Marchesi di San Giorgio (“Marquises St. George”)
The title Marchese di San Giorgio is a title of Nobility in Malta. Although it is not the oldest Marquisate in Malta, it is the Premier title of “Marchese” which was conferred by the Grandmasters of the Order of Saint John during their rule over the Maltese Islands.
The title was first granted in 1778 to Carlo Antonio Barbaro. Technically, this grant was to become extinct upon the death of the original grantee.
However the title was extended, once in favour of his son, and a second time in favour of his son’s descendants.
Sometimes, this title is referred to as “Marquis St. George”.
Since 1975, titles of nobility are no longer recognized in the Republic of Malta by Act 29 of 1975 dated 17 October 1975.
Origin and Nature of title
The title of Marchese di San Giorgio was granted by patent on the 6th September 1778, by Grand Master Rohan, to Carlo Antonio Barbaro without any mention of sons, heirs, and successors of the grantee. The operative part of the patent of creation runs thus:- Tibi Nobile D. Carolo Antonio Barbaro tribuimus, concedimus, et donamus, hujusmodi titulo insignimus ac Marchionem dicti Pheudi Sancti Georgii constituimus et ita nominari posse et debere
The aforesaid Marchese Carlo Antonio Barbaro, after the dignity had been conferred upon him, considering that the grant was limited to himself alone, applied to the Grand Master praying that it might at least be extended to his first-born son Gioacchino Ermolao.
On the 2 February 1779, the Grand Master by a rescript, acceded to Carlo Antonio’s request in the following terms: Fiat prout petitur.
Carlo Antonio died on the 22 April 1798.
Before Carlo Antonio died, his son Gioacchino Ermolao made his own request to the same Grand Master praying that the title be extended to all of his own descendants in perpetuity. Gioacchino Ermolao’s application was complied with by a rescript of the 5th June 1792.
In all three concessions 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 lands called “San Giorgio”.
Precedence enjoyed by the holders of the title of Marchese di San Giorgio
Long before the Barbaro family was first ennobled in Malta, the then Grand Master Depuig had introduced in 1739 the concept of according a form of precedence to a holder of a title of nobility. The relative law is reproduced hereunder:-
Hosplis Mgr et Hierlem Sti. Sepulchri. - Per togliere le differenze di precedenze tra le persone che saranno promosse alla giurazie dell’ Universita’ della Notabile e della Valletta, vogliamo, ordiniamo e comandiamo che tutte siano precedue dagli infrascritti, e che fra queti si regoli la precedena call’ ordine seguente cioe’: Primieramente, chi fu Capitano della Verga della Sudetta Citta’ Notabile e nostra Isola di Malta.; Secondo. Il Titolato che ha un titolo fondato sopra un feudo in realta’ esistente qui, benche’ non lo possegga.; Terzo. Il titolato che non ha un titolo fondato sopra fondo realmenteesistente nel nostro Dominio, registrato che sia il titolo nella Cancelleria nella nostra Religione e nella Gran Corte della nostra Castellania, e pagato per i rispettivi registramenti il diritto di scudi cento sedici di questa moneta, da dividersi per meta’ tra la Cancelleria e la Castellania sudetta.; Quarto. Il discendente per linea mascolina da chi fu Capitano della Verga, se vive colle proprie rendite, e se i di lui ascendente intermedie vissero pure colle proprie rendite.; Quinto. Il discendente per linea mascolina da un titolo con titolo fondato sopra un feudo qui realmente esistente, se vive colle proprierendite, e se i suoi ascendenti intermedie cosi vissero; Sesto. Chi fu primo Giurato della Notabile; Settimo. Chi fu primo Giurato della Valletta; Ottavo. Il piu’ anziani di Giurazia di quella Universita’ dellaquale sara’ creato giurato.; Nono. Chi fu Giudice d’Appello Criminale o Civile della Gran Corte della Castellania e della Corte Capitanale e Governatoriale; Diecimo. Il Dottore di Leggi ed il Dottore di Medicina.: - Dichiariamo che fra le persone d’un stesso grado si deve attendere l’anzianita’ del titolo primordiale e che chiunque fu Giurato, se sara’ fatto Console di Mare, fra i quali s’attendera l’anzianitad’ufficio. Dat. In Palatio, die xvi. Septembris 1739 (f. Despuig)
On the basis of this enactment it follows that in 1778 all of Carlo Antonio Barbaro’s male-to-male descendants (“Il discendente per linea mascolina”) were already automatically entitled to a precedence even though the title was only conferred to Carlo Antonio Barbaro for his own lifetime.
As the title of Marchese di San Giorgio is of a higher rank than other titles previously granted by the Grand Masters (usually a Marquis ranks before a Count, who in turn ranks before a Baron), it follows that as at 1778 as well as at 1779, the newly ennobled Marchesi di San Giorgio being the Premier Maltese marquises ranked before all other Maltese barons and counts who were of much older nobility. Moreover being the Premier Maltese Marquisate, the title of Marchese di San Giorgio ranked before the older Marquisates which originated outside Malta.
