Marchese di Gnien is-Sultan, 1792.

Last Update: 16-04-2023.

Granted to: Dr Filippo Apap, JUD.

By: Emanuel de Rohan Polduc, Grand Master of Malta.

On: 1792 at Valletta.

British Crown recognition: 1878.

With Remainder to: “Praedictum Marchionis Pheudi Gnien Is-Sultan titulum… Tibi Magnifico Philippo Apap, tuisque descendentibus masculis legitimis et naturalibus ipsisque deficientibus, foemina majori natu,tribuimus, concedimus et donamus, ac te Marchionis hujusmodi titulo decoramus”

List of Title holders: 

1. Dr Filippo Apap,  JUD, (d. 1812), 1st Marchese, succeeded by his son.

2. Marchese Gio Antonio Apap, CMG, (d. 1845), 2nd Marchese, succeeded by his son.

3. Marchese Dr Filippo Apap LLD, (d. 1873), 3rd Marchese, succeeded by his son.

4. Marchese Felisissimo Apap Bologna, (d. 1894), 4th Marchese, succeeded by his son.

5. Marchese Paolo Nicola Apap Bologna, (d. 1955), 5th Marchese, succeeded by his grand-son.

6. Marchese John Anthony Apap Bologna, (d.1994), 6th Marchese, succeeded by his son.

7. Marchese Captain Philip Apap Bologna, (1962-, 7th Marchese.

HeirMarchese Dr Richard Apap Bologna MD, (1991-, Marchesino di Gnien is-Sultan.

Articles relating to this title:

1. Who is the rightful Marchese di Gnien is-Sultan?;

2. The Maltese title of Gnien is-Sultan;

The Maltese title of Gnien is-Sultan.

Footnote: The title of “Marchese di Gnien Is-Sultan” was by a patent, dated the 1st December 1792, conferred by Grand Master de Rohan upon the nobleman FilippoApap. This title is purely nominal and does not have any property attached to it. In their general observations, the Royal Commissioners observed that most of the titles granted by the Grandmasters were merely honorary and had no relevance on property tenure “although it appears that those titles (granted by the Grand Masters) 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.” The Commissioners also identified the only three exceptions to this purely nominal phenomenon, where tenure of property was a prerequisite namely Bahria, delle Catene, and Senia, the last being a divisible property. See:- “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.) (See Report Paras. 82).

Published sources show the title of “Marchese di ta Gnien Is-Sultan” as being inheritable by order of Primogeniture. However, the grant says otherwise.  (See:-“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.) (See Report Paras. 74-75).

The actual report says the following:

“The title of Marchese of the feud ‘ta Gnien Is-Sultan’ was by a patent, dated the 1st December 1792, conferred by Grand Master de Rohan upon the nobleman Filippo Apap with succession to his male issue, and in the failure of male issue to the first-born female descendant. The operative clause of the grant runs thus: Praedictum Marchionis PheudiGnien Is-Sultan titulu . ‘.Tibi Magnigico Philippo Apap, tuisque descendentibus masculislegitimis et naturalibus ipsisque deficientibus, foemina majori natu, tribuimus, concedimus etdonamus, ac te Marchionis hujusmodi titulo decoramus’

This title was always looked upon as descendible only to the first-born male in the primogenial line of the original grantee.

The gentleman who claims the title, Felicissimo Apap, is the great grandson of the person first ennobled, as appears from the documents he has produced before the Commission..”

Consequently he will be referred to in our list as “Felicissimo Apap Marchese di Gnien Is-Sultan”

The clear terms of the grant tuisque descendentibus masculis legitimis et naturalibusipsisque deficientibus, foemina majori natu, clearly show that the title is to be inherited by all agnatial descendants of the grantee. Moreover, the grant provides that a female (defined as the eldest female born) is only called into the remainder upon the extinction of all agnatial descent from the grantee. 

