Testaferrata Olivier


Title: Marquis
Title in succession:
Date created: 
13 July 1717
Grant by:  
Victor Amadeus, King of Sicily, and Duca di Savoy
Granted To: Mario Testaferrata de Robertis
Rep: Testaferrata Olivier (dormant)
Remainder to:
his legitimate natural descendants in perpetuity
Present Holder:
Paul Olivier Testaferrata Olivier (never registered with Com. of Privileges) 
Note: Title never registered in Malta, but Grand Master Pinto 
addressed Pandolfo (younger son) as Marquis in 1745
British Crown recognition: 1883
Abeyance: Passed into abeyance 1968 and brought out 1983 by the Com. of Privileges, currently residing in the USA.
Foreign Titles not recognised by the Royal 1878 Commission: Baron Testaferrata Moroni Viani
Further notes: USA

Jean Ollivier des Seigneurs de Puget, c. 1653

The Title of Marquisate Testaferrata-Olivier is one of the formations along with the Marquisate di San Vincenzo Ferreri, Testaferrata, Cassar-Desain, which were granted in 1717 to Mario Testaferrata de Robertis at Chambray by Victor Amadeus, King of Sicily, and Duca di Savoy. The remainder was to all his legitimate and natural descendants (see Testaferrata History). 

This title was never registered in Malta, However Grand Master Pinto address the grantee`s Grandson Pandolfo Testaferrata (younger son the 2nd Marquis di San Vincenzo Ferreri and Testaferrata) as Marquis in 1745. 

Pandolfo Testaferrata, married to Rosina Olivier de Puget-Ducoss, which the surname of Olivier was added to all descendants of this marriage. Pandolfo was succeeded by his son Guiseppe Enrico Testaferrata-Olivier in 1816. 

Guiseppe , the 2nd Marquis was a Major in the Royal Malta Regiment, and married secondly in 1796 to a Daughter of the Marquis `Cassar-Desain` and sired several sons. Giuseppe firstly married a daughter of the Barony di Castel Cicciano and had one child , a daughter, who later married and is ancestress to the Counts Sant and Barons di Ghariexem e Tabia. 

Dr Men`Andrea Testaferrata-Olivier LL.D succeeded after his father`s death in 1839 as the 3rd Marquis, though died unmarried, and succeeded by his brother Gio Paolo in 1850. 

Point in History: Gio Paolo Testaferrata-Olivier married a member of the Casolani family, a very rich family at that time and sired several children. He served as President for the Malta Society and Arts Manufacture and Commerce, from 1863 to 1875 and from 1877 to 1855, serving for 12 years. He had been instrumental with the exhibition 'Esposizione Industriale', was organised at the National library in Valletta. It consisted of works exhibited by craftsmen and Industrialists. A record attendance of 4000 persons visited the exhibits. Medals certificates and letters of honorable mention were introduced during this time, for recognition in achievements. Notably Arch. E.L Galizia was presented one for the planning of the Adolorata Cemetery, Mikelang Sapiano for his works on clocks and watches, Emanuel Decelis for his sculpture, restoration and inlaying at the Mdina Cathedral. 


His successor to the title, after his death on the year of 1888, was Louis. 

Perhaps one of the strangest cases ever to come before the 1878 Royal Commission was the title of Marquis Testaferrata. 

The decision of the Royal Commissioners concerning this title as presented in their report was undoubtedly correct. 

However, the petition subsequently presented by the Committee of Privileges of the Maltese Nobility, together with its acceptance by the Colonial Government must surely rank amongst one of the most absurd happenings in the history of the Maltese Nobility! 

Marquis Testaferrata

On 13th, July 1717, Victor-Amadeus, King of Sicily and Duke of Savoy conferred the title of Marchese Testaferrata upon Mario Testaferrata. This was the same Testaferrata who had received the non-title of Marchese di San Vincenzo Ferreri in the Kingdom of Naples on 10th. November 1716 at the hands of King Philip V of Spain, at a time when that Sovereign lacked any territorial Sovereignty over Naples as a consequence of the Treaty of Utrecht-see my article concerning this title which also appears on this website.