This anomaly was finally rectified in 1795 by the same Grand Master Rohan as follows:
Hosplis Magr. Hierlem. Sti. Sepulchri, et Ordinis Sti Antonii, Viennensis Essendo una massima universalmente ricevuto, che il maggior lustro della Nobilta’ principalmente dipende dalla sua maggiore antichita’, niente che il piu’ giusto e ragionevole che il piu’ antico Nobile preceda il piu’ moderno. Siamo pertanto venuti nella determinazione di Ordinare che nel regolarsi la precedenza tra le persone Nobile di questo nostro Dominio, cosi’ primogeniti che cadetti indistintamente, si abbioa ad avere unicamente riguardo alla maggiore o minore antichita’ del titolo che nobilito le loro famiglie, e cio tanto se il titolo sara’ stato concesso da Noi o Nostri predecessori, che se lo avessero ottenuto da Principi esteri, purche’ pero sara’ stato questo debitamente registrato nella Nostra Cancelleria e Gran Corte della Castellania; nel consorso pero’ di ugual data quello nella di cui persona concorreranno piu’ titoli dovra’ essere preferito, all’ altro che ne avesse meno, secondo la graduazione stabilita nel Chirografo Magisteriale del Nostro Predecessore Gran Maestro Despuig di Gl. Em. Del 16 Sept 1739, quale in quelle parti che non contradicono la questa nostra disposizione intendiamo di pienamente confermare.Datum in Palatio die xvii Martii 1795 (f.) Rohan
Therefore with effect from 1795, the Marchesi di San Giorgio enjoyed a precedence only according to the date of creation, and not according to their rank of title. Moreover, this Maltese Marquisate did not enjoy any precedence over any foreign title, provided that such foreign title was duly registered in the Maltese Registry.
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. (General Napoleon Bonaparte issued two orders dated 13 and 16 June 1798 prohibiting the use of any title “ORDRE (1) QUARTIER GENERAL DE MALTE, LE 25 PRAIRAL, AN VI (13 JUIN 1798): Le General en Chef ordonne……(ARTICLE 2.)… Toutes les armoires seront abbatues dans l’ espace de 24 heures. Il est defendu de porter dest livrees, ni aucune marque et titre distinctif de noblesse. ORDRE (2) AU QUARTIER GENERAL DE MALTE, LE 28 PRAIRAL, AN VI (16 JUIN 1798): Bonaparte Membre de l’Istitut National, General-en-Chef ordonne…(ARTICLE CINQUIEME)….Dix jours apres la publication du present ordre, il est defendu d’avoir des armoires soit dans l’interieur, soit a l’exterieur des maisons, de cacheter des lettres avec des armoires, ou de prendre des titres feodaux. ……(ARTICLE DOUZIEME)….Tous les contrevenants aux articles cidessous, seront condamnes pour la premier fois, a une amende du tiers de leurs revenus; pour la seconde fois, a trois mois de prison; pour la troisieme fois a un an de prison; pour la quatrieme fois, a la deportation de l’ile de Malte, et a la confiscation de la moitie de leurs biens. Il devra toujours y avoir 10 jours d’intervalle entre la recidive.”
Another Order was issued by Bosredon Ransijat, President of the Commission du Gouvernement dated 18 Messidor Year 6 (6 July 1798), where it was enacted that all honorary titles should be burnt on the 14th of that month and that every holder of a title should carry his patent at the Arbre de la Liberté.
The French in turn lost Malta in 1800 to a contingent raised by Captain Ball and Admiral Nelson. Malta later became a British Protectorate after the Treaty of Paris of 1814.
In time, the use of nobiliary titles was resumed. However, it appears that this use was unregulated.
In 1870 the Marchese Giorgio Crispo Barbaro published a compendium of the “Maltese Nobility and the Maltese Gentry holding Foreign Titles”. In that publication Giorgio Crispo Barbaro describes himself as the only person entitled to the title of “Marchese di San Giorgio”. - See full text of the Crispo Barbaro’s book at http://www.saidvassallo.com/SME/1870%20barbaro.pdf
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.
UNSUCCESSFUL CLAIM OF GIORGIO CRISPO BARBARO TO THE TITLE OF MARCHESE DI SAN GIORGIO
In 1878, the only claimant to the title of Marchese di San Giorgio was the same Giorgio Crispo Barbaro who presented himself as the lawful holder.
In support of his claim Giorgio Crispo Barbaro stated that the title had been renounced in his favour and conveyed to him by his father Gustavo Barbaro. In fact, Gustavo had by means of a letter dated the 13th December 1868 empowered Giorgio to assume the title. Moreover by means of another letter dated 1st September 1877, Gustavo confirmed that power, declaring himself at the same time ready to sign any public instrument to that effect.
Giorgio’s claim was dismissed by the Commissioners because they held that the then first-born male descendent in the primogenial line of the first titled person was not Giorgio, but his father Gustavo who was still alive at the time.
