TITLE OF MARCHESE DEL FIDDIEN
The title Marchese del Fiddien is a title of Nobility in Malta. The title was first created in 1785 to Salvatore Mallia Tabone. Technically, this grant was to become extinct upon the death of the original grantee.
However the title was partially extended, upon Salvatore’s application. The applicant requested that it be extended to his legitimate and natural male descendants successively, and in default of male issue to his female descendants, but instead the Grand Master only allowed an extension “Fiat pro primogenitis maribus tantum.
Succession to this title has been subjected to two controversies, namely whether the extension allows for succession in favour of the primogenial male who claims through a female descent, and whether an older male descending in a junior line is to be preferred to a younger male descending in a better line. These controversies are discussed below.
Since 1975, titles of nobility are no longer recognized in the Republic of Malta by Act 29 of 1975 dated 17 October 1975.
ORIGIN AND NATURE OF TITLE
The title of Marchese del Fiddien was conferred by Grand Master De Rohan upon Salvatore Mallia Tabone, by a patent of the 15th October 1785. The terms of the patent are identical with those of the Barone Azzopardi, Marchese Barbaro and Conte Gatt . In fact, it contains no description of children or descendants, but only the name of the person ennobled: ‘Tibi donamus ac te Marchionis hujusmodi titulo decoramus’
Like the aforesaid three titles, this grant was also taken by the Grand Master to be personal to the grantee, for after the grant, the Marchese Salvatore presented a petition praying that, in consideration of the merits of his ancestors, the grant might be made to extend to his legitimate and natural male descendants successively, and in default of male issue to his female descendants: and by a rescript of the 15th June 1793, the request was partly complied with, in the following terms: “Fiat pro primogenitis maribus tantum.
No land was attached to this title of nobility. The title was merely honorific and did not give rise to any right of possession of the lands called “Fiddien”.
PRECEDENCE ENJOYED BY THE HOLDERS OF THE TITLE OF MARCHESE DEL FIDDIEN
Long before Mallia Tabone was ennobled, the then Grand Master Depuig had introduced in 1739 the concept of according a form of precedence to a holder of a title of nobility. The relative law is reproduced hereunder:-
Hosplis Mgr et Hierlem Sti. Sepulchri. - Per togliere le differenze di precedenze tra le persone che saranno promosse alla giurazie dell’ Universita’ della Notabile e dellaValletta, vogliamo, ordiniamo e comandiamo che tutte siano precedue dagli infrascritti, e che fra queti si regoli la precedena call’ ordine seguente cioe’: Primieramente, chi fu Capitano della Verga della Sudetta Citta’ Notabile e nostra Isola di Malta.; Secondo. Il Titolato che ha un titolo fondato sopra un feudo in realta’ esistente qui, benche’ non lo possegga.; Terzo. Il titolato che non ha un titolo fondato sopra fondo realmente esistente nel nostro Dominio, registrato che sia il titolo nella Cancellerianella nostra Religione e nella Gran Corte della nostra Castellania, e pagato per i rispettivi registramenti il diritto di scudi cento sedici di questa moneta, da dividersi per meta’ tra la Cancelleria e la Castellania sudetta.; Quarto. Il discendente per linea mascolina da chi fu Capitano della Verga, se vive colle proprie rendite, e se i di luiascendente intermedie vissero pure colle proprie rendite.; Quinto. Il discendente per linea mascolina da un titolo con titolo fondato sopra un feudo qui realmenteesistente, se vive colle proprie rendite, e se i suoi ascendenti intermedie cosi vissero; Sesto. Chi fu primo Giurato della Notabile; Settimo. Chi fu primo Giurato dellaValletta; Ottavo. Il piu’ anziani di Giurazia di quella Universita’ della quale sara’ creato giurato.; Nono. Chi fu Giudice d’Appello Criminale o Civile della Gran Corte dellaCastellania e della Corte Capitanale e Governatoriale; Diecimo. Il Dottore di Leggi ed il Dottore di Medicina.: - Dichiariamo che fra le persone d’un stesso grado si deveattendere l’anzianita’ del titolo primordiale e che chiunque fu Giurato, se sara’ fatto Console di Mare, fra i quali s’attendera l’anzianita d’ufficio. Dat. In Palatio, die xvi. Septembris 1739 (f. Despuig)
The Master of the Hospital at Jerusalem and of the Holy Sepulchre – To remove differences about precedency among the persons who will be appointed to the Juratships of the Universities of Notabile and Valletta, it is our will and pleasure, and we ordain and command, that they shall all be preceded by the undermentioned and that among the latter the precedency be regulated in the following order, namely:
First: Any person who was Capitano della Verga of the said City Notabile and of our Island of Malta.
