A British agenda to annihilate certain Maltese?
“If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention” – Anonymous.
According to Desmond Gregory, it was the report by A’Court and Burrows that prompted the British Government to annex Malta immediately, and to send Sir Thomas Maitland as Governor, to replace Oakes, the Civil Commissioner. Oakes decided to postpone his departure from Malta until October 1813, when Maitland would arrive to assume his new post.
Gregory notes that the report is summarized by an explanatory letter, which makes clear the Commissioners’ conclusion that most Maltese were not only happy but ‘thriving’, but pointed out that the chief anxiety of most Maltese was being annexed to the British Crown.
Gregory explains that certainly the upper class was jealous of its wealth it did not share and a small number were so discontented as to need careful watching, but, Gregory continues, according to that report these people would be “annihilated” once Malta became a British possession.
Gregory admits that there is little evidence and few primary sources concerning the real extent and depth of Maltese opposition to Britain’s autocratic rule at the time, making informed comment difficult. However, he notes that the body of educated men ‘looked to the Maltese nobility for leadership and particularly the old and respected noble family of Testaferrata’.
Of this troublesome family, Gregory identifies two members, the Marchese Mario Testaferrata (-Castelletti) and the Marchese Nicholas Testaferrata (-de Noto) as making representations to England.
Both were later to suffer a damnatio memoria. Mario lived during the domination of the Order (he was the signatory to the act of capitulation to Napoleon); Nicolo’ was too young but his father Pandolfo features in that period.
Gregory will discover that it appears that the British agenda to annihilate certain people had borne fruit by 1878, because a British-appointed Commission to enquire into the claims of the Maltese Nobility ruled that their marchional titles (or any of their other titles for that matter, including those of Patrician and Hereditary Knight) ‘never received’ registration or recognition from the Grand Masters.
On the other hand, later in 1883 one of Mario’s junior descendants (through his third son) successfully supplicated a marchional title through the British Colonial office on the basis that Mario’s father Gilberto had been so recognized on his appointment as jurat during the Order’s magistracy in 1749, whilst in response to another supplication of 1883, Nicolo’s elder half-brother’s son was considered to have succeeded a marchional title of ‘Testaferrata Olivier’ on the basis that Pandolfo had been so recognised in 1745 or 18 years before he married his first wife Rosina Olivier.
These acts of misguided British goodwill cannot be regarded as being the same titles the Marchesi Mario Testaferrata Castelletti or Nicholas (or his father Pandolfo) Testaferrata de Noto believed they were enjoying.
1. Desmond Gregory Malta, Britain, and the European powers, 1793-1815 ISBN 978-0838635902, (“The Oakes Administration”).
2. “Dictionary of Maltese Biographies” (edited by Michael J. Schiavone and Louis J. Scerri), Pubblikazzjonijiet Indipendenza - PIN, 2009
3. 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.)
4. 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)