Bottari’s attempt to identify the murderer of Gio Maria Cassia, last of the barons Cassia
In some historical novels, the accuracy of the historical elements has been questioned. When M.A. Bottari wrote his Romanzo storico (historical novel) in 1857 he must have been aware of this risk because he made a conscientious effort to add some notes at the end of his 19th century novel. His clear purpose was to ensure his own deliberate anachronisms would not exculpate who he suspected was a murderer.
The novel is called "Giammaria ovvero L'ultimo dei baroni Cassia" (Translation: Giammaria or The last of the barons Cassia).
Giammaria is the name of the very rich boy-heir who disappeared. Cassia represented by Giammaria’s father Pietro, is the name of one of the principal families of Malta.
By year 1647 this family already possessed the territory of Uied Dueli and the garden Gineyna del Migiarro, the orto di S. Antonio tal Ghimeri, the fief of Gharyexem et Tabia as well as the barony with mixed civil and criminal jurisdiction of Castel Cicciano in Naples.
Bottari’s novel is dedicated to Sig. Augusto dei baroni Testaferrata Abela (see picture) a descendant of Pietro Cassia through his younger daughter Beatrice wife of the Roman patrician Paolo Testaferrata.
The damning notes are found at the end of the book. Here we find Bottari’s absolute belief Giammaria Cassia, brother of the yet-unmarried Beatrice, did not just disappear but was in fact murdered, probably by a close relative.
Bottari identifies the 18 October 1667 as the date of Giammaria’s disappearance. He also proves that in June of that year Giammaria got engaged to Faustina Falzon. Bottari argues that only one person could have had enough motive to prevent Giammaria inheriting the riches of the Baron Pietro Cassia.
The author finds the evidence so conclusive he even goes as far as accusing the historian Ciantar of having deliberately covered up this atrocious crime by deliberately ignoring the existence of Giammaria for fear of offending the descendants of the main suspect, those who in Bottari’s brazen words “were enjoying the fruits of the murder”.
Suspicion weighs heavily on Pietro Paolo Xara husband of Giammaria's other sister Domenica or even Domenica herself.
Some 4 years after Giammaria’s disappearance, his fiancée Faustina found solace in another man, Didico (or Diego) Cassar. Bottari implies there were no descendants of Giammaria who could have inconvenienced the Xara’s dastardly plan.
The following is a translation. The original text is reproduced in the picture below.
“Tradition gives us differing versions about Giammaria Cassia. Some simply say that one day he was seen riding towards the marina and that he we never seen again. Others maintain that wanting to get married to a girl, he was one day involved in a heated discussion with his father, the baron Pietro, who wanting to have his son marry another threatened to prohibit his son from marrying the one he chose. The obstinacy of the son and the imposing pride of the other poisoned their souls so much that Pietro, going beyond every limit, blinded by anger, kicked his son with such terrible force in the nether region that the son died. Another version says that Giammaria was burnt alive in an oven or otherwise killed by a close relative who hoped to inherit the greater part of the riches of Pietro Cassia because he would not have had any male heirs.
Although at first sight these three versions may appear discrepant, they are in depth one and the same. Tradition is oral history; it is only inferior by reason of not being recorded in symbols or writing and by being so it is subject to confusion and change. It is therefore up to the critic to separate the truth from the falsehood, purging the facts from all thar ignorance or malice has imposed on it.
Regarding the first version which explains the disappearance of Cassia need not even be discussed because it does not contradict in any way the other two versions. It could well be that the last time someone may have seen him was when he was riding to the marina before not knowing any more about him. The other two versions give two different facts, which however should have some connection, because otherwise they would not have been confused in such a way both come to the same end, that is the death of Giammaria. This end being imputed to two distinct and necessarily different persons, brings about a real difference; hence the necessity to research who was really guilty of having killed Giammaria.
In truth the human heart runs away from the idea that a father could for a reason not so frivolous take the life of his own son. On the other hand there are many examples of similar inhumanity which by themselves will not be enough to exculpate Pietro Cassia of the accusation of parricide, had indisputable documents not victoriously come to his defence.