Second: the Titolato having a title founded on a fief really existing here, though he may not be in possession of it.
Third: The Titolato who has not a title founded upon a fief really existing in our dominions, on the registration of the title in the Chancery of our Religion, and in the High Court of the Castellania, and the payment, for the respective registrations, of 116 scudi of our money, to be divided in equal shares between the said Chancery and Castellania.
Fourth: A descendant in the male line from any person who was Capitano della Verga, if he lives on rents of his own property, and if his intermediate ancestors lived also on the rents of their own property.
Fifth: A descendant in the male line from a Titolato, with title founded on a fief really existing here, if he lives on rent of his own property, and if his intermediate ancestors lived also on such rent.
Sixth: Any person who was First Jurat of Notabile.
Seventh: Any person who was First Jurat of Valletta.
Eighth: The most senior Jurat of the University to which he belongs.
Ninth: Any person who was Judge of Appeal, Criminal Judge, or Civil Judge of the Court of the Castellania, or the Courts Capitanale and Governatoriale.
Tenth: A Doctor of Law, or a Doctor of Medicine.
We declare that, among persons of equal rank, the antiquity of the original title must be attended to, and that a person who was a Jurat, if he be appointed Console di Mare, shall have precedence over other Consoli, and amongst the latter the precedency shall be regulated by the antiquity of the appointment.
Given at the Palace, 16th September 1739 (Signed) Despuig
On the basis of this enactment, Grand Master Despuig regulated the order of precedence amongst the titled nobility in two classes. First a title based upon a fief in Malta, and secondly a title conferred by a foregn Government, providedit was registered in the two registries.
It follows that in 1785, all of Salvatore Mallia Tabone’s male-to-male descendants (“Il discendente per linea mascolina”) were already automatically entitled to a precedence even though the title was only conferred to Mallia Tabone for his own lifetime.
As the title of Marchese del Fiddien is of a higher rank than other titles previously granted by the Grand Masters (usually a Marquis ranks before a Count, who in turn ranks before a Baron), it follows that as at 1785, the newly ennobled Marchese del Fiddien ranked before all other Maltese barons and counts who were of much older nobility. Moreover being a title based in Malta, this Marquisate like that of Marchese Barbaro ranked before the older Marquisates which originated outside Malta.
This anomaly was finally rectified in 1795 by the same Grand Master Rohan as follows:
Hosplis Magr. Hierlem. Sti. Sepulchri, et Ordinis Sti Antonii, Viennensis Essendo una massima universalmente ricevuto, che il maggior lustro della Nobilta’ principalmente dipende dalla sua maggiore antichita’, niente che il piu’ giusto e ragionevole che il piu’ antico Nobile preceda il piu’ moderno. Siamo pertanto venuti nella determinazione di Ordinare che nel regolarsi la precedenza tra le persone Nobile di questo nostro Dominio, cosi’ primogeniti che cadetti indistintamente, si abbioa ad avere unicamente riguardo alla maggiore o minore antichita’ del titolo che nobilito le loro famiglie, e cio tanto se il titolo sara’ stato concesso da Noi o Nostri predecessori, che se lo avessero ottenuto da Principi esteri, purche’ pero sara’ stato questo debitamente registrato nella Nostra Cancelleria e Gran Corte della Castellania; nel consorso pero’ di ugual data quello nella di cui persona concorreranno piu’ titoli dovra’ essere preferito, all’ altro che ne avesse meno, secondo la graduazione stabilita nel Chirografo Magisteriale del Nostro Predecessore Gran Maestro Despuig di Gl. Em. Del 16 Sept 1739, quale in quelle parti che non contradicono la questa nostra disposizione intendiamo di pienamente confermare. Datum in Palatio die xvii Martii 1795 (f.) Rohan
The Master of the Hospital at Jerusalem, of the Holy Sepulchre and of the Order of St. Anthony of Vienna – It being a principle universally acknowledged that the lustre of Nobility principally depends on its greater antiquity, nothing is more just and reasonable than that the older Nobles should have precedence over the more recent. We have therefore determined to ordain that, in regulating the precedency among the Nobles of this our dominion, whether first-born or cadets indiscriminately, regard shall be had only to the greater or lesser antiquity of the title by which their family was ennobled, whether that title had been granted by ourselves or by our predecessors, or by foreing princes, provided however, it was registered in our Chancery, and in the High Court of the Castellania. In cases, however, of grants bearing the same date, the person possessing two or more titles, shall have precedence over another who has less titles, according to the rule established by the magisterial decree of our lamented predecessor, Grand Master Despuig of the 16th September 1739, which in any part not inconsistent with our present enactment, we confirm in its entirety. Given at the Palace, 17th March 1795 (signed) Rohan.
