Discourse about the history of country, nobility, chivalry and debellatio
with the President of the Italian Heraldic Council – Marquis Vittorio
Spreti Institute, Don Francesco Maria Mariano Duke of Otranto and Lipari.
1. – Duke Mariano, when was the Institute established and for what
A.: Ours is the CULTURAL INSTITUTE FOR THE RESEARCH AND SAFEGUARD
OF HISTORIC, NOBLE, BOURGEOIS AND KNIGHTLY VALUES, and it was founded
in 1948 in Turin with the precise purpose of developing historic-heraldic
and genealogical studies, to census Italian and foreign families through
genealogical, etymological, historic and noble research, tracing the origins
of their family back to time immemorial. As the functions of the Heraldic
Consulta of the Kingdom of Italy ceased, further to the XIV Transitory
and Final Disposition of the Constitution of the Republic of Italy, within
the limits allowed by current legislation, the Italian Heraldic Council
wants to perform the same sort of functions; also as it is a worthy successor
it also looks after the updating and interpretation of the Italian Historic
Nobiliary Encyclopaedia, work published by Marquis Vittorio Spreti, ensuring
its protection, thus helping to give a strong input to national culture
and continuing those traditions that were the pride of our ancestors.
2. – What does the Institute do in particular?
A.: We carry out various types of research: genealogical, etymological,
historic and nobiliary. The first is etymological research, which we all
should do to discover the origins of our surname as established between
the year 1000 and the 12th and 13th centuries. With the crisis in Feudalism
and the subsequent reinforcements to the main towns, the Communes became
strong attraction points drawing considerable numbers of immigrants from
the villages to the large towns, taking their property with them and taking
a much more active part in public and social life. Only then was the need
felt to identify individuals by an added ‘mark’ to their name.
There are around 280,000 pure Italian surnames, but almost one half can
be graphic variations, or of other nature (relative to nicknames, phytonomy,
placenames, jobs, territory, virtues, gestures, personal characteristics:
for example, Rossi (red) derives from a surname that underlines a precise
feature, the hair colour, and it is the most common surname in Italy,
with a good 23,000 Italians bearing it; after Rossi, the most common surnames
in Italy are Bianchi, Colombo, Costa, Esposito, Ricci, Romano and Russo).
The process to fix surnames was concluded in the Renaissance era, when
the family became unchangeable by law and thus passed on from father to
son. Surnames can also be derived from personal names of Latin origin
(Adrian, Caesar), or German (Karl, Frederick), or Greek (Christopher,
Theodore), from medieval names such as Good venture and Welcome, from
historic names like Achilles, Polydorus, Renaldo and Orland, or from jobs
such as Barber, Barrel, Waterman, Smith, Tailor and Doctor. Certain surnames
are completely strange and even our most expert historians have had to
give up when faced with their unfathomable meaning (such as Wind hugger,
Hydrogen, Mum’s duck, World bottom, All world, etc.) We also have
the Latin ecclesiastic names, such as Dominus, Sicuteri, Agnusdei, Paternoster,
Church, Diotallevi, etc., those that underline the appearance or nature
of the person: Limp, Misshapen, Happy, Honest, Prickly, Ugly, Lovely;
or ethnic or placenames; Lombard, German, Coastline, Mount, Bulgarian,
or Ronchi (if they lived near a vineyard) or Brambilla, who came from
the Bergamo valley. Numerous other Italians owe their name to trees, flowers,
fruit that grew near to their home, such as: Olive, Elm, Durmast, Oak,
Forest, Grape, Wood, Country, Laurel, Garlic, Rue, Grain, Grass, Pine.