It was Pietro Cassia who was the first to file a formal report to the courts about his son’s disappearance and the government imposed severe penalties on any person who withheld facts known to him. This results from a Bando (Public Notice) which judging by its year must belong to the time of Grand Master Cottoner, which says:-
Having arrived the news to HSH Ruler by particular and private information as well as by the news given to the Great Court of the Castellany by the Baron Pietro Cassia of the disappearance of Gio Maria Cassia his son, which occurred since the 18 October last and has not been seen since in this dominion and nor having certainty of his whereabouts, and having the duty for many worthy respects of finding out the said Gio Maria may be.
Therefore HSH by this present Bando orders and commands every person of any grade, sex and condition who may have had in the past or in the present have any news and knowledge, or has been informed of the whereabouts of the said Gio Maria, whether he is alive or dead, or whether he has left from this dominion must absolutely give such information to the Great Court of the Castellany within the period od three days counting from the day this present Bando is published, failing which he will be punished without remission by having to pay the fine of one thousand onze of general weight payable unto the fiscal officer of HSH in the case of a person who is civil and has the means to pay such fine, and in the case of an ordinary person or whoever does not have the means to pay condemned to row the oars of the galleys for ten years without any pay. Also promising to the informant the seal of secrecy, and a reward of one hundred piastres even if he is a slave or female slave. But if the relevant slave or female slave belongs to principal who is guilty of the above or fails to give information, or is an accomplice, instead of the said reward he or she will be given his liberty and moreover is promised immunity from being tried as an accomplice in the case such slave shall have made such revelations and solved the case, save however if they were the principal delinquents.
Die V Novembris 1667 publicat”
This document is quite important – because in addition to attesting the ineluctability the disappearance of Giammaria Cassia, it establishes the year month and day – see page 109 of manuscript 149 existing in the public library of Valletta; which volume is a collection of bandi published by the gerusalimitan government of this island.
I owe knowledge of this document to the great courtesy of Doctor Giovanni Antonio Vassallo, whose friendship I am not sure is a reward or an honour, who did not spare any time to make effort to help me in my very boring research of documents which might in some way concern the last boy of the house of Cassia.
I understand this last document does not completely purge the Baron Pietro from the accusation of parricide; he could have resorted to using an astute plan which is not new by requesting the help of the government to find the son precisely to distance himself from any suspicion. However this doubt is soon dismissed by another solemn document which is in fact the testament of the said Baron Pietro. In this act after the initial formulas used by law:
“And because said Signor Pietro, testator doubts or in not certain if the Noble Signor Publio Maria sive Gio Maria Cassia his son is alive, or dead, or is even sure where he is, therefore and for better caution and for purposes of validity and corroboration of this present will of his, hereby constitutes creates makes and orders as particular heir the aforesaid Noble Sig. Publio Maria sive Gio Maria Cassia his legitimate son born and procreated by the testator and by his aforesaid wife Signora Donna Eugenia (however in the case said Sig. Pubblio Maria is alive) in all the chattels and fiefs of Gariexem and Tabia with their title etc etc”
And this doubt on the true fate of Giammaria is repeated continuously at every period, in such a way that it reveals the bitterness that poisoned the heart of that poor father. Had Pietro’s hands been covered with the blood of his son, why would he have nominated him in the testament? Would he have dug up a fact that renders him infamous after so much time had already passed enough to weaken any remembrance?
The testament is found in the acts of the Notary Benedetto Vassallo under the date of 30 August 1686; Pietro died on the 7 September of the same year, as is shown by the death certificate which I had extracted from the registers of the parish of Saint Mary of the Safe Harbour. Pietro therefore made his will seven days before dying. Who dies does not lie. When one is just about to appear before God one does not increase one’s sins with new lies, with impudent hypocrisies. The testament made at one’s death bed is the truth, like the word of the person dying murmurs in the ear of the confessor.