Certain points need to be to be made here concerning the grant of Marchese Testaferrata (underlining is mine)

1. The title was granted by Victor-Amadeus as King of Sicily (which he then undoubtedly was thanks to the Treaty of Utrecht) NOT as Duke of Savoy.


The concluding words of the patent were "Given at Chambrey, on the 13th. July, in the fourth year of our reign" Victor-Amadeus ascended the throne of Savoy in 1675, 22 years before the grant in question; he ascended the throne of Sicily in 1713, as a direct result of the treaty of Utrecht, that is four years before the grant in question; this latter is the time scale referred to in the grant. 

Victor-Amadeus ordered that the patent be registered in the Principal Secretariat of State for his Dominions; in pursuance of that command, the patent was registered and not simply recorded in the Registry of the Privileges of the Kingdom of Sicily and NOT in the Duchy of Savoy 

2. The title was granted to "Don Mario Testaferrata and his legitimate and 

natural descendants successively"` 


a. In this grant, no mention is made of the `title` of Marquis (of San Vincenzo Ferreri) bestowed by the King of Spain on Mario Testaferrata eight months earlier (see my article). The title was granted to Don Mario not to Marquis Mario Testaferrata. This confirms the questionable nature of the San Vincenzo Ferreri `title`. 

b. It was not an open grant extended simply to all `his descendants` but to his descendants successively i.e. one at a time. 

3. The title was never registered in the Chancellery of the Order of St. John in Malta 

The Succession 
The Royal Commission was faced with a rather comical situation! 

SEVEN gentlemen claimed the right to use this title simultaneously on the premise that it was open `to all descendants of Mario Testaferrata` not just to the first-born male in the primogenial line. One gentleman (primogenial male line) claimed it exclusively. 

*1 The Royal Commissioners made some preliminary comments on this claim- see the Royal Commission Report, page 27 paras. 127 & 128 

(We will not reproduce here the lengthy legal arguments gone into as these can easily be read in the Royal Commission report by anybody with the time to spare!)

However, the salient points, which emerged from these arguments, were; 

1. The grant was never registered in Malta, and it was not recognised in Malta therefore no one could claim it. 

When King Charles V ceded Malta to the Order of St. John, he ceded the Order the dominium utile-thus, the Grandmaster, as Sovereign Prince held the fons honorum over Malta and he had to officially recognise all foreign grants. 

2. Various documents were produced to show that one or other of the claimants ancestors were recognised as Marchesi by the Order despite the lack of registration; 

The two with the most documents were Gio. Paolo Testaferrata Olivier and Lorenzo Cassar Desain-but most of the documentation also applied in common to the other claimants. 

Amongst the `most important` (!) documents which Gio. Paolo Testaferrata Olivier produced were, 

A marriage certificate authenticated by Fra. Ferdinand de Hompesch as Grand Chancellor of the Order; in this certificate, Gio. Paolo`s ancestor is styled Marchese; therefore, Gio. Paolo maintained that he was recognised as a Marquis. However, close scrutiny of this document by the Royal Commissioners showed that Hompesch was only authenticating the signature of the notary concerned and not the contents of the certificate itself. (see paras. 139) 

Documents by the Senate of Messina (18th. August 1793, 12 July 1791) in which his ancestor (not the first-born) is styled Marchese. `Irrelevant` said the Royal Commissioners, since it was not the Order but a foreign power who issued these documents. (see paras. 141-143) 

Various Passports issued by Kingdom of The Two Sicilies (8-5-1789, 30-08-1789, 7-01-1790)-again all `irrelevant` said the Royal Commissioners, since again, it was not the Order but a foreign power that had issued these documents. 

In point of fact, most of the documents presented by the petitioners were considered to be totally irrelevant since they were in the nature of either private and /or unofficial correspondence. 

A couple of documents were produced which, the claimants felt were very important to their cause since they referred to the fact that their ancestors were styled Marchese when their election to the post of Jurat was announced by the Order. 

