The Counts Manduca (1776)
(Picture) Sir Vincenzo Manduca Piscopo Macedonia KCMG, Conte di Mont’ Alto in the Duchy of Parma (and Piacenza) (he succeeded his father Salvatore Manduca as 2nd holder of the 1720 title which was revived in 1776)
On the 19 September 1724, Francis I (Farnese), Duke of Parma (and Piacenza), invested Felice Manduca Piscopo in the title of Conte di Mont’ Alto and fief of the same name which were originally granted to his maternal uncle, Bernardo Piscopo, by the same Duke on the 8 July 1720 after the childless Bernardo applied for an extension of the title to the family of the person whom Bernardo nominated to be his heir. In fact Felice was nominated as Bernardo’s heir and in whose favour Bernardo erected a Primogenitura in 1725.
However, many publications omit to mention that this title became extinct in 1775 and also that it was only revived in 1776.
As the title was of foreign origin it could not enjoy any precedence in Malta unless it was registered in accordance with the 1739 rules enacted by Grand Master Despuig as later amended in 1795 by Grand Master Rohan. In fact on the 2 September 1721, Bernardo Piscopo had this title registered in Malta. The 1724 extension was likewise registered on the 14 July 1744. There was no legal requirement to register a foreign title in 1721 or 1724; However by 1744, this had become mandatory.
A question of succession arose after the line of Felice became extinguished in 1775.
The line of Felice, who left no male issue, was determined by the death of his two daughters, the Contessa Maria (-Anna)Manduca wife of the Barone Pietro Paolo Testaferrata and of the Contessa Felicita Manduca, wife of the Barone Ignazio Bonnici, both of whom had no offspring. Some published genealogical tables mention a third daughter (Anna) but the 1878 Report says that the Conte Felice had two daughters.
Writing in 1870, the Marchese Barbaro attributes this title - classified as a foreign title - to Monsignor Salvatore Manduca Piscopo Macedonia, but gives no indication as to how the title which originated in 1720 in favour of Bernardo Piscopo, ended up in a collateral's hands.
A Royal Commission appointed to enquire into the claims of the Maltese Nobility held in 1878 that the title of Conte di Mont’ Alto was determined (i.e. extinct) on the 14th May 1775, by the death of the Conte Felice Manduca.
However, Monsignor Salvatore Manduca Piscopo Macedonia asserted that the said grant was on the 28th December 1776, renewed in favour of Felice’s brother Salvatore Manduca, grand father of the monsignor. Although the Monsignor exhibited a number of documents proving his claim, it appears that none of these exhibits were authenticated. In the Report there is no reference to any registration or independent “recognition” of the 1776 title.
The same Commission remarked that in 1776, the Primogenitura erected by Bernardo was possessed by the Contessa Anna Manduca, eldest daughter of the said Conte Felice. According to the Commission, it follows that Salvatore in requesting the renewal of title in favour of himself and his male descendants, acknowledged that the original grant of 1720 had been extinguished by the death of Felice, and that the rules laid down for the devolution of the Primogenitura were not applicable to the succession of the original title.
The Commission does not say what became of the fief but it follows that if Anna was holding Felice’s property, then Salvatore had no claim to the fief of Mont’ Alto.
Meanwhile in Malta in the year 1797-1798, when Salvatore Manduca was appointed jurat for Notabile during the Government of the Order of Saint John, he was styled as “Conte”.
Because the Commission did not think it advisable to delay further the presentation of its Report, it was understood that the claimant was by no means precluded from producing, at any future time, further evidence of the existence and recognition of this title, in which case his claim, must in the opinion of the Commissioners, be reconsidered.
Whilst nothing is known of what became of the fief of Mont’ Alto, it appears that Monsignor Manduca managed to substantiate his claim to the title sometime between 1878 and 1883 because we find in 1883 the same Monsignor Salvatore sitting on a newly constituted Committee where he acts as one of the five titolati appointed to form a Committee designed to review certain findings of the Royal Commission. In 1883 and thereafter the Monsignor is referred to as the Conte di Mont’ Alto. The Monsignor and his successors in this title also enjoyed all the prerogatives granted totitolati first introduced in 1886 .
There are therefore two titles of Conte di Mont’ Alto, one granted in 1720 which became extinct in 1775, the other which came to light in 1776. The latter title should be referred to as the “Counts Manduca” because it is apparent that the fief of Mont’ Alto was not in possession of the Manduca family.
Whatever their appellation, both titles should be regarded as titles which did not originate in Malta and they were both classified as such in the aforesaid Report published in 1878. The title of Conte di Mont’ Alto a.k.a. Conte Manduca is therefore a foreign title.
The Manduca family, is one of the few noble Maltese families which are listed in Abela’s publication of 1647, in which Abela dedicates one full page. That is to say this family was notable long before most of other Maltese families first received any patents or “recognitions” of nobility. According to Abela, this family claimed that two brothers Manduca were enslaved by corsairs in the garden of their estate known as “Wied Ballut”, the surviving brother who escaped remained in possession of the family estate.
Antonio Manduca was made a knight (Cavaliere) by Emperor Charles V in Messina in 1535 year of Antonio’s appointment as Ambasciatore. A Girolamo Manduca to whom Abela dedicates a paragraph in Book Four, Part IV, is described as a 16th century Jesuit renowned for his erudition and literary works.
Surprisingly, unlike some of the families already established by 1647, none of the Manduca family are noted as recipients of the titles of “Illustrissimo” and “Nobile” which were first regulated in 1725.
In addition, a marriage between one of Salvatore Manduca’s descendants and Angiolina Azzopardi brought into the Manduca family the honorific title of Barone di Buleben originally granted by Grand Master Rohan to Gaetano Azzopardi ad vitam on the 23rd July 1777 but later extended annexed to a another Primogenitura