Three Cassar de Sayn/Cassar Desain families


There were in Malta three different origins of the surname ‘Cassar Desain’ or ‘Cassar de Sayn’. Two of these families have been extinct for a very long time. Each family was related to the other but the respective origins are different. 


The first combination of the surnames ‘Cassar’ and ‘de Sayn’ occurred in 1682 with the marriage between Salvatore Cassar and Diudonne Margherite Stafrach de Sayn. She was the daughter of Giovanni Stafrach and Madeline de Sayn. The correct combination should read ‘Cassar Stafrach-Desain’.


The second origin is not a combination of parental surnames but a radical change of identity. This appears to have occurred well before the year 1813 when a member of the Testaferrata Olivier family gave up his surname for that of Cassar Desain.


The third origin is similar to the second. In 1848 a member of the Testaferrata Viani family gave up his surname for that of Cassar Desain.


The two members of the Testaferrata family who changed their surname for Cassar Desain became eligible to possess the entail instituted by Gio. Battista Cassar Desain in his testament received in the acts of Notary Paolo Vittorio Giammalva, on the 7th April 1781. 


There was in Malta a title of nobility which classified as “Marquis Cassar Desain”. A report dated 1878 clarified that family of Cassar Desain was “not in possession of, nor has it ever asserted any claim to, any title of nobility”. At the time the possessor of the Cassar Desain entail was Lorenzo Cassar Desain, Secretary of the Assembly of the Maltese Nobility. His claim to the title of ‘Marquis’ by reason of descent from the Testaferratas was denied by the Commission of 1878. However in 1883, a separate committee upheld his claim establishing the year 1749 as the date of creation/recognition of the title. 


The terms of the entail established in 1781 require that no other family name is added thereto. A question arose in the 20th century and was decided by the Privy Council.


The 1781 document appears to require the possessor of the entail to bear the armorial ensigns of the said family Cassar Desain. There appears to be no penalty if the ensigns are added to those of another family. According to Gauci (1986, page 26) the relative blazon shows elements taken from the families Cassar, Desain and Testaferrata only; there is no record of the connection through the Stafrach or Testaferrata-Oliver families.