Another criteria used to attribute names was the civil position, military
rank or social position: Judge, Cardinal, Godfather, Fierce. While for
the satirical or joking names, or ancient jobs, we can affirm that in
our peninsula there are numerous Rasulo, tongue that cuts like a razor¸
Pochintesta, who doesn’t need explanations; Fumagalli, chicken thief;
Pallavicini, who rips off his neighbours; Callegari, slipper-maker; Pistore,
baker; Marangoni, carpenter; Zampari, shoemaker; Semerano, sewer; Passatore,
ferry boater; Scemapieco, gravedigger. The names that originated from
owning a feud the owners of which, before nobility was divided into different
titles, called themselves the Lord of the land, thus giving origins to
the surnames of Savoy, of Montalto, of Montefeltro, of Ventimiglia, of
Capua, of Strassoldo, of Otranto, of Risicalla, of Villa San Giorgio.
Those taken from animals or their virtues or faults: Cat, Lion, Wolf,
Bear, Horse, Pig, Worm, Calf-like, Foxy; those from ornaments: Shield,
Stork, Barrow, Dragon, Cross, those taken from everyday tools: Hammer,
Sword, Lance, Crossbow, Barrel, Flag, Whitbread, Honey, Amphora, Helmet,
Ship, Iron, Lancer.
Those taken from jobs: Doctor, Rider, Smith, Builder; or from hamlets:
Ghibellini, Reali, Popoli, Guelfi.
Those taken from nicknames, very common in the Medieval period, and even
famous personalities were not immune against them, like Umberto Whitehand,
Frederick Redbeard, Baldovino the Leper, John without land, Richard Lionheart,
Pipino the Short, Frederick the Hunchback, and again Pappafava, Machiavelli,
Castracani, Pisacane, Baciadonna, Trentalance, Crollalanza, Cavalcabova,
Fragipane, Bonaparte, Malaspina, Malatesta, Fieramosca, Bevilacqua, Buoncompagni,
Numerous embarrassing surnames are still in use, like: Cow, Troy, Death,
The second research we carry out is the historic HERALDICUM, which identifies
the origins of a family going back several centuries and discovering the
events that are perhaps not of the family but the dynasty, being the assembly
of a certain group of families from the same lineage. Noble research concentrates
on the historic prestige of a noble title and its transferability (except
when the titles have been transferred ad personam; obviously, even
if nobility has not been used for centuries, it is not lost, because the
titles are granted ad infinitum by the concession deed, by magnanimity,
for gestures and virtues, and sometimes for financial reasons, together
with the coat of arms, motto and predicate, if involved). Therefore the
concession of a noble title signifies a moral and effective recognition
of special merits.
Many of our ancestors have more or less noble pasts. Certainly with this
type of research we can find a few skeletons in the cupboard, an illegitimate
child perhaps, a “good for nothing” ancestor, but it can also
be very useful to sort out a situation or right a wrongdoing.
Scientific genealogical research into the direct line is the graphic representation
of the names of each direct predecessor member of the family. We can go
back by 20-22 generations, which means 500 years of fantastic family history.
Our research is based on real accurate investigations; sometimes they
are that difficult they last for years. There are hundreds of documents,
between birth, marriage, baptism, death certificates and family and noble
aggregations, that form the monograph of a tree, and to do this expert
researchers become real bookworms, as up until the Unity of Italy (1861)
a part of the data can be found in the municipalities, while in the parishes
we can go back as far as the Trento Council (1545/1563), year when the
religious authorities, further to the initiative of San Carlo Borromeo,
obliged the parish priests to keep registers in Latin of the births, deaths,
baptisms, marriages which became normal use at the beginning of 1600.
Further back still, we have the State archives which can be found in each
province, the notary archives, which sometimes, lead back as far as the
11th century. We sometimes have to give up genealogical research for lack
of news due to destruction, disasters or the various wars that have taken
place over the centuries.
3. - Therefore learn the truth, all the truth and nothing but the truth?
