The Italian title of San Vincenzo Ferreri.


Footnote: The title of “Marchese di San Vincenzo Ferreri”, in the Kingdom of Naples, was by Philip V, King of Spain and of the Two Sicilies, was conferred upon the Maltese Citizen Mario Testaferrata, by a patent dated the 10th November 1716. This title did not originate in Malta. At Maltese Law it is only a foreign title and, as such, it can be considered for the purposes of precedence if registration or Magistral recognition has been achieved in accordance with the rules of 1739 and 1795 as enacted by Grand Masters Despuig and Rohan. This title was purportedly granted before such rules.

Some published sources show the title of “Marchese di San Vincenzo Ferreri” as being Spanish. This it is not. The grant clearly purports the title to be based in Naples. Moreover, as has been discussed elsewhere under the title of “Marchese de Piro” it is to be noted that according to the rules set by Philip V’s predecessor (Philip IV) a Spanish Marquisate could only be granted if the grantee is already in possession of a title of Count and Viscount. In the grant to Testaferrata, there is no indication that he was ever in possession of either criterion. .(See:- “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.) (See Report Paras. 199-204).

Moreover, most published sources overlook the fact that in 1716, the King of Naples was not the King of Spain but Emperor Charles VI of the Holy Roman Empire. This factor therefore renders the grant of 1716 null and void. However, the Commissioners unwittingly (it is hoped) overlooked this titbit and in their ignorance decided that this title being valid was recognised in 1725.

VALUE OF REGISTRATION/MAGISTRAL RECOGNITION From the records of the Cancelleria it appeared that the titles so granted were registered in virtue of a rescript from the Grand Master, on an application by the party concerned. The Royal Commissioners of 1878 remarked that they were prone to believe that the Grand Master would not have given his assent to registration without any investigation. From the start, however, the Commissioners pointed out that the Despuig/Rohan Rules on the matter did not deny nobility to a Titolato  who failed to duly register his title, but only assigned him no place insofar as precedence was concerned.See:- “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.) (See Report Paras. 101-102). It is also noteworthy that the Commissioners did not consider all the titles which were registered in the Cancelleria: For example the title ofConte granted to Baldassare Fenech Bonnici on the 11 June 1798 by Pope Benedict XIV, which was duly registered under Archives of the Order of Malta (554, f. 176) as well as the Archives of the Inquisition of Malta (102m f. 32) was not considered by the Report. It appears that no descendant of this grantee made any claim to the Commissioners. 

In this case, the grant relative to “Marchese di San Vincenzo Ferreri” which was purportedly granted in Naples appears to have been first recognised by a Grand Master in 1725. However, the Commissioners found that by 1878 this title was claimed by no less than three main claimants, each one backing his respective claim by forceful legal argument. These were Emmanuele Testaferrata Bonici-Asciack, Gio. Paolo Testaferrata Olivier de Puget and Lorenzo Antonio Cassar Desain ne’ Testaferrata. See:- “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.) (See Report Paras. 113-121). As seen below, the claimants Testaferrata Olivier and Cassar Desain were later successful in obtaining subformations of the main title.

The actual report says the following:

The title of “Marchese di San Vincenzo Ferreri”, in the Kingdom of Naples, was by Philip V, King of Spain and of the Two Sicilies, conferred upon Mario Testaferrata, by a patent dated the 10th November 1716, registered in a book called “Privilegm Neap. X. fol. CCLVIII”. The following is an extract from that patent: “Tenore igitur praesentium ex certa scientia, regiaque auctoritate nostra, deliberato et consulto, ac ex gratia speciali maturaque sacri nostril Supremi Consilii accedente deliberatione, praefatum Don Marium Testaferrata, Sacri Romani Imperiiequitem Tornearium, et cujus patria est insula Melitana, Illustrem Marchionem, in dicto Regno Neapolis Sancti Vincentii Ferreri ejusquehaeredes et successores ex suo corpore legitime descendentes, praedicto ordine successivo servato, dicimus creamus et nominamus, ab aliisquein omnibus et quibuscumque actis et scriptures dici et nominari olumus et perpetuo reputari jubemus” 

This patent was never registered in Malta, but the default of its registration is amply supplied by the direct recognition of it on the 9th July 1725, in the person of the original grantee, Mario Testaferrata, by Grand Master Manoel, who amending also in his favour the enactments of the Prammatica of the 30th April 1725 (#94), ordered and commanded that “from the provisions of the aforesaid Prammatica, Don Mario Testaferrata, as Marchese di San Vincenzo Ferreri’ and his descendents, should likewise be excepted”.