The documents relating to the claim entered by Gio. Paolo Testaferrata Olivier are dealt with first; (see page 31 paras. 146, 147) (Document 3) 

Unfortunately, the Royal Commissioners did not share the petitioner`s enthusiasm and they summarily dismissed these documents as being both irrelevant and unimportant. 

Most of the other claimants who relied on virtually similar documentation were similarly dismissed.

Lorenzo Cassar Desain had also attached great importance to the fact that his ancestor was styled Marchese when his election to the post of Jurat was announced by the Order. (see page 33 paras. 156-158) 

The conclusion of the Royal Commissioners was pretty conclusive, referring to all the various claimants, including Gio. Paolo Testaferrata Olivier and Lorenzo Cassar Desain, they said; 

"Having premised these circumstances we think that the gentlemen who appeared to assert their rights to the present title have failed to show that those under whom they claim were under the government of the Order lawfully recognised as Marchesi by the sovereign authorities of the island" 

Other documents were then analysed by the Royal Commissioners. 

These documents were offered as proof by Gio. Paolo Testaferrata Olivier and by Lorenzo Cassar Desain that the British Crown had actually recognised their titles.

A whole assortment of letters, press cuttings as well as school certificate from the Lyceum was presented. 

This motley collection also failed to impress the Royal Commissioners who stated inter alia (on page 36 para 165) that;

"The above stated circumstances lead us to conclude that no great importance was formerly attached by the Local Government to a proper use of the titles of nobility" 

and (in para 166) 

" With reference to the forgoing papers, by which the above-named claimants have attempted to establish the recognition of the title (of Marchese Testaferrata) now under consideration, on the part of the British Government, we beg to refer his Excellency`s attention to the fact, that, as far as we are aware, such official documents emanating from the head of the Local Government and other authorities of the island, were not issued pursuant to orders received from Her Majesty or her predecessors, who are the source of all honours and distinctions." 

Having proven that this title of Marchese Testaferrata had not been recognised either by the Order or by the British Crown, the Royal Commissioners then (para. 166a) categorically rejected the argument that the title allowed for several simultaneous lines of succession by virtue of the jure longobardum as opposed to jure francorum since it was granted in Sicily not in Savoy. 

Under the jure longobardum, operating in Germany, Lombardy and in other parts of Italy including the Duchy of Savoy, titles of nobility annexed to fiefs (which in those countries were divisible) as well as those which were purely nominal descended after the death of a title-holder to all his sons who all assumed the title.

In Sicily, where the jure francorum operated, as a general rule, fiefs were not divisible and the joint possession by more than one person was unknown in that country.

So in summary, what the Royal Commissioners said was that

1. The title of Marchese Testaferrata, (which I hasten to add was a perfectly legitimate title) was never recognised in Malta by the Order and therefore it should not be given recognition by the British Crown

2. Even if it were recognised (which it wasn`t) there could not be more than one holder since it was granted in Sicily not Savoy. The rightful line would then be found in the primogenial male line. 

By this line, the title would have devolved to Emanuele Testaferrata Bonici Ghaxaq (1843-1903) all other lines being irrelevant to the succession.

Thus the title of Marquis Testaferrata was disallowed.

None of the claimants, including Gio. Paolo Tetaferrata Olivier and Lorenzo Cassar Desain were recognised as title-holders.

What happened next! 

This decision not surprisingly led to howls of protest.

The Committee of Privileges of the Maltese Nobility, newly formed after the 1878 Royal Commission report, sent a petition to the British Colonial Government, in May 1883. 

This report, entered specifically, on behalf of Gio. Paolo Testaferrata Olivier and Lorenzo Cassar Desain, stated that

"the above named two noblemen have laid before this Committee several official copies of authentic documents preserved in the Government Archives, wherein repeated direct recognition are found of the title of `Marchese` on the part of the Grandmasters as possessed simultaneously by their respective immediate ancestors" 

And again the Committee of Privileges report refers to

"the reiterated direct recognitions, custom, possession, and prescription upheld also during the British rule by several public official acts in their favour, as well as in that of their immediate male ancestors" 

It bears stating that these documents were the very same documents which had been presented to the Royal Commissioners and which had been dismissed by them as totally irrelevant!