Having exculpated the father from Giammaria’s murder, one can have no doubt about the other tradition which attributes the death to the greed of a close relative. Therefore one must see what are the proofs that substantiate this part of the tradition, even if such proof is not as clear as the bando of Cottoner and the testament of Cassia, on the mystery that swallowed the unfortunate fate of Giammaria; and therefore one must research who was the person who really extinguished his life even though his name may have escaped the investigator of the story.
Vincenza Matilde dei conti Perdicomati Bologna wife of Paolo Testaferrata, to whom Paolo Testaferrata husband of Beatrice Cassia was grandfather, was widowed and mother of a posthumous child, grandfather of the present Testaferrata Abelas, made the effort to send to Rome this her only son as soon as he was adolescent, for fear that like Giammaria he would fall victim to the greed of some relative. She certainly would have learnt this from her husband, who naturally would have learnt from his father and he must have heard many times over from the mouth of Paolo about the case of Giammaria. And I think I do not risk much by saying that Testaferrata being husband of Beatrice would have learnt so much about his brother in law’s fate he would have been certain. In any case this shows how much the death of Cassia was on people’s minds.
The (historian) Ciantar when updating the genealogy of the family Cassia as published by Abela, makes additions to the entry of Baron Pietro by adding the daughters, the husbands and the children begotten by them. However he keeps the most rigorous silence about Giammaria. Is it possible that Ciantar known to be such a detailed and precise collector of memories, ignored the existence of Giammaria? Could anyone writing ignore this so close to the time when the unhappy youth had disappeared, when maybe they were still talking about it? Is Ciantar’s silence therefore not voluntary? How would one recall the sons of the daughters of Cassia without making the slightest mention in passing of the last male child of that family? Could he have let himself fall into the superfluous and left out what was indispensable to give an exact genealogical record? By remaining quiet about the name and existence of Giammaria does this not show evidently that he was abstaining so as to not offend someone, to the heirs that were enjoying the fruits of the murder? Ciantar being unable to mention Giammaria without saying some words which would have been opprobrious to a rich and reputable family, avoided the issue by not mentioning any word almost as if the boy never existed. His silence even for the most skeptical of critics cannot have had much weight.
Who murdered Giammaria Cassia? The tradition says: by a close relative, to whom the life of the boy was an impediment from accessing with great probability the riches of the house of Cassia. Who could this be?
Most of Pietro’s possessions were free of fidecommissary ties and in fact at the time when his son wanted to get married, Pietro had a wish to establish a primogeniture. With Giammaria dead, the baron Pietro would have most probably left all his unfettered chattels to the daughter who had children of her own. At the time of Giammaria’s disappearance, all of his sisters were either nuns or unmarried with the exception of Domenica who was married to Stanislao (Xara); therefore it was she who could have had hopes to inherit – as she in fact inherited – for her own children the chattels of Cassia, because she of all the others would have stood to gain. And here it is noted that in my novel Paolo Testaferrata is set as being already married to Beatrice Cassia at the time of Giammaria’s disappearance, but this is an anachronism which I have created. The true fact is that (Paolo) married Pietro’s daughter seven years later that is to say the day 20 of 1674 as per matrimonial instrument made in the acts of Notary Francesco Zammit. Therefore Stanislao could have had no one to share with either the inciteful hopes, or the very crime.
Of the marriage arranged by Pietro for Giammaria and which gave rise to passions when everything was concluded, it is documented the nuptial writing between Giammaria Cassia and Faustina Falzon in the acts of Notary Gio Battista Corvisier of the 8 June 1667. Confronting this document with the testament of Pietro and considering the above arguments, I had arrived at the proof that this marriage did not take place even though from the date of the nuptials to the date of Giammaria’s disappearance there had elapsed about four months. However these were indirect proofs and negative, and as such not completely satisfactory. Many searches were spent to discover a direct and positive proof; but I would not have managed ha it not been for the insightful and accurate diligence of the distinguished archivist Sig. Paolo Gera who with much experience in these affairs managed to find what I could not. In the acts of Notary Luca Mamo of the 15 December 1671, he found the act of marriage between Didico Cassar and Faustina Falzon who is described as the legitimate natural and virgin daughter of Mattiolo Falzon.