Therefore with effect from 1795, the Marchese del Fiddien enjoyed a precedence only according to the date of creation, and not according to the rank of title. Moreover, this Maltese Marquisate did not enjoy any precedence over any foreign title, provided that such foreign title was duly registered in the Maltese Registry.
THE ROYAL COMMISSION APPOINTED TO ENQUIRE INTO THE CLAIMS OF THE MALTESE NOBILITY
After the Capitulation of the Order of Saint John the new French Rulers formally abolished all titles of nobility. (General Napoleon Bonaparte issued two orders dated 13 and 16 June 1798 prohibiting the use of any title. These read as follows: -
Ordre (1) Quartier General de malte, le 25 Prairal, an VI (13 Juin 1798): Le General en Chef ordonne……(Article 2.)… Toutes les armoires seront abbatues dans l’ espace de 24 heures. Il est defendu de porter des livrees, ni aucune marque et titre distinctif de noblesse. Ordre (2) Au Quartier General de malte, le 28 Prairal, an VI (16 Juin 1798): Bonaparte Membre de l’Istitut National, General-en-Chef ordonne…(Article Cinquieme)….Dix jours apres la publication du present ordre, il est defendu d’avoir des armoires soit dans l’interieur, soit a l’exterieur des maisons, de cacheter des lettres avec des armoires, ou de prendre des titres feodaux. ……(Article Douzieme)….Tous les contrevenants aux articles cidessous, seront condamnes pour la premier fois, a une amende du tiers de leurs revenus; pour la seconde fois, a trois mois de prison; pour la troisieme fois a un an de prison; pour la quatrieme fois, a la deportation de l’ile de Malte, et a la confiscation de la moitie de leurs biens. Il devra toujours y avoir 10 jours d’intervalle entre la recidive.”
Order (1) General Headquarters of Malta, the 25 Prairal , year VI (13 June 1798): The General in Chief orders …. (Article 2.)… All armorials are to be removed within 24 hours. It is prohibited to wear any livery, or any mark and distinctive title of nobility.
Order (2) General Headquarters of Malta, the 28 Prairal, year VI (16 June 1798): Bonaparte, member of the National Institute, General in Chief, orders (Fifth Article).. Ten days after publication of this order, it shall be prohibited to bear any armorials in the interior or exterior of houses, to use letters with armorials, or to use feudal titles… (Twelfth Article)…. All contraveners of the aforesaid articles shall be condemned for the first conviction to a fine of one third of their income, for the second time to be imprisoned for a month, for the third time to be imprisoned for a year and for the fourth time to be deported from the Island of Malta and confiscation of one half of their property. There must be a ten day interval for calculating recidivists.
Another Order was issued by Bosredon Ransijat, President of the Commission du Gouvernement dated 18 Messidor Year 6 (6 July 1798), where it was enacted that all honorary titles should be burnt on the 14th of that month and that every holder of a title should carry his patent at the Arbre de la Liberté.
In time, the use of nobiliary titles was resumed. However, it appears that this use was unregulated.