A.: To learn the truth is the main hope of each man. The individual’s
thought is constantly turned to a single objective, which has always been
the same: learn the truth at all costs and with any means. However, I
do not think anything has really changed in the substance of real memories;
the phenomenon can be attributed to this momentary loss of identity of
the family, its family ties with the context it belongs to, meaning a
large ideological void is formed, even if it is the right of us all to
seek traces in the past centuries of something we have always believed
we are and have possessed. It is the right of us all to seek part of our
past history, which can finally be justly restored to us.
4. – So history is the truth of the past?
A.: The passing of history encloses the future: if there is a divining
method to reveal the secrets of the future that has a scientific foundation,
it is this meticulous examination of the past, and it is in this manner
that historic criticism of pure genealogy takes on a positive value, an
inheritance to be passed down, remember that each one of us has two parents,
4 grandparents, 8 great grandparents, 16 great-great grandparents, who
8 generations ago were at the eve of the French Revolution, that our twelfth
ancestor was the same age as Michelangelo and that the seventieth was
the same age as Christ. By searching back from son to father we go back
to the beginning of time; in fact we are all really brothers and sisters.
5. – What is the Heraldic?
A.: Heraldic is a subsidiary science of history which disciplines a certain
matter, interpreting and classifying colours, figures and complements
that are taken from the symbols in the coats of arms: in this way, thanks
to the blazons, Heraldics has helped to construct and rediscover a great
part of the happenings involving the Italian people, their genesis and
interpretation. Writing a family’s history, reconstructing the main
lines, claiming it back from a few fragments of life that have survived
the inexorable passage of time, requires enormous experience and a great
deal of work, and is considered very honourable with our people of exquisite
knightly traditions to be proclaimed “the science of glory”
or, as our ancestors called it, Nobilissima Armorum Scientia.
Meticulous and patient science, accessible to just a lucky few, like our
researchers, who by character and vocation have this exquisite historic
6. - Who is the typical Italian that contacts you and why?
A.: General interest, because each one wants to learn more about their
past and roots. In fact, I feel we all have a subconscious need to find
comfort in someone, something, a story which can sometimes fill our present.
Each class, age, men and women are our customers, not just looking for
“royal blood” but, above all, their clear origins.
7. – Do you not find it anachronistic to talk of nobility today?
A.: Nobility comes from the soul: one’s actions make a person noble.
This means we must not confuse nobility with titles, which are the “crown”
of previous nobility. Great importance has always been given to demonstrating
having an illustrious surname or belonging to a noble family. In Italy
before 1861 various noble sources existed, each one with its own criteria
and principles relative to the numerous different states that made up
our country. There were around 8,000 families and people who were recognised
as nobles by the Heraldic Consulta of the Kingdom. A further 170/200 were
recognised and ennobled by His Majesty Umberto II, between 1948 and 1983,
when he died. Likewise, we consider there are a further 2,000 families
who hold false titles or who are convinced they are nobles. False nobles
of either nature are those who misinterpret a real and not acclaimed state
of nobility, parading coats of arms and crowns obtained over the years
or, today, from “princes” with imaginative pretensions.
8. - Do falsifiers of history exist then, and who are the real researchers?
A.: It is natural that a historian is a professional in search of the
truth. In several cases he is a fanatic, but for his moral makeup he is
always predestined to the task and one thing is certain, an honest historian
is following a mission and not doing a job.
Certain, in my position as enthusiast and President of a committed Institute
that safeguards and cultivates heraldic and genealogical science, I have
not been able to do less that commit all of myself and my knowledge to
the categorical imperative of following a battle against falsifiers of
history, including certain “boastful princes”, who sit on
a tin throne and wear a tin crown.
Now more than ever, the matter is being ruined due to certain unidentified
personalities in the market (falsifiers!) who distribute waste paper using
computerised methods to extrapolate surnames, attributing the history
of an authentic noble family or bourgeois stock to just anybody. In other
words, they supply improper information about the history of surnames
and coats of arms, without realising that by doing so they confuse a real
family, and, above all, historic and national wealth. Against these ignoble
mistifiers, who are authentic assassins of history, we have acted before
the relative authorities, and we will continue to act by using the ultimate
arm against lies: the truth.