There is therefore, no part of the tradition that is not proven by solemn documents, and in my novel I wanted to follow it step by step. Only in those parts which were confused did I reclarify and where it was incomplete I added some facts which, if not strictly happened that way, could not be but very similar.”
With Giammaria gone in 1667, the Cassia family became extinct in the male line upon Pietro’s death in 1686, a fact later to be emphasized by Ciantar.
Pietro Cassia was survived by Domenica wife of Stanislao Xara (Bottari’s suspects) and Beatrice wife of Paolo Testaferrata.
In 1780 the Count Giovanni Ciantar published Malta Illustrata which is widely accepted as the successor of Gianfrancesco Abela’s Descrizione di Malta (1647). Both books contain detailed genealogies of Malta’s notable families. As indicated by Bottari, Ciantar appears to have made only selective updates to Abela’s work because there is no mention whatsoever of Giammaria.
Copies are reproduced below.
Interestingly only some of Beatrice’s descendants are mentioned but none of Domenica’s are mentioned except for one who is referred to only as a husband of one of Beatrice’s descendants.
Therefore Bottari’s insulting reference to certain descendants can only be construed in regard to those mentioned by him that is to say Michele Sceberras husband of the Baroness of Castel Cicciano Chiara Testaferrata, the Baron Pasquale Sceberras, husband of Lucrezia Dorell Falzon, Geltrude wife of the Baron of Marsa Gianfrancesco Dorell Falzon, Gelrtude wife of Diego Muscat, the Marquis of Xrobb il-Ghagin Claudio Muscat husband of Saveria Testaferrata, the nun Beatrice, Teresa wife of Baron Stanislao Xara and Diego husband of Elisabetta Dorel Falzon. - All this is a contradiction: Bottari says the descendants are enjoying the fruits of the murder but the persons mentioned by him are not descended from the alleged murderer.
Domenica’s family of Xara Cassia is also extinct in the male line but was represented for a time by the Bonnici Platamone family which in turn was succeeded by the Sant family. This is being stated to clarify that the Bottari’s claim of descendants indulging in the fruits of a murder cannot be taken to refer to the Sant family as these stem only from Felicita Chara’s marriage in 1777 to the Count Gio Francesco Sant.
On the 20th August 1797 that is to say well after Ciantar’s publication, Felicita Chiara Bonnici Platamone was invested as baroness of the fief of Ghariescem et Tabia.
Bonnici Cassia Magca e Nobe Clara Felicita legma moglie del Magco e Nobe Conte Gio. Francesco Sant, per Decreto del Consiglio, seguita la morte del Nobe Barone Stanislao Xara della Baronia de’ Feudi di Gariexem, e Tabia, fu’ investita la dta Nobe Clara Felicita, e dal nomto di Lei Marito Conte Sant, cme Procuratore, fu’ fatto il solito giuramento di fedelta’. 20. Agosto 1797, fo.
From this marriage descend the three lines of Sant Cassia, Sant Manduca and Sant Fournier. Of these only that of Sant Cassia displays the Cassia arms on its shield but this in itself does not change the fact they are only descended in a double distaff line from Domenica.
Beatrice Cassia succeeded her father in the barony of Castel Cicciano which she relinquished in favour of her son Fabrizio in 1695 (he was invested that same year). She later also received the barony of Gomerno first created in 1710 which she eventually relinquished in favour of her other son Ercole Martino in 1734 (invested 1737). Fabrizio’s male line became extinct but Beatrice still has many descendants in her male line through the other son Ercole Martino who although appending surnames different to Cassia still maintain their origins by displaying above their heraldic Testaferrata bull, three gold stars on a blue background which is reminiscent of the Cassia shield.
