The Maltese title of Gnien is-Sultan.


Footnote: The title of “Marchese di Gnien Is-Sultan” was by a patent, dated the 1st December 1792, conferred by Grand Master de Rohan upon the nobleman FilippoApap. This title is purely nominal and does not have any property attached to it. In their general observations, the Royal Commissioners observed that most of the titles granted by the Grandmasters were merely honorary and had no relevance on property tenure “although it appears that those titles (granted by the Grand Masters) have derived their different denominations from several feudal lands existing in these islands, this annexation, however, is in most cases purely nominal, for those lands were never in reality conveyed to the grantees, but they remained as they are still Government Property.” The Commissioners also identified the only three exceptions to this purely nominal phenomenon, where tenure of property was a prerequisite namely Bahria, delle Catene, and Senia, the last being a divisible property. 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. 82).

Published sources show the title of “Marchese di ta Gnien Is-Sultan” as being inheritable by order of Primogeniture. However, the grant says otherwise.  (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. 74-75).

The actual report says the following:

“The title of Marchese of the feud ‘ta Gnien Is-Sultan’ was by a patent, dated the 1st December 1792, conferred by Grand Master de Rohan upon the nobleman Filippo Apap with succession to his male issue, and in the failure of male issue to the first-born female descendant. The operative clause of the grant runs thus: Praedictum Marchionis PheudiGnien Is-Sultan titulu . ‘.Tibi Magnigico Philippo Apap, tuisque descendentibus masculislegitimis et naturalibus ipsisque deficientibus, foemina majori natu, tribuimus, concedimus etdonamus, ac te Marchionis hujusmodi titulo decoramus’

This title was always looked upon as descendible only to the first-born male in the primogenial line of the original grantee.

The gentleman who claims the title, Felicissimo Apap, is the great grandson of the person first ennobled, as appears from the documents he has produced before the Commission..”

Consequently he will be referred to in our list as “Felicissimo Apap Marchese di Gnien Is-Sultan”

The clear terms of the grant tuisque descendentibus masculis legitimis et naturalibusipsisque deficientibus, foemina majori natuclearly show that the title is to be inherited by all agnatial descendants of the grantee. Moreover, the grant provides that a female (defined as the eldest female born) is only called into the remainder upon the extinction of all agnatial descent from the grantee. 

It is also worthwhile noting that the argument that such title has always been considered as descendible only in the primogenial line of the original grantee cannot hold. because:

1.        the terms of this grant are wider, albeit not the widest, than those grants and extensions made by the same Grand Master. For example the title of GhainKajet (4.06.1796) reads tuisque descendentibus primogenitis legitimis et naturalibus tribuimus concedimus, et donamus, the grant of Senia (6.6.1795) reads, tuosque utriusque sexus filios et descendentes,, that of Grua (30.12.1794)Tibi tuisque filiis et descendentibus masculis de primogenito in primogenitumtribuimus et concedimus et te hujusmodi Baronis titulo decoramus, whilst the extension to Fiddien (17.06.1793)  reads “Fiat pro primogenitis maribus tantum.”. The grant  in question is surely different to the personal grants of San Giorgio (6.9.1778) and Buleben ( 3.7.1777), 

2.        Moreover, whilst the Commissioners remarked in regard to title of a foreign origin that they “cannot, in fact, suppose that the Grand Masters were disposed to recognize, without any investigation, and as a matter independent of their own sovereign assent and approbation, as Titolati in their dominion, any persons indiscriminately who should have obtained a title of nobility from ay foreign Sovereign”, 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 Para. 102), it is reasonable to assert that the Grand Master knew full well that different remainders bring along different implications. 

3.        The grant is strictly agnatial to be enjoyed simultaneously by all the male descendants and does not allow transmission to females unless the male descendants in the male line have become extinct.

4.        Moreover, it is manifest that the 1792 grant does not include any references to remainder by primogenial descent.

Thus the remainder must be construed as favouring all agnatial descendants of FilippoApap. It cannot favour any female descendant until the happening of the extinction of all males.

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