Title of Baron of Buleben
The title Barone di Buleben is a title of Nobility in Malta. It was created in 1777 by the penultimate Grandmaster of the Order of Saint John during its rule over the Maltese Islands. A year later in 1778 the grantee successfully requested that this title be annexed to a private entail (“primogenitura”). Eventually this title was succeeded in 1788. In 1878, an official investigation declared this title extinct. However in 1883, this title was revived on the basis that it was held previously and possessed by the ‘Primogeniti’ Azopardi possessors of the ‘Primogenitura’ .
Since 1950, succession by entail was abolished in Malta by Act 12 of 1950 dated 5 May 1950.
Since 1975, a general duty is imposed in the Republic of Malta not to recognize any title of nobility.
ORIGIN AND NATURE OF TITLE
The title of Barone di Buleben was conferred by Grand Master Rohan on the 23rd July 1777, upon the nobleman Gaetano Azzopardi, in the following terms: - "Tibi nobili Cajetano Azzopardi tribuimus, concedimus et donamus hujusmodi titulo insignimus ac Baronem dicti feudi 'ta Buleben" constituimus, et ita nominari posse et debere atque uti, frui ac gaudere omnibus et singulis..." “
The foregoing patent differs from those the Commissioners have hitherto considered, inasmuch as it only designates the person ennobled, without providing for the descent of the title to his heirs and successors, and without specifically settling the course by which the dignity was to be conveyed to such heirs and successors.
The terms of the grant are similar to those of the patents granted in 1778 to Marchese Barbaro and in 1783 to Conte Luigi or Ludovico Gatt which contain no provision for the descent of the title to sons, heirs, descendents, and successors of the grantee. Nor does the grant state specifically that the title was created “ad vitam”.
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 land called “ta Buleben”.
However, in this case the possession of the private entail entitles the possessor to the title of “Barone di Buleben”. This is the same position consequent to the 1737 investiture of the title of “Barone di Gomerino” as well as the 1745 Grant of the title of “Conte della Catena”.
ANNEXATION OF TITLE TO THE “AZZOPARDI ENTAIL” IN FAVOUR OF CALCEDONIO AZZOPARDI AND ROYAL ASSENT
The Barone Gaetano after having obtained that patent presented a petition (in Italian) to the Grand Master, representing that "Whereas in the deed of grant of the title of 'Barone di Buleben' most benignly made to him, your Most Serene Highness had been pleased to order that on that occurrence the diploma should be issued from the cancelleria in favour of himself alone....And whereas in his family there existed a primogenitura erected in favour such among his children as he would name, and in default of nomination, in favour of his eldest son, and descendible to the first born males by the law of primogeniture (di primogenito in altro) until the total extinction of his male line, with power to each holder of it to name his successor; and whereas the income of that Primogenitura was more than sufficient for the decent support of its possessor, he (petitioner) begged that the grant of the title of 'Barone di Buleben' should be extended to such of his sons and male descendents as might for the time being be the holder of the Primogenitura". On this application the Grand Master endorsed the following rescript: "Magister Hospitalis Hyerusalem Gratiam petitam Oratori concedimus pro ejus filio successore in Primogenitura de qua in precibus, tantum. Datum in Palatio, die 25 Aprilis 1778".
The first born son of Gaetano, Calcedonio Azopardi, senior, after his father's death presented a petition to the Grand Master, requesting the investiture of the baronial title, submitting that the title had been granted to such of the grantee's sons as might be in possession of the Primogenitura, and producing an extract from an instrument from which it appeared that he had been named by his father to succeed to that Primogenitura. On this petition a decree was made on the 5th July 1788, and the formula of the oath for the investiture had already been partly drawn up, but it was afterwards, together with the petition, the decree, and the document, therein inserted, cancelled, as appears from the original records in the Cancelleria. The investiture was subsequently given to Barone Calcedonio, as may be seen from another authentic document in the Government Archives, bearing date the 10th August 1788; it begins thus: - 'Notum sit quod cum alias titulum Baronis feudi de Buleben, sub die 28 mensis Julii 1777, nobilis Cajetano Azzopardi pro ejus persona tantum concesserimus, quodque pariter, vigore nostri Magistralis Rescripti sub die 25 Aprilis 1778, editi, titulum hujusmodi etiam ad ejus filium Primogenituram habentem ampliaverimus, prout in hujusmodi concessionis diplomate et Rescripto, ad quae habeatur ratio plenius continetur....."
However a Royal Commission of 1878 remarked that, in this document, there are some corrections, and for the word filios, in the plural number, the word filium in the singular appears to have been substituted. On examining the said document, the Commission observed that the corrections in it are in the same handwriting as the original, and there were therefore no grounds for suspecting that the abrasions in the original incomplete formula, and the corrections in the one subsequently drawn up, were made after the above-mentioned investiture had taken place.