9. – What is the importance of belonging to a noble, blazoned family
for work, social and political aims?
A.: A society exists of symbols and exteriority, where a certain type
of exclusive aggregation can be useful. What concerns us is the fact that
sometimes, belonging to a certain group only counts for the few who still
belong to it. Generally however, it is certainly useful to improve social
and public relations.
10. - In history what was the role of nobility and, politically, where
does a noble stand with respect, for example, to a rich entrepreneur?
A.: Once upon a time, noble families held the high offices and government
of local people, thus creating the right to privileges and, likewise,
through lighthearted or sad events, those happenings that we build our
history on today and prepare to teach the future generations. I could
not exactly define the historic role of nobility, because for a certain
time, events depended entirely on them and therefore they are attributed
all the acts of heroism and virtue and, likewise, all the misdeeds. Current
nobility is, as I stated earlier: a title and a crown are worth something
if they are combined to a way of life suitable to the values that nobility
and chivalry referred to in our historic traditions.
11. - What have the bourgeois taken away from nobility and where have
they been unable to substitute it?
A.: As a son is the faithful keeper of the name passed down from his father,
likewise nobility is the proud and jealous keeper of all family traditions,
name, job, titles, and all the spiritual privileges and glorious relics
that make up the symbols and wealth of the stock. Even if history changes
as the events take place, the bourgeois was and is a status that
numerous civil nobles came from, the so-called legal nobility. If nobility
means ascent and tradition, we can claim that being bourgeois is an essential
quality to accompany the individuals and to honour peoples.
12. – Is it true that all the names are preceded by “ de ”
or “ di ” if they are of noble extract?
A.: It is true that the particle “de” refers to a patronymic
or matronymic, i.e. to the name or nickname of the father or mother preceded
by the preposition di or by the determinate articles lo, la, and in some
cases, the truncated form f, son of (for example De Paoli, De Franceschi,
Fittipaldi), and this is all linked to the Latin use of praenomen,
nomen, cognomen, typical of Gens Romana and,
therefore, of the stock or family. What is more, the use of the particle
has slowly increased, and we now have “De” with a capital
D and “d”, which all adds to the noble meaning of the latter.
13. - How much does your research cost?
A.: The philosophy of the Institute promotes monographic research, at
costs available to everybody with no distinction of position or income,
which uses primary and certain sources, to create a family tree using
information taken from the original hometowns, working back through all
the various migration phases, using both canonical information and archives,
reproducing copies (which are authenticated) of the various documents,
until we reach our modern day. Therefore, our cultural initiative is meeting
with considerable success, even if the occasional ‘barony”
turns against us. But we want to spread the culture to the masses, above
all to communicate the knowledge and the values which have been purposely
forgotten by our Republic.
14. – Is it true that the Noble status is no longer recognised?
A.: I would like to correct you, in the XIV transitory disposition of
the Italian Constitution, noble titles have never been abolished, simply
they are not recognised, but the fact they are not recognised just means
that republicans are not interested in titles, that they are private wealth
before being historic. The Constitutional Assembly could not deprive citizens
of an inborn right, because it would be the same as if a law were approved
in the future that cancelled certain surnames.
Therefore we feel that magistracy is the only authority which, regarding
the safeguard of the most jealously kept and delicate of human rights
– our name – has the task and power to ascertain the legal
noble status of a person, and declare the right to include the
status in the surname, as established by the XIV transitory and
final disposition of the Constitutional Decree.
We do not believe that a lost war and a changed institution can “cancel”
history or deny the undisputed historic importance of noble titles; and,
no matter what personal opinion may be held, what is certain is that when
faced with the real existence of these ideas, law cannot neglect them,
but must study a method to regulate the various frictions that can arise.
