi ex foeminis). However, as seen in “Barone della Marsa” that where only males are contemplated by the grant one cannot extend these terms to include females.

PRECEDENCE ENJOYED BY THE HOLDER OF THE TITLE OF CONTE DELLA CATENA

Before the above creation, the then Grand Master Depuig had introduced in 1739 the concept of according a form of precedence to a holder of a title of nobility. The relative law is reproduced hereunder:- 

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 Isola di 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 realmenteesistente nel nostro Dominio, 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 intermedie vissero 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 proprierendite, e se i suoi ascendenti intermedie 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’ dellaquale 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’anzianitad’ufficio. Dat. In Palatio, die xvi. Septembris 1739 (f. Despuig) 

On the basis of this enactment it follows that in 1745 all of Pietro Gaetano Perdicomati Bologna’s male-to-male descendants (“Il discendente per linea mascolina”) were made automatically entitled to a precedence. 

The latter enactment was amended in 1795 by the same Grand Master Rohan as follows:

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 maggiore antichita’, 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 titolo sara’ 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 del Nostro 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

In view of the latter enactment the Conte della Catena and his male-to-male descendants were to rank before the holder of any title created after 1745 and respective descendants. Conversely, the Conte della Catena ranks after the older creations (mostly barons) and the holders of noble fiefs. The same position holds in regard to the respective male-to-male descendants.

Grand Master Rohan is also credited with codifying various laws in Malta. Amongst these, we find in the Code enacted in 1783 which states that the determining criteria of primogeniture in Malta operate in the following order:- Line (the first line excluding all the others), Degree (the closer degree of relationship excluding the remoter) Sex (the male sex being preferred to the female), and Age (the elder being preferred to the younger). 

SPECIAL RULES OF SUCCESSION OF THE “BOLOGNA ENTAIL” 

The “Bologna Entail” differed from the general rules of Maltese primogeniture. It is described in the 1745 grant as a “Primogenitura masculinae”.

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. (General Napoleon 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 abbatues dans 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.” 

Another Order was 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 French in turn lost Malta in 1800 to a contingent raised by Captain Ball and Admiral Nelson. Malta later became a British Protectorate after the Treaty of Paris of 1814.  

In time, the use of nobiliary titles was resumed. However, it appears that this use was unregulated. 

Eventually, the British Secretary of State for the Colonies commissioned a report in 1876, 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.

COMPETING CLAIMS OF GERALD STRICKLAND AND FELICISSIMO APAP TO THE “BOLOGNA ENTAIL” 

In 1878, the “Bologna Entail” and therefore the title of Conte della Catena was claimed by Gerald Strickland and the Marchese Felicissimo Apap. As the matter was already the subject of court litigation, the Royal Commissioners opted not to make a separate decision.

Although the 1745 grant refers to the “Primogenitura masculinae ordinatae per bon mem canonicum Don Alessandro Perdicomati Bologna”, the entail which was in fact discussed by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Judicial_Committee_of_the_Privy_Council  was an entail founded by Canon Gio Francesco Mangion’s will dated 10 June 1737 which had come to the possession of Pietro Gaetano Perdicomati Bologna by the 3 November 1739. It is here understood that the Primogenitura masculinae described in the 1745 Grant and the 1737 Will refer to the same entail.

The Bologna Entail differs from a strictly regular primogenitura by preferring (i) sex to line and degree, and (ii) by giving powers of nomination. In 1875, the Conte Nicola Sceberras died without issue and without having made a nomination to succeed him in the entail (and therefore the title). The succession became the subject of court litigation, the question being whether Gerald Strickland http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gerald_Strickland%2C_1st_Baron_Strickland (later Lord Strickland http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baron_Strickland ) born in 1861 son of Nicola Sceberras’s eldest sister was to be preferred to the Marchese Felicissimo Apap born in 1834 son of Nicola Sceberras’s younger sister. Apap’s position relied on being nearer in Degree, Strickland’s relied on being in the nearer Line.

FINAL OUTCOME OF THE COURT LITIGATION IN FAVOUR OF GERALD STRICKLAND

The final judgment was given by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Judicial_Committee_of_the_Privy_Council  in favour of Gerald Strickland. 

The judges held that in regard to the Bologna Entail, the general rule of Primogeniture must be modified in its application only so far as so far as such preference and such powers render necessary. It therefore held that the principle that line is to be preferred to degree and age. The judges explained that the whole character of the entail could not be destroyed by the special preference and power to nominate, thereby meaning that the limit of line must be taken to apply to devolution in the absence of nomination.

CONTROVERSIES

Some publications show Gerald Strickland http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gerald_Strickland%2C_1st_Baron_Strickland as having succeeded his mother (i.e. a female) in this entail and title. However, this view does not find any basis in the entail to which the title is subjected.

In fact even the 1745 grant describes the entail as a Primogenitura masculinae. Any contention that Strickland’s mother ever succeeded this entail is done away with by the fact that the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Judicial_Committee_of_the_Privy_Council confirmed that Strickland succeeded his uncle Nicola Bologna. 