In 1870 the Marchese Giorgio Crispo Barbaro published a compendium of the “Maltese Nobility and the Maltese Gentry holding Foreign Titles”. In that publication Crispo Barbaro lists Calcedonio Azopardi Zammit as the then holder of the title as created on the 23 July 1777 and 25 April 1778 .
SPECIAL RULES OF SUCCESSION OF THE “AZZOPARDI ENTAIL”
The “Azzopardi Entail” differed from the general rules of Maltese primogeniture. It is described in the 1778 Rescript as a male-to-male-Primogenitura.
PRECEDENCE ENJOYED BY THE HOLDER OF THE TITLE OF BARONE DI BULEBEN
In terms of the general 1739 legislation it follows that in 1737 all of Gaetano Azzopardi’s male-to-male descendants (“Il discendente per linea mascolina”) were made automatically entitled to a precedence.
By virtue of the later general legislation of 1795 the Barone di Buleben and his agnate descendants were to rank before the holder of any title created after 1777 and respective descendants. Therefore, it follows that the Barone di Buleben ranks before the Marchese del Fiddien (created in 1785) Marchese della Taflia (1790) Marchese di Gnien is-Sultan (1792) and the Marchese di Ghajn Kajet (1796) even though all the latter titles purport a higher rank. The same position holds in regard to the respective male-to-male descendants. Conversely, the Barone di Buleben ranks after the older creations (mostly barons) and the holders of noble fiefs.
Grand Master Rohan is also credited with codifying various laws in Malta. Amongst these, we find in the 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).
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. A total of 3 general orders were made to this effect. The French in turn lost Malta in 1800 when the Commander in Chief Vaubois surrendered to His Britannic Majesty. On the 30 May 1814 (Treaty of Paris) it was stipulated that the island of Malta and its dependencies belong in full right and sovereignty to his Britannic majesty.
In time, the use of nobiliary titles was resumed. However, it appears that the unregulated and improper use of titles of nobility and other honours was tolerated by the local authorities who were themselves found to be at fault for encouraging such improper use. Throughout this period, a group known as the Assembly of Maltese Nobles is known to have functioned at this time but it did not enjoy any official role.
In 1876, the 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.
To facilitate the preparation of the report, an “ad hoc” Committee of Nobles was requested to provide a list of claimants. In that list, Calcedonio Azzopardi, junior is listed with the title of “Barone di Buleben”.
UNSUCCESSFUL CLAIM OF CALCEDONIO AZZOPARDI (junior) TO THE TITLE OF BARONE DI BULEBEN
The Commissioners described Calcedonio Azzopardi junior as being the son of Vincenzo who in turn was the son of the Barone Calcedonio who succeeded the title in 1788.
Calcedonio (junior) explained that the title was inheritable by the grantee’s lineal successors in perpetuum.. His arguments were summed up by the Commission as follows:-
- 1st. that the original diploma of 1777 did not confer upon Gaetano a merely personal title, but a perpetual dignity inheritable by his successors for ever, notwithstanding that the grant does not designate such successors, because no restrictive clause is added thereto, and because feudal grants are, of their own nature, perpetual;
- 2ndly that the rescript of 1778 did not extend the title to persons not included in the patent, but it only explained and construed the grant;
- 3rdly that the word filio employed in that rescript is to be taken to comprehend likewise the grandchildren, great grandchildren, and other descendents of the grantee in infinitum, according to the provisions of the Roman law;
- 4thly that the rescript was intended to include the immediate son of Gaetano, who would be named by his father to the succession of the primogenitura, without excluding the other descendents, who would succeed as first-born children jure proprio...
However, the Commissioners dismissed these arguments altogether. The Commissioners explained that all these arguments rest on the hypothesis that the patent of 1777 contained a perpetual grant, and – secondly - that it is not likely that by the subsequent rescript of 1778 it should have been restricted and limited.
The Commissioners could not regard the title as anything more than a personal one which was extended once only. In fact, they were of the opinion that the title of “Barone di Buleben”, was by the deed of grant, limited to Gaetano Azzopardi, and was afterward, by rescript, extended to his son Calcedonio, senior, and that it could not be borne by Dr. Vincenzo Azzopardi, grandson of the grantee, nor could it be enjoyed by his great grandson Calcedonio Azzopardi, junior
Hence the Commissioners refused the claim of Calcedonio Azzopardi, junior, saying that the title had become extinct.
With regard to the “recognition” of the title which Calcedonio Azzopardi, junior claimed in his favour, and that if his father, through the local administration under the British rule, the Commissioners recalled the fact that their Report was the first-ever careful enquiry into the origin, nature, and extent of the titles of Maltese nobility having been instituted. The continued explaining that no value was attached to the fact if in the period between 1800 till their Report, any person was designated by the prefix by which they were commonly called.
