Reassessing the reliability of older published works on the nobility of Malta.
Modern researchers tend to trust old lists as authoritative and work their way from that point onwards. One of the risks of doing so is that the original compiler may have made a mistake.
To question the reliability of Ruvigny’s extensive compilations of the European nobility is a daunting prospect but we can here limit ourselves to some points relating to matters Maltese.
Ruvigny makes much reference to the reports of the Royal Commission appointed to enquire into the claims of the Maltese Nobility and the later Committee.
On the other hand, there is evidence suggesting that that he took these reports at face value, and that he may have consulted other sources which were not complete.
As an example of the first kind, according to him the title of Baron of Tabria (Barone della Tabria) was conferred on Noble Isidoro Viani on the 11 December 1728 (G.M.Vilhena) noting that his son Giovanni 2nd Baron died s(sine) p(prole) (m) maschio and was succeeded by his daughter Anna 3rd Baroness who married Mario Testaferrata.
This is in effect a repetition verbatim of the Commissioners’ Report:
“This title is held by Giuseppe Testaferrata Viani, a lineal descendant of Isidoro Viani, first baron, as appears from documents exhibited by him. He does not however, uninterruptedly descend from a male line, for Barone Isidoro was succeeded in the title by Barone Gio Battista Viani, his son. Barone Gio Battista having left on his death no male issue the title was inherited by his daughter, Anna Viani, who married Mario Testaferrata, the claimant’s great grand father. It is for such reason that the real claimant’s family name is Testaferrata and not Viani.
However, www.maltagenealogy.com has shown that it was not Anna Viani Testaferrata who succeeded Gio Battista, but Giuseppe Testaferrata Viani who was the last person to have been invested in the title. A more authentic description of the succession is found in a report dated 9 December 1783 prepared by a commission appointed by Grand Master Rohan to assist him in determining some issues which arose after the death of Gio Batta Viani, 2nd Baron resulting in Giuseppe Testaferrata Viani being invested on the 22 October 1784.
The second objection to Ruvigny concerns the title of Baron of Castle Cicciano which he described as having been created by King Philip I of Naples in 1560 in favour of Francesco Mego. However in the Report, the conclusions of the Commissioners were reached on the basis that the title was first taken to exist in 1695.
There is no evidence anywhere in the Report that this title originated in 1560 as claimed by Ruvigny, albeit the Commissioners noted that the title of Castle Cicciano was in possession of Beatrice Cassia’s father at a time before 1695. Ruvigny fails to cite his source for this claim.
www.maltagenealogy.com has shown that it results from Abela’s 1647 description of Malta that there are doubts on the exact succession from the Mego and Scerri families onto that of Cassia.
Moreover, www.maltagenealogy.com has also shown other publications indicating the original creation of the title of Castel Cicciano as dating to 1528
Finally, Ruvigny’s commentary on the “Maltese Peerage” may even be accused of misrepresenting the conclusions of the Royal Commissioners. Here reference is made to the titles, both baronies created by G.M. Perellos in 1710 and 1716 of Gomerino and Budach in favour of the Testaferrata and Depiro families respectively. Although Ruvigny notes that these were recognized on the 30th April 1878, he does not divulge that at that time, both titles were regarded as being the subject of competing claims.
A further failing is that Ruvigny, who does not hestitate to express his reservations on other titles, e.g., does not mention that the title of Barone di Gomerino was invested on the 1st May 1737 thereby confirming the claim of the holder of a particular primogenitura.
Finally, it is surprising that Ruvigny maintained that “in some other cases the title can be disposed of by will within the family” when there is no evidence anywhere in the Report that private disposals can be made without the express sanction of the Sovereign. The rule in Malta is that titles are succeeded in order of primogeniture or are personal to the holder of a particular fief.
It is gratifying that Ruvigny’s commentary on other titles are largely in agreement with those of www.maltagenealogy.com particularly the title of
Conte di Mont’ Alto
Conte Wzzini Paleologo
The nature of the fiefs of Djar il-Bniet and Bucanaas well as the fiefs of Ghariescem and Tabia
The claims to the marchional titles of Cassar Desainand Testaferrata Olivier.
The relevance of the three grants, all extinct, of Baron of Marsa;
The claim to the title of Conte di Beberrua
The nature and succession of the title of Marquis Depiro.
Barone della Grua
Equally satisfying for our efforts is Ruvigny’s lack of conviction denoted with an obvious “?” for the claimed remainder in primogeniture in the case of the title of Marquis of St. George. which compares with his clear conviction that titles of Patrician and Hereditary Knighthoods are relevant even if the British Colonial Office decided not to recognize them.