Reliable sources have also said that a wise part of modern society still
conserves the due respect for noble traditions and appreciates the high
decorations, if they are well founded, while the other part of society
shows indifference and even disrespect for antique forms of life, but
is still not immune to the seduction of a “title” and the
glamour it offers, and this is why our expert researchers are so committed
to preparing meticulous and convalidated genealogical reports, which prove
the due rights of those concerned backed up by documentary proof.
Therefore, even today, we can state that noble status is ascertained
legally by a first-degree sentence issued by the International Arbitration
Court and approved by the President of an ordinary court, and duly granted
to the person who has the legal right, further also to publication in
the Official Gazette. This milestone is an incontestable truth that gives
justice to those who have the right, but above all to both ancient and
In the event of a noble predicate, we can request it be recognised and
added to the surname, if it was granted before 28/10/1922.
15. – Duke, are there any curios you can tell us about?
A.: Confidences cannot be written by a top author, especially when they
are so personal. Research for us is joy, torment and discovery: when we
discover a trace, even by chance, we stubbornly follow it and develop
it, feeling the various personalities we have found close to us, living
their lives with them, almost joined by a spiritual bond to that lost
world. How many memories! How many bitter moments, but how much satisfaction
as well! For example, in reconstructing the family tree, we discovered
one of the customer’s ancestors had been married three times, and
chance had it that her poor husbands, all noble and rich, shortly after
died and she inherited enormous wealth in terms of property and money:
at her fourth marriage, a noble from Milan, rather concerned about the
end of his predecessors, discovered his attractive libertine wife in the
act, and denounced her, after which she was processed and condemned to
death by poisoning.
Another example is when the colours of the noble coat of arms of S. Anthony
of Padova were found, and that the Saint’s parents were of Sovereign
lineage. Another genealogical discovery we have, but the customer is not
prepared to ascertain the status, is the direct descendent of Romolo
Augustolo, last Emperor of Western Rome. Another is that the famous Italo-American
actor, Sylvester Stallone, had been accredited a coat of arms which was
not his at all, rather that of an ancient aristocratic Venetian family.
The real drama was when we discovered the deception and poor Sylvester
had to destroy around 12,000 items of plates, glasses, carafes, cutlery
all of excellent French manufacture.
16. - What noble winds are blowing in Europe?
A.: In primis Germany, followed by Austria, Spain, England and
France: there are the winds for the just discovery in Europe of those
values which have virtually been wiped out: who is noble and knows the
fact, doesn’t seek it, on the contrary, thousands of people who
have nothing to do with aristocracy are doing everything possible now
to research and reconstruct a part of history for themselves.
It is not contagious, rather a right to consecrate and hand down origins
which otherwise would be lost, a memory that risks disappearing altogether
with the next generation; it is a fact that the fall of left-wing ideology
is decreeing the end of that belief that we are all equals.
17. – Who can grant nobility today?
A.: The Sovereign was and is the first and most exclusive right and honour
(quod principi placuit legis habet valorem), and all highest powers are
centred in this figure. These are also called the “prerogatives
of the crown” and can be summarised as follows:
a) Jus imperii, i.e. power of command;
b) Jus gladii, i.e., right to obedience by his subjects;
c) Jus majestatis, i.e., right to receive defence and honours;
d) Jus honorum, i.e., right to award, grant honours, noble and
knightly dignities, or to invest others with the power to grant said honours.
In current public law, sovereignty lies with the State or, as we all
know, with the people legally organised to govern a land. By saying people,
we mean “all” the people, in the same way it is organised
in nature with the various classes being distinct from each other, each
one formed of groups of similars, able or unable, gregarious or leaders,
favoured or frowned upon by fortune or society.
The concession of a noble title in Italy is not a prerogative of the State
today, but is for virtue of the merits recognised of the person by the
prerogatives and discretion of the pretender prince to the throne.
The recognition is granted to people who have distinguished themselves
for their actions in favour of the Sovereign House, for independent valorous
or charitable deeds, and for the recognition of private or public good
deeds, which have touched the sensitivity of the Pretender Prince, and
do not depend on the relationships with the public or the country the
person belongs to.