The Committee of Privileges then state in their petition that Gio Paolo Testaferrata Olivier`s title of Marchese should be recognised from 1745 since his ancestor was addressed as Marchese by the Order of St. John in that year (the `Jurat` document referred to above). 

They also stated that Lorenzo Cassar Desain should be recognised from 1749 for the same reason (the other `Jurat` document-also referred to above).

In effect they were asking that the Colonial Government should regard these two `titles` as having been created in 1745 & 1749 respectively by Grandmaster Pinto while the `parent title` of Marquis Testaferrata would remain unrecognised even though both gentlemen actually drew their status of title-holders from that unrecognised title. 

The fact that the Grandmaster in question never signed anything even vaguely resembling a patent of creation did not seem to trouble the members of the Committee!!

Thus the `titles` of Marquis Testaferrata Olivier and of Marquis Cassar Desain were conceived as a face saving exercise.

Walt Disney could not have come up with a better fairy story!!

It bears stating that all the arguments in the Committee`s petition had already been examined in great detail by the Royal Commissioners and found to be totally spurious!

It also bears stating that Lorenzo Cassar Desain was a very active member in the Committee of Privileges; he became its Hon. Secretary for a number of years. 

He was a member of the Council of Government (1881-1882) and was in fact appointed CMG in 1885. 

He carried considerable clout, both in the nobility and in government. 

Enough clout, it would seem for the Colonial Government to backtrack on its acceptance of the Royal Commissioners` report and to accept this rather silly petition presented by the Committee of Privileges which contained nothing they had not already heard, and previously rejected out of hand.

In my article (on this Website) concerning the title of Count of Beberrua, 

I state:  "One has to understand the background to this acceptance; the British Government had become totally exasperated with the local nobility, which they considered to be a veritable nuisance! The Committee perpetually bombarded the British Government with lengthy communications about the most trivial items. One has only to read the heated correspondence exchanged between Malta and London to appreciate this. 

In order to get the Committee of its back-you can just feel the exasperation of the British Civil Servants screaming at you from the official correspondence - the British Government decided to re-instate a number of titles, which its own Royal Commissioners had disallowed. This resulted in some very strange titles getting through. 

This statement applies equally to the `titles` of Marquis Testaferrata Olivier and Marquis Cassar Desain both of which were, and indeed still are, totally fictitious. 

These two `titles` were conceived by the Committee of Privileges and delivered into this world by the British Colonial Government! 

Would the British Government have dealt in this way with a British Peerage?! 

Let us be absolutely clear about the precedents set here:

1. A title bestowed on a grantee with remainder to `his descendants` (`successively`) was taken to mean that all his descendants could hold the title simultaneously, and 

2. Any form of communication emanating from the Government of Malta which 

contained a reference to a title of nobility was to be taken as an official act of recognition; there was (is) no need for a specific act of recognition. 

Louis , succeeded as the 5th Marquis, and married into the Casolani family, which produced six children. 

Their eldest child, Camille, married in 1900 to Lt. Col Charles Barnard-Bonham, a member of the English Barony Barnard. 

The second child was Marguerite, died unmarried 

The third child was Henri, who succeeded as the 6th Marquis, , but died unmarried in 1950. 

The fourth Child was Ida, who married in 1916 to a member of the Northcote family, who were Earls of Iddesleigh 

The fifth Child was Jean Paul, which will treat in the next paragragh. 

The sixth child and the youngest was Robert, who moved to Western Australia, and brought property to run a sheep farm, which his descendants still hold today. 

Jean Paul Testaferrata-Olivier, succeeded his brother in 1950, and settled in the USA, with his family. 

Died in 1968, and succeeded to his son, and the present heir, Paul Olivier. 