It seems Bottari was so blinded by his scathing attack on Stanislao and Domenica Xara that he overlooked the fact that Faustina’s own daughter Antonia Cassar Falsone married Fabrizio son of Beatrice Testaferrata. Recent research (Montalto 1980) shows that describes Antonia as of “a modest, unprivileged background”. It appears the marriage was strongly opposed by Fabrizio’s parents who disinherited him on the 12 November 1703, the day of his wedding resulting in the revocation of a number of donations including the lands of Mgarr il-Genwini and Cincini, as well as the villa known as ta’ Cagliares and a palace situated in Valletta. However during the following decade they gradually came to accept Antonia as a member of the family and eventually reinstated Fabrizio as their general heir enabling him to regain in 1713 not only the properties he had forfeit but also other lands and estates which included the gardens of Gomerino.
In view of this it is plausible that the first version of Giammaria’s fate was somehow confused with what befell Fabrizio in 1703 and Bottari’s interpretation of events was completely without basis.
A further reason for arriving at this conclusion is that Fabrizio’s father Paolo died in 1714. According to his tombstone he died aged 59 which even for his time and given his societal position was relatively young. Could this early death have been as a result of an altercation between the two after the reconciliation which somehow entwined itself with the first folkloristic version of Giammaria? It is significant 20 years later the widowed Beatrice ensured Fabrizio would never have succeeded the title of Baron of Gomerino. Was this as a result of some other incident with Fabrizio?
These questions will probably remain unanswered. In any case the descendants of Domenica and of Beatrice’s sons must have gone their separate ways. This said one cannot help noting the status maintained by the Cassia descendants remained apparent till even after the change to British administration. In fact one finds no less than three representatives of Pietro’s descendants, viz the Count Gio Francesco Sant, the Baron Pasquale Sceberras and the Baron Pietro Paolo Testaferrata being appointed Lord Lieutenants by Governor Maitland.
Like Bottari or not, there seems to be an element of truth about Ciantar having some kind of agenda to downplay the importance of the Cassia family. It is apparent that whilst Ciantar records only selected female descendants in the Cassia entry does not make any reference whatsoever about succession of the titled fief of Gariexem et Tabia, which are recorded in the Order’s archives as follows:-
Nobe Pietro Paolo Xara figlio della Nobe Domenica Cassia Baronessa del feudo di Gariexem e Tabia, e del Nobe Stanislao Xara fu ebbe l’investitura di d. Baronia, e presto’ il giuramento di fedelta’ come primogenito di da Nobe Domenica Cassia, in seguito del Decreto del Sagro Conso emanate li 21. Agosto 1721 sotto l’obbligo dell’ annua ricognizione di once cinquanta del peso genta e sei misure di biada a tenor della transazione Citata nella Bolla d’Investitura sped. a favor di da Nobe Domenica come nel lib. Boll. 1687 f. 174. La Bolla d’Investitura suda a favor di questo Nobe Pietro Paolo fu spedita li 28. Agosto 1721, f. 119 p. 2
Nobe Stanislao Xara figlio del Sudo Nobe Pietro Paolo successe nella Baronia, avendo preso l’investitura, e prestato il giuramo di fedelta’ gli 8. Aple 1749, f. 132.
A 20th century historian by the name of Herbert Ganado (translation by Refalo M.) who describes himself a descendant of both Augusto and Fabrizio, gives a version to those recounted by Bottari.
According to Ganado,
“Ghammieri Palace is steeped in history. The underground cellars, hewn into the rock, where according to the story Gianmaria was imprisoned by his father and left to rot in a dark and damp dungeon, can still be seen, as can the small aperture through which the slave girl who tok pity on Gianmaria, had passed food to him. What had Gianmaria Cassia done to deserve this?