In 1870 the Marchese Giorgio Crispo Barbaro published a compendium of the “Maltese Nobility and the Maltese Gentry holding Foreign Titles”. In that publication Giorgio Crispo Barbaro describes Salvatore Mallia Tabone as the holder of the title of “Marchese di Fiddeni”. - See full text of the Crispo Barbaro’s book at http://www.saidvassallo.com/SME/1870%20barbaro.pdf
Eventually, the then 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.
SUCCESSFUL CLAIM OF SALVATORE MALLIA TABONE (junior) TO THE TITLE OF MARCHESE DEL FIDDIEN
In 1878, the only claimant to the title of Marchese del Fiddien was Salvatore Mallia Tabone (junior) who presented himself as the lawful holder.
The Commissioners found that Salvatore Mallia Tabone (junior) was in fact the grandson of the first titled person, and that he is the first-born descendant in the primogenial line of the grantee.
The Commissioners concluded that Salvatore Mallia Tabone (junior) had made out his right.
FIRST CONTROVERSY: The first controversy is whether the title of “Marchese del Fiddien” as descendible by males in the primogenial line of the original grantee includes males who claim through a female.
The 1878 report is very clear in stating that the title was not extended as requested by the original grantee. The Marchese Salvatore had requested an extension to the effect that if in default of male issue, the title be carried on to his female descendants successively. However, in the rescript of the 15th June 1793 the Grand Master only allowed an extension “Fiat pro primogenitis maribus tantum.”
Here, three considerations should be made.
1. The first consideration is that it is clear that females are excluded from enjoying this title.
In their report, the 1878 Commissioners had already pointed out that where only males are contemplated by the grant one cannot extend these terms to include females. This is clearly stated in their findings on the 1775 creation of "Barone della Marsa" which was granted Tibi Magnifico ac Nobili D. Joanni Francisco Dorel Falzon tuisque descentibus masculis tribuimus concedimus et donamus, hujusmodique Baronis titulo insignimus, ac Baronem dicti feudi della Marsa constituimus, et ita nominari posse et debere.
The conclusion here is that females may not be called to succeed the title.
2. The second consideration is that a rescript is not susceptible of a wide interpretation.
As seen in the case of the Barone Azzopardi, the 1878 Commissioners, quoting many legal writers, maintained that privileges are susceptible of a wide and liberal interpretation only with regard to those privileges which are granted by the sovereign’s mere motion (moto proprio) and not at the request (rescript) of the party concerned. Moreover the Commissioners maintained that when the patent of creation does not contain the expression motu proprio, the grant is taken to have been made at the request of the party concerned.
It follows therefore that once the rescript of 1793 was issued upon an application by Marchese Salvatore, it cannot be susceptible of a wide and liberal interpretation.
3. The third consideration is whether the circumstances of the extension show that the Grand Master only contemplated the agnatio. This rule was also explained by the same Commissioners in their Supplemental Report concerning the title of "Barone della Grua" which was granted Tibi tuisque filiis et descendentibus masculis de primogenito in primogenitum tribuimus et concedimus et te hujusmodi Baronis titulo decoramus’ . The Commissioners explained where the grantor he employs other words which clearly show that he contemplated the grantee’s agnatio, in such case, the effect of the disposition is limited to the male line, and on the failure of males issuing from that line the grant becomes extinct, the male issue of daughters not being called into succession.
In the case of ‘Marchese del Fiddien”, the original application requested that females be called into the succession after all male descendants have become extinct, but the Grand Master only allowed that the succession be allowed in favour of the primogenial male.
Given that a rescript is to be interpreted restrictively, the title of ‘Marchese del Fiddien” would not benefit a male descending through a female.
The above consideration implies a conclusion, that insofar as concerns the title of “Marchese de Fiddien” as granted in 1785 and extended in 1793, succession in the female line is not allowed.
On the other hand however, one may raise a counter argument to this conclusion, on the basis of the same Commissioners’ observations on the aforesaid title of "Barone della Grua" In their Supplemental Report, the Commissioners explained that in the case of “Grua”, the order of succession settled in that charter includes generally the grantee’s male descendants, and therefore taking the law relative to the transmission of lands (primogeniture) to be applicable to the transmission of titles, that charter comprehends a male who is descended from the grantee through a female line. In arriving at this conclusion, the Commissioners took a settled point of jurisprudence that the appellation of male descendants includes not only the sons issuing from the male line (masculi ex masculis), but also those issuing from the female line (masculi ex foeminis). In that case, the Commissioners found no reason to deny the claim of the grantee’s primogenial descendant, albeit descended in the female line.