The Commissioners remarked that the title of Marchese di San Giorgio would only descend to Giorgio after the death of Gustavo. In addition, the Commissioners gave no value to the aforesaid letters because such cession is legally void, it being a settled point of feudal law that titles of nobility cannot be alienated and conveyed to other persons by deed of transaction between private parties, and without the sovereign’s sanction.
In other parts of their Report, the Commissioners made more comments to the special remainder relative to the title of Marchese di San Giorgio, in fact stating that the effect of the successful application of 1792 was to obtain an extension in favour of all of Gioacchino Ermolao Barbaro’s descendants in perpetuity.
In the 1878 Report, Giorgio Crispo Barbaro is described as the only son of Gustavo Barbaro. However in his own book dated 1870, Giorgio states that he has a younger brother Carlo born in 1859, also a son of Gustavo.
The 1878 Report also describes how Giorgio Crispo Barbaro failed to produce any proof or document whatsoever concerning his claim to the hereditary honour of “Venetian Patrician”.
Some publications regard the title of “Marchese di San Giorgio” as descendible only in the primogenial line of the original grantee (or that of Gioacchino Ermolao Barbaro). However, this view does not find any basis in the 1878 Report.
In fact the 1878 report is very clear in stating that the title was extended in favour of all of Gioacchino Ermolao Barbaro’s descendants.
The second controversy is whether the title could be enjoyed by a female, and whether the title can be transmitted to a male descending in the female line.
In the 1878 Report, the Commissioners explained that it is a settled rule that any interpretation of Magistral assent to a rescript must be restrictive. Analogous circumstances in the 1878 Report prove that it is not possible for a female to enjoy this title, nor is it possible for a male to succeed the title through a female descendant.
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 Conte di Beberrua granted by Grand Master Rohan to Luigi Gatt on the 23 October 1783 and after the title of Barone di Buleben granted by Grand Master Rohan to Gaetano Azzopardi on the 23 July 1777.
The genealogy of the Marchesi di San Giorgio is as follows:
Original creation (1778(Grant))
· Carlo Antonio Barbaro (died 1798)
1st extension (1779(Rescript)) on request of Carlo Antonio Barbaro
· In favour of Gioacchino Ermolao Barbaro (died 1844)
2nd extension (1792(Rescript)) on request of Gioacchino Ermolao Barbaro
· In favour of Gioacchino Ermolao Barbaro’s descendants
PRIMARY REFERENCES (GRANT/S):
1. Grant of title of Marchese di San Giorgio by Grand Master Rohan to Carlo Antonio Barbaro on the 23 September 1778 (Recorded in the Archives of the Order, National Library, Malta Ref. AOM 582, ff. 282v-283v)
2. Rescript issued by Grand Master Rohan dated 2 February 1779 in relation to petition filed by Carlo Antonio Barbaro for an extension of the title of Marchese di San Giorgio in favour of his son Gioacchino Ermolao Barbaro (Recorded in the Archives of the Order, National Library, Malta Ref. AOM 582, f. 292r )
3. Rescript issued by Grand Master Rohan dated 5 June 1792 in relation to petition filed by Gioacchino Ermolao Barbaro for an extension of the title of Marchese di San Giorgio in favour of all his descendants (Recorded in the Archives of the Order, National Library, Malta Ref. AOM 627 unpag.)
SECONDARY REFERENCES (HISTORY):
(1) 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.):
(2) 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)
(3) Copies or Extracts of Correspondence with reference to the Maltese Nobility (In continuation of C3812, August 1883), presented to both Houses of Parliament by Command of Her Majesty May 1886 (C-4628a)
(4) John Montalto, “The Nobles of Malta 1530-1800” (Midsea Books, Malta, 1980)
TERTIARY REFERENCES (PUBLISHED GENEALOGY):
(1) Crispo Barbaro "THE NOBLES OF MALTA, AND THE MALTESE GENTRY HOLDING FOREIGN TITLES AS AT PRESENT EXISTING BY GEO. G.C.’A. CRISPO BARBARO MARQUIS OF ST. GEORGE” MALTA:- A.D. MDCCCLXX (THE ANGLO-MALTESE PRESS, MALTA, 1870)"
(2) Charles Gauci "THE GENEALOGY AND HERALDRY OF THE NOBLE FAMILIES OF MALTA" (GULF PUBLISHING, MALTA, 1981)"
(3) Charles Gauci A GUIDE TO THE MALTESE NOBILITY" (PEG PUBLICATIONS, MALTA, 1986)
(4) Charles Gauci "THE GENEALOGY AND HERALDRY OF THE NOBLE FAMILIES OF MALTA VOLUME TWO " (PEG PUBLICATIONS, MALTA, 1992)
(5) Charles Gauci "THE GENEALOGY AND HERALDRY OF THE NOBLE FAMILIES OF MALTA VOLUME ONE " (PEG PUBLICATIONS, MALTA, 2002)