In the year 1667, Baron Pietro Cassia, a pround and rich man, held the title to the barony of Gheriexem and Tabia in Malta and of Castel Cicciano in Sicily. He is a widower, has one son, Gianmaria and many daughters. The Baron is anxious ot see his son,a strappig youth, settled and married to a wealthy girl of good birth. The Baron’s choice falls on Faustina Falzon the daughter of a rich and respected gentleman and he therefore sets about making plans to arrange his son’s marriage to the lady.
Gianmaria does not show much enthuiasm for the match but still goes along with his father’s plan. Faustina and Gianmaria are betrothed and it is while Gianmaria is engaged to Faustina that he meets and falls mafdly in love with an eighteen year old beauty. She is not Maltese, lives at Red House on the outskirts of Rabat and is waited upon by a female companion. He past is shrouded in mystery. Dolores, for that is her name, had given birth to an illegitimate daughter fathered by a young Maltese who frequently travelled to Spain. Her father, a very righ manm had died cursing her and Dolores follows her love child to Malta. She lives under constant threat that she and her child would be killed if the identity of the man who took her honour and abducted her daughter is revealed.
Dolores and Gianmaria meet and pledge their love to each other but when she discovers that he is already betrothed Dolores tries to end the affair. Stanislao, a stingy, greedy man who is married to one of Gianmaria’s sisters is strongly opposed to his marriage to Faustina, as he wants to protect his son’s claim to primogeniture. With the help of Doctor Scarrifigna, a skinny, penniless, crooked lawyer, Stanislao tries to find a way to disrupt the match. Somehow Scaraffigna discovers that Gianmaria and Dolores meet in secret. On the wedding day, as guest begin to arrive, he sends word to GIammaria that Dolores was about to leave Malta. A distraught Gianmaria rushes off to the Red Palace. The weddign is disrupted and Baron Pietro Cassia, beside himself with rage, makes a public spectacle of his errant son and punishes him for the shame and humiliation he has brought upon the family. GIanmaria is thrown and locked up in a damp, worm-infested, dark cellar beneath the palace. Fatima, a North African slave girl to whom in his youth Gianmaria had shown kindness, saves his life and helps him escape. The lovers meet secretly for the last time and Gianmaria escapes from Malta. Since that meeting GIanmaria neither sends word nor writes to Dolores of his whereabouts.
Baron Pietro, broken by sorrow and remorse, prays for Gianmaria’s return. Heart broken, Dolores never gives her love to another man. She cannot understand why Gianmaria has forgotten her. “Only God knows what fate has befallen him! Does he still remember me?” are the doucts that prey and torture Dolores. Years pass and word spreads that Stanislao is the father of Dolores’s love child. Baron Pietro was getting on in years, feels that death is close and therefore asks Fr. Zaccharias to call on Dolores and invite her to visit him. When they mett, he begs her forgiveness.
Many years later Gianmaria, who in the meantime has been taken prisoner by pirates and jailed in Tripoli, manages to escape and returns to Malta. He immediately seeks out and goes to Dolores. He tells her all that had befallen him since their last secret tryst. His adventures can make the subject of yet another novel. Dolores warns Gianmaria not to trust Stanislao. She is proved right and when they meet, Stanislao sets upon Gianmaria in a fight to the death. Gianmaria catches Stanislao by the throat and a tearful Dolores, frightened and scared, sees that Stanislao carries a sword. She does her best to save Gianmaria but Stanislao frees himself of Dolores’ grasp and rush his sword through Gianmaria. Dolores cries at Stanislao, “You have killed him! You have killed him!” Stanislao’s fury is uncontrollable and he turns his sword upon Dolores and pierces her heart. Stanislao lives on for a few years longer but dies a terrible death.
During my childhood, whenever I heard this story, I would feel uneasy and sad.”
Ganado does not mention either Cottoner's Bando or Pietro Cassia’s testament. As a descendant of Augusto to whom Bottari's novel is dedicated, Ganado is likely to have been aware of Bottari's diatribe. In fact Ganado, a lawyer by profession, earlier refers to Bottari (Ganado calls him Bottani) as one whose novel was translated into English.