Therefore, although the circumstances of the two titles were different, there is no substantial difference in the literal meaning between “filiis et descendentibus masculis de primogenito in primogenitum” as found in the “Grua” Charter and “primogenitis maribus tantum” as found in the Fiddien Rescript; this necessarily leads one to the conclusion that succession benefits the primogenial male, even if he only claims primogenial descent from the original grantee in the female line.
SECOND CONTROVERSY: The second controversy is the correct determination of the primogenial descendant, namely whether an older male descending in a junior line is to be preferred to a younger male descending in a better line.
Here, it should be remembered that Maltese Law of Primogeniture has been regulated for a long time. In fact, even Grand Master Rohan is credited with codifying various laws in Malta. Amongst these, we find the Civil Code enacted in 1783 which states that the determining criteria of primogeniture in Malta operate in the following order:- Line (the first line excluding all the others), Degree (the closer degree of relationship excluding the remoter), Sex (the male sex being preferred to the female), and Age (the elder being preferred to the younger).
Some publications report two (2) cases regarding the determination of the primogenial descent.
1. The first case is where the title is reported to have been “succeeded” in 1983 by a son born in 1951 of a younger niece, as opposed to a son born in 1952 of the elder niece. The former is the “first male to be born” whilst the latter is in a better line.
2. The second where the title is reported to have been “succeeded” in 1973/75 by a younger male cousin born in 1892, his elder brother born in 1890 having already died in 1964. By that date the elder son’s eldest daughter had already had a son born in 1952 (the same person indicated in case 1).
Both cases deny the primogenial male descendant his lawful birthright and have no basis in the rules of succession by Primogeniture.
An analogous situation was determined by the Lords of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council Lords of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in regard to the entail to which the title of "Conte della Catena" was attached. In that case, their Lordships held that in regard to that Entail, the general rule of Primogeniture must be modified in its application only so far as so far as such preference of sex and powers of nomination render necessary.
In the “Catena” case, the Lords held that line is to be preferred to degree and age. The judges explained that the primogenial character of the entail could not be destroyed by the special preference of sex and power to nominate, thereby meaning that the limit of line must be taken to apply to devolution in the absence of nomination subject to the preference of males. The Lords concluded that the male descending in the better line, albeit younger in age was to be preferred to an older male descending in a junior line.
In another analogous court case regarding the title of "Barone di Benuarrad" the Court found that once there was no nomination, the title was succeeded by the primogenial descendant. In that case, the court worked out the descent from the original grantee and concluded that the defendant was indeed the primogenial descendant of the original grantee.
Therefore, all this leads one to the conclusion that the primogenial male contemplated by the 1793 extension of the title of “Marchese del Fiddien” is the one descending in the better line from the grantee, even though he may actually be younger than the male descending in a junior line.
That is to say, in order to establish the primogenial descendant one must go back up and through the family tree of the original grantee and determine succession according to the rules of Line, Degree, Sex and, lastly, Age.
For the purposes of precedence amongst the Nobility in Malta, this title ranks according to antiquity of creation.
According to the 1878 Report, this title was considered after the title of Conte di Beberrua granted by Grand Master Rohan to Luigi Gatt on the 23 October 1783 and before the title of Marchese della Taflia granted by Grand Master Rohan to Saverio Alessi on the 13 November 1790.
As from the year 1886, the holder of this title of Nobility became entitled to be styled “The Most Noble”.
The presumed successor of this title is by custom entitled to be styled Marchesino del Fiddien.
Other descendants of the various holders of this title are by custom entitled to be styled dei Marchesi del Fiddien.