POSITION OF BRITISH SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES IN 1878
The Secretary of State agreed with the Commissioners. He explained that an act of presumed recognition under the British Government, (For example the styling of a gentleman as a baron, or count, or marquis in a passport, or in any other official document) could never be taken to have revived or perpetuated a title which has become extinct, or was otherwise without legal support. The Secretary of State emphasized that no public officer, not even a Secretary of State, has the power of conferring titles of honour, for which the personal sanction of Her Majesty is each case is necessary.
INTERCESSION ON BEHALF OF CALCEDONIO AZZOPARDI (junior) IN 1883 AND SUBSEQUENT DECISION BY BRITISH SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES
In 1883, a Committee of five Maltese nobleman submitted to the British Secretary of State for the Colonies their opinion that Baron Vincenzo died in 1857, after a personal, peaceful possession of nearly 60 year. Calcedonio Azopardi, the junior, succeeded to the paternal rights, in whose person both titles of ‘primogenitor’ and that of possessor of the ‘Primogenitura’ are united; he peacefully held the dignity of Barone di Buleben for the long period of more than 20 years, until unfortunately the Executive Government, without any solid reason, and not in pursuance of a legal action brought before by people that had an interest to sustain the determination of the title of Barone di Buleben, gave him to understand that this title had been for a long time extinct, and what is more remarkable and strange, that it had determined before Baron Vincenzo his father had succeeded to this dignity. Owing to the abovestated reasons it is hoped that the decision, emanated not under the authority of a court of justice, nor delivered on the suit of persons legally interested in the matter, be over-ruled, that ample justice may be done o Baron Calcedonio Azopardi the junior, his sons and descendants by authorizing them, through the grace and favour of the Crown, to hold the said title of Barone di Buleben as it was held previously and possessed by the ‘Primogeniti’ Azopardi possessors of the ‘Primogenitura’ and the memorialist Baron Calcedonio to have his name duly entered in the official list of Titolati.”
This recommendation was accepted by the Secretary of State for the Colonies and the name of Calcedonio Azzopardi, junior was added to the official list of Titolati.
The holders of the private entail have been confirmed by virtue of the 1883 decision of the British Secretary of State as being entitled to succeed the title.
Some publications show that this title may be succeeded by females. This would be consistent with the Rules of Primogeniture as also enacted by Grand Master Rohan. However, the application of this rule finds no basis in the private entail which is described by the Commissioners’ Report, as being tenable by males only. In fact neither the 1878 Report, nor the 1883 recommendation imply that a female is entitled to succeed the private entail.
As seen in “Barone della Marsa” where only males are contemplated by the terms of the grant one cannot extend these terms to include females. This is not be taken to mean that males descending in the female line are excluded from the entail (and therefore the title). As seen in “Barone della Grua” it is 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). Similarly in “Conte della Catena” the general rule of Primogeniture must be modified in its application only so far as such preference renders necessary.
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 before the title of Marchese di San Giorgio granted by Grand Master Rohan to Carlo Antonio Barbaro on the 6 September 1778 and after the title of Barone della Marsa granted by the same Grand Master to Gio Francesco Dorell Falzon on the 10 March 1775.
The limited use of the title “The Most Illustrious and Noble” was first regulated in Malta in 1725 and was extended to the Grand Masters to only some families, not necessarily titled-families. However, this title was considered unacceptable to the British authorities who opined it could only be borne by Princes of the blood Royal. A compromise was reached allowing the introduction of the style “The Most Noble” on the premise that all title holders were entitled to the title. Thus, as from the year 1886, the holder of the title of Barone di Buleben became entitled to be styled “The Most Noble”.
The British Colonial administration also allowed presumed successors of titles of nobility, the diminutive style of their respective titles, in this case Baroncino di Buleben. But the Colonial administration did not allow any legal right to the use of these styles.
Other descendants of the various holders of this title are by custom entitled to be styled dei Baroni di Buleben. Again, the Colonial administration did not allow any legal right to the use of this style.
Since 1950, succession by entail was abolished in Malta by Act 12 of 1950 dated 5 May 1950.
Since 1975, a general duty is imposed in the Republic of Malta not to recognize any title of nobility. (Act 29 of 1975 dated 17 October 1975).
PRIMARY REFERENCES (GRANT/S):
1. Grant of title of Barone di Buleben by Grand Master Rohan to Gaetano Azzopardi on the 23 October 1783 (Recorded in the Archives of the Order, National Library, Malta Ref. AOM 581, ff. 246v-247r)
2. Rescript dated 25 April 1778 in favour of Gaetano Azzopardi (Recorded in the Archives of the Order, National Library, Malta Ref. AOM 582f. 264r)
3. Draft Decree prepared on the 5th July 1788 (Original records in the Cancelleria.)
4. The investiture in favour of Barone Calcedonio, bearing date the 10th August 1788;
5. 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)