The Marchese Mario Testaferrata after having obtained the present grant, being at Palermo, made on the 1st August 1718, a chirografo of which the following is a translation: “By these presents, to which I here below set my hand, I declare, appoint and direct that my by death Don EnricoTestaferrata, my legitimate and natural first-born son by the lamented Anna De Noto his mother, shall be my immediate successor in the Primogenitura erected by my uncle Signor Gregorio Bonici, deceased, in virtue of the powers given to me by his testament, to which I refer, as well as in the title of Marchese di San Vincenzo Ferreri which the munificence of His Catholic Majesty conferred upon me, on the tenth November of the year one thousand seven hundred and sixteen, in consideration of what I endured or the defence of the royal prerogatives. And I do further direct that, after the decease of the aforesaid Don Enrico, the abovementioned title shall descend to all his legitimate and natural children and grandchildren in infinitum, according to the order of succession, as is expressed in the same original Privilegium of His Catholic Majesty, and not otherwise. I consequently, as I said heretofore, set my hand to this declaration on this same first day of August 1718. (Signed) The Marchese of San Vincenzo Ferreri and Di Testaferrata Don Mario.”

The gentleman who claims the present title and who is designated in the committee list as Emmanuele Testaferrata Bonici Asciack, Marchese diSan Vincenzo Ferreri, has produced sufficient documentary evidence to prove that he is the first-born son in the primogenial line of MarioTestaferrata first Marchese di San Vincenzo Ferreri. From these documents it appears that he is the first-born son of Daniele Testaferrata, junior, who was the eldest son of Gregorio Augusto, first-born son of Daniele Testaferrata, senior. The latter was the first-born son of EnricoTestaferrata, who in the said Chirografo is referred to as the first-born son of the Marchese Mario by the late Anna De Noto.

But in the course of our inquiry another gentleman, Lorenzo Antonio Testaferrata, appeared, opposing the claim of the said EmmanueleTestaferrata, and in explanation of his own claim to the title, he who is one of the descendents of Gilberto Testaferrata, second-born son of Mario, the original grantee of the title, in a letter addressed to the Commission, stated that Enrico Testaferrata and his descendents lost any right that they might have had to the title of “Marchese di San Vincenzo Ferreri” that title being hereditary, and Enrico having been by his father Mario disinherited.

For that reason Lorenzo Antonio contends that in consequence of the said disinheritance of the line of  Enrico, the present title passed to the younger branch of the family Testaferrata, to which he belongs. In support of his statement he has laid before us an extract from the testament of Marchese Mario, opened and published at Palermo by notary Dixidomino on the 16th April 1758, from which it appears that the said Mario, who therein styles himself as “Marchese di San Vincenzo Ferreri:, and also ‘Marchese de Testaferrata’”, “in toto integro et indeminuitopatrimonio ac in dicto titulo Marchiones Sancti Vincentii nec non etiam in ejus Palatio, etc’ejus haeredem universalem instituit, ac proprio ore nominavit et nominat D. Gilbertum Testaferrata ejus filium” In the same testament, we find also the following clause: “Et quia dictus illustristestator ultra dictos Dominum Gilbertum et D. Pulchram, ejus filios desuper contemplatos, alium ejus filium primi matrimonii vocatum D. Enricum Testaferrata”. Et pro nonnullis ingratitudinibus disobedientiae, ac pro dubio insidiationis mortis ejusdem testatoris, ut ipse illustrisasserit, etiam pro causa dissipationis nonnullorum bonorum mobiliumvigore praesentis, attentis juribus et rationibus desuper descriptis, dictusillus testator eumdem D. Henricum Testaferrata “dishaereditavit, a substantia et patrimonio paterno privando et totaliter eumdem D. HenricumTestaferrata ejus filium tam a successione titolorum Marchionis Sancti Vincentii Ferreri et Testaferrata, quam a succession” sic voluit et non aliter nec alio modo, et hoc non obstante quod fuisset per eundem illum testatorem facta wquaedam scriptura private, subscripta propria manudicti illmi testatoris, in qua declarabat dictum D. Henricum ejus filium, successorem in Marchionem Sancti Vincentii Ferreri.”

Another gentleman, Gio Paolo Testaferrata Olivier, who descends from Pandolfo Testaferrata, second-son of the said Enrico, laid before the Commission a paper respecting his own claim, and entitled “Statemtn of Law and Fact” (Allegazione di dritto e di fatto). That gentleman concludes his remarks as follows:- “As to the title of San Vincenzo Ferreri, although it is included in the deed of transaction (vide Doc. No. 9), it depends however on the hereditary quality (vide: Doc. no. 16,  Genealogical Table, at the letters A, B, C, D, E, F, Fd, G, Gd) to which the claimant refers for all purposes”. 