The genealogy of the Marchesi del Fiddien is as follows:
Original creation (1785 (Grant)
· Salvatore Mallia Tabone , 1st Marchese del Fiddien
1st extension (1793 (Rescript)) on request of Salvatore Malia Tabone
· Salvatore Mallia Tabone , 1st Marchese del Fiddien
The Primogenial descent of the Marchesi del Fiddien is as follows:
· Salvatore Mallia Tabone , 1st Marchese del Fiddien
· Gio Antonio Mallia Tabone, (grantee’s eldest son)
· Salvatore Mallia Tabone, (grantee’s eldest son’s eldest son)
· Giovanni Mallia Tabone, (grantee’s eldest son’s eldest son’s eldest son)
· Giuseppe Mallia Tabone, (grantee’s eldest son’s eldest son’s eldest son’s eldest son)
· Salvatore Mallia Tabone, (grantee’s eldest son’s eldest son’s younger son’s eldest son)
· Nicola Mallia Tabone, (grantee’s eldest son’s eldest son’s younger son’s younger son) (died 1973)
· Luigi Caruana Dingli (grantee’s eldest son’s eldest son’s younger daughter’s eldest son) (died 1964)
· John (Jean) Curmi (grantee’s eldest son’s eldest son’s younger daughter’s eldest son’s eldest daughter’s son) (born 1952)
PRIMARY REFERENCES (GRANT/S):
1. Grant of title of Marchese del Fiddien by Grand Master Rohan to Salvatore Mallia Tabone on the 15 October 1785 (Recorded in the Archives of the Order, National Library, Malta Ref. AOM 591, ff. 263r-264r)
2. Rescript Fiat pro primogenitis maribus tantum issued by Grand Master Rohan dated 15 June 1793 in relation to petition filed by Salvatore Mallia Tabone for an extension of the title of Marchese del Fiddien in favour of his his legitimate and natural male descendants successively, and in default of male issue to his female descendants (Recorded in the Archives of the Order, National Library, Malta)
3. Judgement of the Lords of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council on the appeal of Strickland v. Apap, from the Court of Appeal of the Islands of Malta, delivered 10th February 1883.
4. Judgement of Court of Appeal (Malta) 13 November 1895.
SECONDARY REFERENCES (HISTORY):
(1) CORRESPONDENCE AND REPORT OF THE COMMISSION APPOINTED TO ENQUIRE INTO THE CLAIMS AND GRIEVANCES OF THE MALTESE NOBILITY, MAY 1878, PRESENTED TO BOTH HOUSES OF PARLIAMENT BY COMMAND OF HER MAJESTY (C.-2033.):
(2) REPORT OF THE COMMITTEE OF PRIVILEGES OF THE MALTESE NOBILITY ON THE CLAIMS OF CERTAIN MEMBERS OF THAT BODY WITH THE SECRETARY OF STATE’S REPLY, AUGUST 1883, PRESENTED TO BOTH HOUSES OF PARLIAMENT BY COMMAND OF HER MAJESTY (C-3812)
(3) Copies or Extracts of Correspondence with reference to the Maltese Nobility (In continuation of C3812, August 1883), presented to both Houses of Parliament by Command of Her Majesty May 1886 (C-4628a)
(4) John Montalto, “The Nobles of Malta 1530-1800” (Midsea Books, Malta, 1980)
TERTIARY REFERENCES (PUBLISHED GENEALOGY):
(1) Crispo Barbaro "THE NOBLES OF MALTA, AND THE MALTESE GENTRY HOLDING FOREIGN TITLES AS AT PRESENT EXISTING BY GEO. G.C.’A. CRISPO BARBARO MARQUIS OF ST. GEORGE” MALTA:- A.D. MDCCCLXX (THE ANGLO-MALTESE PRESS, MALTA, 1870)"
(2) Charles Gauci "THE GENEALOGY AND HERALDRY OF THE NOBLE FAMILIES OF MALTA" (GULF PUBLISHING, MALTA, 1981)"
(3) Charles Gauci A GUIDE TO THE MALTESE NOBILITY" (PEG PUBLICATIONS, MALTA, 1986)
(4) Charles Gauci "THE GENEALOGY AND HERALDRY OF THE NOBLE FAMILIES OF MALTA VOLUME TWO " (PEG PUBLICATIONS, MALTA, 1992)
(5) Charles Gauci "THE GENEALOGY AND HERALDRY OF THE NOBLE FAMILIES OF MALTA VOLUME ONE " (PEG PUBLICATIONS, MALTA, 2002)