Paul Olivier Jr, was an attorney at law in the USA, and succeeded as the 8th Marquis Testaferrata-Olivier . 
His heir is his son Mark Thomas Olivier as the Marchesino Testaferrata-Olivier.

A Genealogical Account of the Marquis's Testaferrata Olivier

Louis Testaferrata Olivier (1855-1912), 5th Marquis Testaferrata Olivier, married 1882 to Elise Casolani

1. Henri Testaferrata Olivier (1886-1950), 6th Marquis Testaferrata Olivier , dunm.
2. Jean Paul Testaferrata Olivier (1888-1968), 7th Marquis Testaferrata Olivier, married 1927 to Mary Thelma Barrick
2.1. Paul T. Olivier, Jr (1929- ., 8th Marquis Testaferrata Olivier, married 1951 to Ruth Marie Baxter
2.1.1. Mark Olivier (1955-., Marchesino Testaferrata Olivier, married 1984 to Karen Anne Bedard
2.1.2. Lynn Marie Olivier (1960-., married 1987 to Benny Joe Cunningham Justin Joe Olivier (1990- Alexandria Marie Cunningham (1993-
3. Robert Testaferrata Olivier (1898-1980), married 1940 to Frances Sewell
3.1. Jean Paul Testaferrata Olivier, LL.B, (1942-., married 1979 to Caroline Anne Fisher
3.1.1. John Paul Testaferrata Olivier (
3.1.2. Robert Charles Testaferrata Olivier (1984-
3.1.3. Gabriella Camilla Testaferrata Olivier (1982-
3.2. Robert Testaferrata Olivier, B.Sc, (1948-., married 1968 to Lyndell Marie Taylor
3.2.1. James Testaferrata Olivier (
3.2.2. Michelle Testaferrata Olivier (
4. Camille Testaferrata Olivier (1883-1952), married Lt.Col. Charles Bernard Bonham, D.S.O. with issue
4.1. Charles Barnard-Bonham, O.M, (1901-
4.2. Henry Barnard-Bonham (1903-
4.3. Elaine Barnard-Bonham (1902-
4.4. Enid Barnard-Bonham (1905-
5. Marguerite Testaferrata Olivier (1884-
6. Ida Testaferrata Olivier (1887-1978), married 1916 to Major Leonard Stafford Northcote
6.1. Henry James Stafford Northcote (1922-, married 1949, Div 1961 to Sheila Manahan

(IF THERE ARE ANY UPDATES TO ANY TREES, PLEASE SEND AN EMAIL TO '[email protected] or [email protected] ' stating site you seen the genealogical tree and updates.)

References: 1) Gauci,C.A.," The Genealogy and Heraldry of the Noble Families of Malta", Gulf Publishing Ltd, Malta, 1981.
2) Gauci,C.A.," The Genealogy and Heraldry of the Noble Families of Malta, Volume Two", Publishers Enterprises Group (PEG) Ltd, 1992.
3) Gauci,C.A and Mallet, P.,"The Palaeologos Family- A Genealogical Review" ,Publishers Enterprises Group (PEG) Ltd, 1985
4) Gauci, C.A.," A Guide to the Maltese Nobility", Publishers Enterprise Group (PEG) Ltd, Malta, 1986.
5) Montalto, J., "The Nobles of Malta-1530-1800", Midsea Books Ltd, Malta, 1980.
6) De Piro, N., "Casa Rocco Piccola", The Conde' Nast Publications 1999.' Http://www.vol.net.mt/casarocca '
7) Giles Ash, S., "The Nobility of Malta", Publishers Enterprises Group (PEG) Ltd, 1988.
8) Said Vassallo, C.M., Unpublished research papers.
9) Said Vassallo, C.M., Maltagenealogy.com Research site a member of the 'Triple Alliance Site- Maltese Nobiliy'.
10) Kidd, C.,& Williamson, D., "Debrett's Peerage and Baronetage, 1995 Edition", Macmillan Reference Books, 1995, London.


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