In addition, the same Commissioners had already pointed out in their findings on the 1775 creation of “Barone della Marsa” that where only males are contemplated by the grant one cannot extend these terms to include females. 

OTHER ENTITLEMENTS

For the purposes of precedence amongst the Nobility in Malta, this title ranks according to antiquity of creation. According to the 1878 Report, this title was considered before the title of Barone della Marsa granted by Grand Master Rohan to Gio Francesco Dorell Falzon on the 10 March 1775 and after the title of Conte della Bahria granted by the Grand Master Pinto to Ignazio Muscati Falsone Navarra on the 16 May 1743.

As from the year 1886, the holder of this title of Nobility became entitled to be styled “The Most Noble”. 

The presumed successor of this title is by custom entitled to be styled Contino della Catena. (See: Value of the Maltese usage of “MarchesinoContino and Baroncino” 

Other descendants of the various holders of this title are by custom entitled to be styled dei Conti della Catena. (See Value of the Maltese usage of “dei Marchesi, dei Conti and dei Baroni” 

PRESENT DAY

Since 1950, succession by entail was abolished in Malta by Act 12 of 1950 dated 5 May 1950.

Since 1975, titles of nobility are no longer recognized in the Republic of Malta by Act 29 of 1975 dated 17 October 1975. 

GENEALOGY

The genealogy of the Counts della Catena is as follows: 

Original creation (1745)

·         Pietro Gaetano Perdicomati Bologna, 1st Conte della Catena

·         Nicola Perdicomati Bologna, (Pietro Gaetano’s son), 2nd Conte della Catena

·         Nicola Sceberras Bologna (Nicola Perdicomati’s daughter’s son), 3rd Conte della Catena

·         Gerald Strickland http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gerald_Strickland%2C_1st_Baron_Strickland , (Nicola Sceberras Bologna’s eldest sister’s son), 4th Conte della Catena (died 1940)

·         Thomas Henry Hornyold Strickland (Gerald Strickland’s eldest daughter’s son), 5th Conte della Catena (died 1983)

Succession after abolition of entail (1950)

·         Henry Charles Hornyold Strickland (Thomas Hornold’s eldest son), 6th Conte della Catena

For full Genealogy of the Counts of Catena please see http://www.maltagenealogy.com/libro%20d'Oro/catena.html

REFERENCES

 PRIMARY REFERENCES (GRANT/S):

1.           Grant of title of Conte delle Catene hodie vero delli Mori appellati granted by Grand Master Pinto, to Pietro Gaetano Perdicomati Bologna on the 20 January 1745. (Recorded in the Archives of the Order, National Library, Malta Ref. AOM 549, ff. 174r-174v)

2.           “Primogenitura masculinae ordinatae per bon mem canonicum Don Alessandro Perdicomati Bologna”

3.           entail founded by Canon Gio Francesco Mangion’s will dated 10 June 1737

4.           Deed concerning the 1737 entail attended by Pietro Gaetano Perdicomati Bologna on the 3 November 1739

 

SECONDARY REFERENCES (HISTORY):

(1)         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.): 

(2)         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, AUGUST 1883, PRESENTED TO BOTH HOUSES OF PARLIAMENT BY COMMAND OF HER MAJESTY (C-3812) 

(3)         Copies or Extracts of Correspondence with reference to the Maltese Nobility (In continuation of C3812, August 1883), presented to both Houses of Parliament by Command of Her Majesty May 1886 (C-4628a) 

(4)         John Montalto, “The Nobles of Malta 1530-1800” (Midsea Books, Malta, 1980)

(5)         Judgment of the Lords of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Judicial_Committee_of_the_Privy_Council on the appeal of Strickland v. Apap, from the Court of Appeal of the Islands of Malta, delivered 10th February 1883.

 

TERTIARY REFERENCES (PUBLISHED GENEALOGY):

 

(1)         Crispo Barbaro "THE NOBLES OF MALTA, AND THE MALTESE GENTRY HOLDING FOREIGN TITLES AS AT PRESENT EXISTING BY GEO. G.C.’A. CRISPO BARBARO MARQUIS OF ST. GEORGE” MALTA:- A.D. MDCCCLXX (THE ANGLO-MALTESE PRESS, MALTA, 1870)" 

(2)         Charles Gauci "THE GENEALOGY AND HERALDRY OF THE NOBLE FAMILIES OF MALTA" (GULF PUBLISHING, MALTA, 1981)"

(3)         Charles Gauci A GUIDE TO THE MALTESE NOBILITY" (PEG PUBLICATIONS, MALTA, 1986)

(4)         Charles Gauci "THE GENEALOGY AND HERALDRY OF THE NOBLE FAMILIES OF MALTA VOLUME TWO " (PEG PUBLICATIONS, MALTA, 1992)

(5)         Charles Gauci "THE GENEALOGY AND HERALDRY OF THE NOBLE FAMILIES OF MALTA VOLUME ONE " (PEG PUBLICATIONS, MALTA, 2002)