The production of the aforesaid genealogical tree, and of the relative documents marked with the letters A to H inclusively, is accompanied with a memorandum, in which there is the following note: - “Doc. 16, containing a genealogical tree, with several documents proving its contents, marked with the letters A to H, in order to show the descent of the Marchese G.P. Testaferrata Olivier in a direct line from Mariano Testaferrata, and at the same time to prove that he is one of the heirs of Marchese Enrico Testaferrata De Noto, senior, his great-grandfather, through Pandolfo his grandfather, and Enrico, junior, his father.”

The foregoing circumstances show that the claim of Emmanuele Testaferrata to the title of “Marchese di San Vincenzo Ferreri” is disputed not only by Lorenzo Antonio Testaferrata, but also by Gio Paolo Testaferrata, although the last-mentioned gentleman does not impugn it in a direct way; and consequently, to settle the question it is necessary to determine which of the gentlemen who claim the title to the exclusion of each other is to be deemed lawfully entitled to it. The title, however, as we have already remarked, was formally recognized by the Grand Masters of the Order of St. John.

We think that the question of the conflicting claims exceeds the scope of our Commission, and that it must be reserved for the decision of the competent judicial authority. Probably the subject will be brought before the local courts by one or the other of the claimants, and we must consequently refrain form going any further into the matter.


Moreover, it appears that this title gave rise to other subformations culminating with at lease two distinct titles namely that by the name of “Marchese Testaferrata Olivier” and that by the name “Marchese Cassar Desain”. In any event it is to be noted that the title “Marchese Cassar Desain” is a misnomer because elsewhere in the Commissioners’ Report, the same Commissioners remarked: “With reference to the foregoing extract, we beg to state that the family of which Lorenzo Cassar Desain is bound to bear the surname and armorial ensigns is not in the possession of, nor has ever asserted any claim to, any title of nobilityCorrespondence and report of a Commission appointed to inquire into the Claims of the Maltese Nobility, presented to both Houses of Parliament by Command of Her Majesty, May 1878, [C-2033] London, 1878 (para. 156).”

The claimants Testaferrata Oliver and Cassar Desain pursued their claims to the title, and in 1883, a Committee of five Titolati (namely Ciantar, Apap Bologna, De Piro, Manduca and Delicata) recommended to the British Secretary of State for the Colonies as follows: These two noblemen are contemporary descendants through males in two masculine sublines of Don Mario Testaferrata, in whose favour two diplomas of nobility with the title of ‘Marchese’, are still duly preserved; the one granted by King Philip of Spain (sic.!) in 1716, conferred the title of ‘Marchese di San Vincenzo Ferreri’ on him, his heirs and the successors of his body lawfully begotten; the other granted by King Victor Amadeus, Duke of Savoy, in 1717, conferred on the said Mario and al his descendants, ‘successivamente’ (sic.!), the title and rank of ‘Marchese’.The above-named two noblemen have laid before this Committee several official copies of authentic documents preserved in the Government Archives, wherein repeated direct recognisiotns are found of the title of ‘Marchese’ on the part of the Grand Masters as possessed simultaneously by their respective immediate male ancestors. Precedents fully justify Gio. Paolo Testaferrata Olivier and Lorenzo CassarDesain in restricting the allegations on which they found their hopes and expectations to the above-mentioned direct recognitions that go so far back as 1745 in the case of Gio. Paolo Testaferrata Olivier and 1749 in that of Lorenzo Casar Desain’ this alone, independently of any diploma, places these two noblemen in a most favourable position with regard to the Despatch of your Lordship’s predecessor dated 16th August 1882. Under these circumstances we feel bound ‘vi et potestate’ of the reiterated direct recognitions, custom, possession, and prescription upheld also during the British rule by several public official acts in their own favour, as well as in that of their immediate male ancestors, to record our earnest recommendation that Her Majesty the Queen may vouchsafe to bestow Her consideration, grace, and favour on the petitioners Gio. Paolo Testaferrata Olivier and Lorenzo Cassar Desain, that their names and those of their respective eldest sons be successively entered into the official list of Titolati, with the honorary title of “Marchese” as already enjoyed by their respective lineal ancestors. Their places in the official list of Titolati should be repectively allowed according to the above-mentioned recognitions, viz. in the case of Gio. Paolo TestaferrataOlivier from 1745, in that of Lorenzo Cassar Desain from 1749.” This recommendation was accepted by the Secretary of State for the Colonies “without prejudice to any decision of a competent court of law”. See:- “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). (See Doc. 1. “Report Paras. 37-40; and Doc. 2 ‘Reply’)”

It remains debatable on the basis of the 1725 recognition to the title purportedly granted by the King of Spain in his capacity as King of Naples when such King of Spain was in fact not the King of Naples whether this title can lawfully be inherited through the female line, and/or whether the title can be held by a female. 

In any event, it is clear that on the basis of the 1883 recommendations that neither subformation of 1745 and 1749 can be transmitted to anybody else but to the respective, successive eldest male descendant in the agnatic line.

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