The REAL and GENUINE nobility of Malta and Gozo confirmed by that faithful and authentic History of the Maltese Islands.
In Abela’s Descrittione (page 446) the following families are reported to have accompanied General Roger de Loria to Malta: “e si come doppo Normanni nel dominio di Sicilia successero i Suevi, Francesi e ultimamente gl’ Aragonesi; cosi’ di mano, in mano divennero nostri Coloni molci de gl’ huomini di dette nationi, e particolarmente quando Malta venne in poter del Re’ Pietro d’Aragona, che vi furono lasciati dal suo General Ruggiero di Loria ducento buoni soldati Catalani, del cognome de’ quali n’abbiamo tuttavia diverse Casate, come Sorribes, Caldes, Cardona, Mompalau, Xirica, Barbara’, Rioles, Sans, Pellegrino, Ferriol, Portella, Begliera, Frontina, Mediona, & altre”
In 1647 only some of these families were included amongst the 121 noble families of Malta. However there is documentary evidence showing that by 1725 all of the aforesaid 14 families (many were already extinct by then) were regarded as noble. Other families are later noted as ‘noble’ because they are titolati whose titles were created by the Grand Masters. However there is documentary evidence proving that the titles created by the Grand Masters of St. John were not regarded as valid outside the jurisdiction of the Order. The following extract concerning one of these old families which was also granted a title by the Grand Masters, is taken from Montalto (pages 209-217):-
“The Inquisitor Giacomo Caracciolo, was succeeded by Ranieri D’Elci in 1711. Baron Testaferrata and his sons were amongst the first to pay their respects to the new Inquisitor. Apparently the Testaferratas had to wait much longer than they had anticipated. One of the sons, who was a Conventual Chaplain, lost his temper and remarked, rather too loudly, that he was being treated in a manner inferior to Knights of Justice and that he had not come to ‘sweep the antechamber’. This outburst was unfortunately timed, because at this point the inquisitor himself appeared and asked the Baron and his family to come in for their audience. D’Elci was visibly annoyed because the Depositario introduced himself without having been asked to do so, and created further complications by sitting down before he was given permission. Baron Testaferrata explained that this had always been the practice with D’Elci’s predecessors who had even allowed him ‘to take them by their hand.’ ”
An acrimonious set of representations from both sides was made to the then Papal Secretary of State, Cardinal Paolucci. Montalto notes (page 216 f. 24) that D’Elci makes no reference to either Fabritio’s Barony of Castel Cicciano or Paolo’s Barony of Gomerino. Eventually the rift came to an end with Rome taking the side of the Testaferratas, but it was only in 1714 that D’Elci for the first time in three years designated a member of the Testaferrata family with his proper title (page 217, f. 37). It appears that at the time, the titles granted or recognized by Grand Masters were only given as much value as those derived from today’s private orders.
The Grand Masters were but mere feudatories who paid homage to the King of Sicily. The old families, not necessarily titolati, numbering 135 in all should not be confused with those which were only first ennobled by the Grand Masters during the 18th century with titles of ‘Count’, ‘Baron’ and ‘Marquis’. These titles are but additions by a mere feudatory. The 135 families (many already extinct) represent the REAL and GENUINE nobility of Malta and Gozo, with Family, Ancestry, Genealogy, and Stock, confirmed by that faithful and authentic History of the Maltese Islands.