However and although clearly aware of the contents of Bottaru’s work, Ganado instead gives his own version of events. As a descendant of Fabrizio he might have had reason to change the story in some detail but one could conjecture Ganado had some motive of creating a false impression that Gianmaria Cassia was actually found; This in itself would have posed some potential and very serious property issues for the Xara Cassia family and their claim to the fiefs of Gariescem et Tabia.
Ganado’s version gets no support from Bottari or even the documents quoted above. More to the point, why would Ganado concoct such a story? It seems the answer is more arcane than previously thought. In the same chapter, Ganado makes double effort to assert Augusto Testaferrata Abela’s claim to being a baron. As seen in Bottari’s work, Augusto was addressed as Sig. Augusto dei Baroni Testaferrata Abela implying Augusto was not the titleholder. Further documentation at the archives of the Order shows that the title of Baron of Gomerino was succeeded by Ercole Martino Testaferrata and not by Fabrizio who as seen above received only the property of Gomerino in 1713.
Morti li di Paolo, Testaferrata e Beatrice Cassia Coniugi, il Nobe D. Erole Martino Testaferrata come figlio legmo e naturale di essi, e percio discendente dalla med. Beatrice, nominato a questa Baronia in atti del Notaro Tommaso Gatt sotto li 5 9bre 1734 prese l’investitura e presto’ il giuramo di fedelta Sotto il primo Maggio 1737. f. 184p
It appears that in 1744 Fabrizio bequeathed the Gomerino property to his brother Ercole Martino, who was already the Baron.
In 1876, the British Secretary of State for the Colonies commissioned a report 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.
To facilitate the preparation of the report, an “ad hoc” Committee of Nobles was requested to provide a list of claimants. In that list, two individuals are named as holding the same title of “Barone di Gomerino”, namely Pietro Paolo Testaferrata Abela Moroni and the same Augusto Testaferrata Abela.
Testaferrata Abela Moroni was descended in a more senior line to Augusto and claimed the title was his by right of descent and also because he was the holder of the entail to which Beatrice had annexed the baronial title (as seen above). On the other hand Augusto’s claim was that he was the possessor of the garden and lands of Gomerino and also because he was appointed to the title by Francesco by a testament published on the 12 January 1861. Although the Commission of 1878 held the title of Barone di Gomerino as a valid title, it did not attempt to make a decision on these claims.
A lawsuit decided on the 9 January 1882 upheld Augusto’s claim to the title of Baron of Gomerino in the sense that it upheld a series of private nominations of the lands of Gomerino, stemming from the aforesaid deed of 1713 after Fabrizio reconciled with his parents. In effect, to uphold the argument that a title could be willed away by a private testament, the court ignored the 1737 investiture. As a result of this decision, Fabrizio Testaferrata is noted as the 2nd Barone of Gomerino who succeeded in 1713, whilst Ercole Martino is regarded as the 3rd Barone who succeeded in 1744, without any reference to the 1737 investiture.
By the time of Ganado’s writing (Ganado lived 7 April 1906 - 8 April 1979), he as a descendant of Augusto whose claim to a title of nobility hinged on a private nomination would not have had any interest to make use of Bottari’s arguments which could have put Fabrizio in a poor light. Ganado instead adapted the circumstances similar to those of Fabrizio’s disherision of 1703 to suit his own version of the story of Giammaria.
Bottari’s detective work might be unfair on the Xara Cassia family but it is a less unlikely tale than Ganado’s.
The question that remains unanswered is what really happened to Giammaria?
“Giammaria, ovvero L'ultimo dei baroni Cassia, romanzo storico”, M.A. Bottari, 1857
“La descrizione di Malta del Commendatore Gio Francesco Abela”, 1647
“Malta illustrata... accresciuta dal Conte G.A. Ciantar” 1780
Old and Notable Families described by G.F. Abela in 1647.
“From the original volumes of the Archives of the Order: The definitive lists of Titles of Nobility in Malta in Volume 627” at Cassia family.