REFLECTIONS ON: “The Scicluna Saga 1772-2008” [ISBN 9789993205777].

“The Scicluna Saga 1772-2008”, written by John Micallef, was published in 2008 in Malta, by the Farsons Foundation, an offshoot of Simonds Farsons Cisk plc in which the family of the Maltese nobleman Marquis John Scicluna (1903-1970), a celebrated and much respected banker, entrepreneur and philanthropist, has had a substantial share ever since one of his interests “The Malta Export Brewery” merged with Simonds Farsons Limited in 1948. 


Given the close relationship between subject and publisher, the book is in danger of being regarded as sycophantic.


In the Introduction of that book (page 12), the author John Micallef gallantly accepts each and every error in this book as his and his alone. Reading the book more thoroughly – page 76 – one finds that the basis of Micallef’sobservations and references to both titles of nobility is Charles A. Gauci’s two volumes called “The Genealogy and Heraldry of the Noble Families of Malta”. is pointing out the following errors and omissions:


1. On page 16, Micallef describes the Marquis Jose’ Juan Duque de Scicluna as having taken his titles seriously and that “it seems all the more out of character that he should have later on in his life, acted so rashly with regard to the one title that mattered”.

Reading the book, it appears that “the one title that mattered” refers to the title of Barone della Tabria. The implication here, is that according to Micallef, the principal title of “Marchese Scicluna” is of no significance!


Micallef’s implication is most definitely not founded on either the Royal Commission or any of Gauci’s volumes.

There is no record nor any claim whatsoever of the 1875 title of Marchese Scicluna in the records of the 1878 Commission, because the date of creation of this title is not before the annexation of Malta to the British Dominions. It should be remembered that the purpose of that report (as the report reads) was to identify those titles which were granted or recognized by the sovereign authorities of Malta during the Government of the Knights of Saint John.

Micallef may be of the school of the thought that the title of Marchese Scicluna is not one of those titles “recognised” by the British Monarch”. That argument is flawed because the purpose of the 1878 Commission was not to “recognize” but to “identify” those titles which had already been granted or recognized during the Government of the Order (1530-1798). It should be recalled that the terms of reference to the Commissioners that “the Secretary of State for the colonies decided that the heads of the families who, before the annexation of Malta to the British Dominions, obtained tiles of nobility, should in accordance with a precedent during the administration of the late Governor, Sir Henry K. Storks, have precedence of the Chamber of Commerce”. In this case, the title of Marchese Scicluna is simply not one of those titles that was obtained during the Government of the Order and does not in any way diminish its validity.


2. Micallef goes on to say (page 78) that after the French were thrown out in 1800, the nobility of Malta had to wait 70 years for their status to be assessed by a Royal Commission in 1870. This is simply not true. All documentation between the period 1800-1876 shows that the nobility was accorded every right and courtesy up to 1876 when matters came to a head only because the claims of the Marchese Cassar Desain prompted the need for a formal commission.


3. Micallef writes on page 101 that Emmanuele Scicluna received two titles of Marchese, a personal one (ad vitam) from Pope Pius IX in 1875 and another (hereditary) from Pope Leo XIII in 1878 which was created in favour of Emmanuele and his nephew Giuseppe Scicluna. This is basically in agreement with what Gauci’s volumes has to say about the matter (Volume 1 page 217; Volume 2, page 112).

Surprisingly, however, Micallef goes on to enumerate Giuseppe Scicluna as the “2nd” Marchese . This enumeration was originally used by Gauci in Volume 1, Table 41 but abandoned in the later Volume 2. The reason for Gauci’sdeparture may be explained as follows: once Giuseppe Scicluna was a (joint) grantee of the hereditary title, then Giuseppe was the 1st (joint) holder of the title.

It follows that Micallef’s enumeration of all the Marchesi Scicluna is flawed. The first Marchese was Giuseppe Scicluna (jointly with his uncle), the second was John Scicluna and the third was the aforesaid Joseph John (akaJose’ Juan) Scicluna, but Micallef refers to these as the second, third and fourth respectively.


4. On page 79, Micallef, presumably following Gauci’s volumes, describes how the title of Barone della Tabria was created in 1728 by Grand Master Vilhena in favour of Isidore Viani who was succeeded by Gio Batta Viani in that title.

Micallef makes yet another mistake of enumeration when he says Gio Batta was succeeded by Francesca Viani. This enumeration was originally used by Gauci in Volume 1 (Table 41) but abandoned in the later Volume 2. The reason for Gauci’s departure is explained by the consideration that Francesca Viani never succeeded the title in question.  In fact, Gio Battista died in 1784 leaving two daughters. The eldest, Francesca successfully petitioned Grand Master Rohan that her nephew the Marchese Giuseppe Testaferrata Viani be invested in her stead. Francesca’s petition was upheld on the 14 October 1784 and Giuseppe was invested by the Grand Master on the 22 October 1784 as the third holder of the title. It follows thatMicallef’s enumeration of all the Baroni della Tabria is flawed.


5. In his book, (page 81), Micallef makes light of Joseph Scicluna “selling” the title of Barone della Tabria to a kinswoman. He completely omits to mention that this “transfer” was upheld by the Committee of Privileges of the Maltese Nobility. Micallef may have made this omission deliberately because he said earlier (page 78) that the decisions of the Committee ‘have no basis in law’. On the other hand, however Micallef (page 81) then says that the Corinne Ramsay “retrieved” the title after taking the matter to the Committee of Privileges. Micallef’s perception of the value of that Committee’s decisions remains unclear.


6. Micallef also fails to acknowledge the legal interpretation of the 1728 grant which gives rise to the consideration that Joseph Scicluna may not have succeeded the title of Barone della Tabria which gives rise to the conclusion that Joseph Scicluna could neither “transfer” nor transmit the title to anyone, because the title would have already reverted to the primogenital head of Isidore Viani’s family.


7. Micallef describes that Rosario Luigi Testaferrata Moroni Viani (page 51) and Albert Patrick Scicluna (page 245) succeeded the title of Barone della Tabria , “by nomination”. This is basically in agreement with what Gauci’svolumes has to say about the title. However, it must be pointed out that these “nominations” do not have any basis on the findings of the Royal Commission. It should be recalled that the Royal Commission was adverse to any form of departure from regular succession which was not approved by the FonsHonorum . It appears that neither Gauci nor Micallef ever queried this practice.


8. On page 78, Micallef makes the other mistake of stating that “the Barony of Djar-il-Bniet was created by the King of Sicily in 1350. This is basically in agreement with what Gauci’s volumes has to say about the title of Baronedi Djar il-Bniet. However, it must be pointed out that this is not exactly what was found by the Royal Commission. It should be recalled that the Royal Commission reports that the title of “Barone di Djar il-Bniet (and Buqana)” does not appear to have been expressly granted in the Privilegia given in 1350 and in 1372 but that there were sufficient grounds for holding that that title was conferred or recognized at a later period.


9. Throughout the book, Micallef discriminates between the holder of the title of Marchese Scicluna and the holder of the title of Barone della Tabria: Micallef emphasizes that the holder of the latter title be referred to as “The Most Noble”. Micallef does not explain in any detail whatsoever the basis for this difference. Gauci’svolumes gives a brief explanation (Volume 1, page 228, footnote) that by a dispatch to Malta dated 23rd February 1886, Lord Granville confirmed the right of title-holders to be styled “The Most Noble”. However, it should be recalled that the historical basis of this style is a law originally enacted by Grand Master Vilhena in 1725 which identified the (few) families entitled to the noble titles of “Illustrissimo and “Nobile”.