The Papal title of Wzzini Paleologo.
Footnote: The title of “Conte enjoyed by the family Wzzini Paleologo” (sic.) is remarkable as not only did the Royal Commissioners accord it precedence based on a direct recognition from a Grand Master, but they did so in full knowledge that the claimant could not produce any document purporting to testify how, when and in whose favour this title first originated. Other titles were subjected to a more punctilious examination.
It will be recalled that at Maltese Law, a title not founded in Malta is only a foreign title and, as such, it can be considered for the purposes of precedence only if registration or Magistral recognition has been achieved. inaccordance with the rules of 1739 and 1795 as enacted by Grand Masters Despuig and Rohan.
In this case, no grant relative to the title of “Conte” enjoyed by the family Wzzini Paleologo appears to have been registered in the Cancelleria of the Order. This title was examined as one of many other titles described in the Section of the report headed “Titles granted by foreign sovereigns during the Government of the Order of the Knights of Malta” (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. 192-198).
Published sources show this title of “Conte” as having been granted by Pope Clement XI on the 8 November 1711 and enjoying precedence in Malta with effect from 1722. This is not the case and does no justice to the conjectural exercise carried out by the Commissioners.
Moreover, the Commissioners arriving at their decision allowing this claim, attested that there was no proof of the title existing at any time before 1722.
In view of the fact that the earliest reference of this title is found in a letter dated 1722 of Grand Master Zondadari to Ignazio Wzzini, it follows that this title was for all intents considered as one that originated in Malta, even though it was considered by the Commissioners under the section dedicated to foreign titles.
In regard to remainder of this title, it would appear on the basis of the Commissioners observations, that the title may be transmitted to male descendants descending through a female line by regular primogeniture. In fact the report observed that the title originally made out in favour of Wzzini was eventually succeeded to by the Ciantar Paleologo family whilst that cadets of that family are only entitled to the designation dei Conti (ex Comitibus).
The actual report reads as follows:
The gentleman who asserts a claim to the above title, Serafino Ciantar, has laid before the Commission no document showing when, on whom, and on what condition that title was conferred. He has, however, produced sufficient evidence that his family has constantly and unquestionably been in possession of that title, which was, moreover, on different occasions, recognized in several public Acts, by the Grand Masters, by whom some of the former holders of it were directly styled “Conte”. The said title having, as already noticed, passed to several persons, and having been also enjoyed by the male descendants of daughters, with the knowledge and approbation of the sovereigns of these islands, we have no hesitation in declaring that the present title is to be considered as still existing.
Among the documents exhibited by the claimant, we find three letters, bearing date respectively the 10th January, the 8th February and the 30th March 1722, addressed by Grand Master Zondadari to Ignazio Wzzini, who was then at Rome. The first of these letters contains the following superscription: Mag. Fideli Nobis dilecto Comiti Wzzini: the second is addressed thus, “Mag. Fideli Nobis dilecto Comiti Ignatio Wzzini”, and the third “Mag. Fideli Nobis dilectoCo. Ignatio Wzzini J.U.D.”
The same Grand Master Zondadari, on the 22nd January 1722, in three different letters addressed respectively to Cardinal d’Althama, to Cardinal Cieufuegos, and to Bali Spinola, prefixed the title of Conte to the name of the said Ignazio Wzzini. Grand Master Manoel, by a letter dated the 4th November 1722, strongly recommended to the Vice Roy of Sicily, the Conte Ignazio Wzzini and Antonio Ciantar his son-in-law. Grand Master Pinto, appointing, on the 1st June 1750, Giorgio Serafino Ciantar, another of the claimant’s ancestors, and grandson ex filia of the said Conte Ignazio, to a lieutenancy in a company of the regiment of Citta Pinto, styles him Comiti et baroni St. Joannes MilitiDon Georgio Seraphino Ciantar Pallologo, Equiti Professo Sacri Militaris Ordinis S. Benedicti de Avis, in Lusitania, Fideli Vasallo nro Nobis in Christo Dilecto Salutem And Grand Master de Rohan, on the 17th May 1783, conferring upon a cadet of the family the commission of captain in a company of a regiment of chasseurs (cacciatore The Cacciatori or Talconiere, were during the Government of the Order, a body of volunteers) addressed him thus: NobiliJosepho ex Comitibus Ciantar, fideli Vassallo uro Nobis in xto Dilecto Salutem.
Another proof of the existence of this title is desumed by the claimant from two patents issued on the 11th September 1738, by John, King of Portugal, appointing the Conte Fr. Ignazio Wzzini, Knight of the Order of St. Benedict de Avis, and containing the necessary direction for his investiture. In those two patents the said Ignazio Wzzini is styled Conte.
It is proper to remark, in order to remove any difficulty that may arise from the adoption of the different surnames of Wzzini and Ciantar that Count the Conte Ignazio Wzzini had no other children but one daughter named Teodora, who married Giovanni Antonio Ciantar. Of Teodora Conte Serafino was born, who left on his death the Conte Gio Battista, father of the present claimant Serafino, who became the first-born son of the family, by the decease, without issue, of his eldest brother the Conte Giovanni Antonio Ciantar.
It is unnecessary for us to offer any remarks on the other papers produced by the claimant, inasmuch as we think that Serafino Ciantar has fully established his claim to the title of “Conte”, although we cannot point out the date of the creation of that title, as we have been able to discover nothing with respect to that point in the documents we have inspected.
We cannot, however, omit to state that there is nothing to show that the ancestors of Count Ignazio Wzzini were also in possession of the title. In no place of published histories of Malta, the Wzzini family, before the Conte Ignazio, is referred to as a titled family: and in a certificate relating to the baptism of the above-named Conte Serafino Ciantar, senior, son of the said Contessa Teodora Ciantar Wzzini, daughter, as already stated, of Conte Ignazio Francesco Wzzini, the last-mentioned person, who stood as godfather, is not described as son of the Conte Paolo, but simply Filius quondam Dni Pauli, ejusdem civitatis Vallettae , although it must be presumed that such designation was written down in the certificate in question as dictated by the father of the christened child, or by the godfather himself. In allowing the present claim, we think, however, ourselves justified in adding that the claimant has not shown that his family was in possession of the title of “Conte” prior to the year 1722.