It is also worthwhile noting that the argument that such title has always been considered as descendible only in the primogenial line of the original grantee cannot hold. because:

1.        the terms of this grant are wider, albeit not the widest, than those grants and extensions made by the same Grand Master. For example the title of GhainKajet (4.06.1796) reads tuisque descendentibus primogenitis legitimis et naturalibus tribuimus concedimus, et donamus, the grant of Senia (6.6.1795) reads, tuosque utriusque sexus filios et descendentes,, that of Grua (30.12.1794)Tibi tuisque filiis et descendentibus masculis de primogenito in primogenitumtribuimus et concedimus et te hujusmodi Baronis titulo decoramus, whilst the extension to Fiddien (17.06.1793)  reads “Fiat pro primogenitis maribus tantum.”. The grant  in question is surely different to the personal grants of San Giorgio (6.9.1778) and Buleben ( 3.7.1777), 

2.        Moreover, whilst the Commissioners remarked in regard to title of a foreign origin that they “cannot, in fact, suppose that the Grand Masters were disposed to recognize, without any investigation, and as a matter independent of their own sovereign assent and approbation, as Titolati in their dominion, any persons indiscriminately who should have obtained a title of nobility from ay foreign Sovereign”, 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.) (See Report Para. 102), it is reasonable to assert that the Grand Master knew full well that different remainders bring along different implications. 

3.        The grant is strictly agnatial to be enjoyed simultaneously by all the male descendants and does not allow transmission to females unless the male descendants in the male line have become extinct.

4.        Moreover, it is manifest that the 1792 grant does not include any references to remainder by primogenial descent.

Thus the remainder must be construed as favouring all agnatial descendants of FilippoApap. It cannot favour any female descendant until the happening of the extinction of all males.

Who is the rightful Marchese di Gnien is-Sultan? .

Who is the rightful Marchese di Gnien is-Sultan? The title of Marchese di Gnien is-Sultan was granted by Grand Master Rohan, by patent, to Filippo Apap on the 1 December 1792 with remainder to all his male descendants in perpetuity: Reference Apap. Nobe Filippo ottenne dal Gr. Mro titolo di Marchese del Feudo denominato Ginien Issultan posto in Malta, per se e suoi discendenti Maschi in perpetuo, ed in deficienza de Maschi entra la Femmina Maggiore Nata; sotto la ricognizione annuale d’uno Schioppo di buona qualita’, da presentare all’ Emo Gr. Mro pro tempore nel giorno di San Martino Papa pma Xbre 1792. f. Vedi il Memoriale fatto dal medmo per ottenere il do titolo dto di’ ed anno. F. Reference A.O.M. 613, ff. 188r

Filippo was invested in that title on the 19 December 1792.  

Il Nobe Filippo Apap ha fatto in mano del Gr. Mro, come Marchese del Feudo Ginien Issultan, il solito giuramento ed ha preso l’investitura del medmo Titolo di Marchese. Vedi nella precedte pagina N.7. la Collazione 19 Xbre 1792, f. Reference A.O.M. 613, ff. 188r

There is nothing in the text of the 1792 grant of Marchese di Gnien is-Sultan to support the observation made by the Royal Commission in its report published in 1878 that the title was “was always looked upon as descendible only to the first-born male in the primogenial line of the original grantee.”

This means all of Filippo’s male descendants may freely use the title of Marchese di Gnien is-Sultan, but this generous remainder does not extend to persons descended in a female line because they are excluded. In fact the grant contemplates the eventuality that if all male descendants were to die out, then the title would be succeeded by the “Femmina Maggiore nata”. 

Although the Apap family was only first ennobled as late as 1792 by Grand Master Rohan, it was immediately regarded as part of the “principal nobility” of Malta as results from the 1810 declaration whereby the Maltese people complained their ancient sacred Rights, had been violated twice, once by the Grand Masters of the order of St. John, and again after the same Maltese entrusted their islands to the British King’s officers.

In time the male descendants appended the surnames of their maternal ancestors to distinguish themselves from each other: this led to different surnames like Apap Ducoss, Apap Pace and Apap Testaferrata. In 1829, one of the male descendants married the daughter of Baron Paolo Sceberras Testaferrata and Maria Angelica Perdicomati Bologna. Hence his descendants combined the surname to become “Apap Bologna”, the eldest of whom laid a claim to the primogenitura Bologna to which was attached the title of Conte della Catena created in 1745. 

The Royal Commission noted Felicissimo Apap Pace Bologna was also claiming the even older title of Roman Patrician which was created in 1590 in favour of the Abela, di Ferro, Surdo and Testaferrata families, but the Commission did not consider this claim favourably. 


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