This concept has always been taken on by the ex-reigning Houses who have
lost their throne further to final occupation of the territory: in this
case, as the situation of debellatio is not applied, the figure
of the Pretender Prince to the throne has emerged.
The Sovereign abandons the country, but he does not lose his rights to
sovereignty, or to be precise, he conserves intact certain prerogatives,
which he can still exercise, while others are suspended.
Without doubt, among the prerogatives he conserves intact there is Jus
honorum, the right to grant noble titles and honours in knightly orders
that are part of the wealth of the Crown.
If a current noble title is deserved and born well, it is equal to those
received in past centuries, as anything is current in the moment it is
acquired: this noble title is emanated by the Sovereign prerogative (rex
nobilem tantum facere potest), and the Sovereign is in the position
of an “object” faced with a “subject”; therefore
the noble title does not have “antique” origins but “dative”.
Its use and transmission are governed by the investiture deed through
the “Letters Patent”.
Therefore a Princely House, previously Sovereign, is always considered
a Dynasty and the current Head of Name and Arms conserves the titles,
prerogatives, and dues of the last dethroned sovereign, with the name
of Pretender Prince, previously Royal Highness, Imperial Highness, or
There are various Sovereign houses in Italy with these prerogatives, including:
- Hapsburg - Lorena, Hapsburg – Tuscany, Hapsburg – Este and
Hapsburg – Spain
- Bourbon - Parma and Bourbon – Two Sicilies;
- Royal House of Paternuense Balearide;
- Royal House Norman of Altavilla (seu d’Hauteville) Sicily –
- Imperial Amoriense – of Aragon; Lascaris - Comneno; Angelo Comneno;
of Constantinople; Paleologic of Byzantium;
- Imperial House Focas Flavio Angelo Ducas Comneno of Byzantium;
- Despot House Angelo d'Epiro.
On the throne of the Vatican States is His Holiness Benedetto XVI.
18. – Are there Heraldic commissions that operate in Italy?
A.: There are certain private Heraldic Commissions who report to the Private
Association called the Italian Nobility Corp, which, through genealogical
investigations ascertain the right of noble status, although they
cling to out of date and unsuitable scientific and progress concepts (for
example the non-acceptance of ex novo titles). The same survey
can be made by the SMOM, Sovereign Military Order of Malta, but here the
State is atypical, and by the Royal House of Bourbon – Two Sicilies,
who receive requests for admission of knights into the justice categories
of their Orders.
19. – Are all nobles registered in the various Gold, Silver and
A.: The general opinion is to consider as authentic nobles only those
who are effectively registered. But that is not exact, as these registers
were partial and incomplete in the past as they are today and, no doubt,
will be tomorrow. We must remember that each ruling Sovereign House obliged
its subjects of noble status to submit to certain regulations regarding
the recognition of their noble titles, and were only confirmed if they
fulfilled certain conditions, which were usually not very economically
or ideologically favourable for the person concerned. The Savoy House
also practiced this coercion, by requesting the payment of a tax. This
meant, that the payment or otherwise of the tax became the discriminating
factor to recognise a title, despite the full right to it, and therefore
it was frequent that persons were excluded from the lists, which are still
published by private associations.
However, exclusion is not sufficient to terminate the title, because as
I have already said, Nobility is not lost over the years, but remains
bound forever to the family.
I would go further. According to the XIV disposition of the Constitutional
Deed, certain families, who had right although they were not registered
in the Gold Book or Official Lists, insisted with legal authorities for
their noble predicate to be registered in the Population Registers as
part of their surname. This to underline, that, in many, there is an awareness
that goes beyond the limits of these publications, which, while recognising
a certain authority for them, often leave much to be desired.
To close: a noble who wishes to freely use his title, has no need to be
recognised and, less still, to be registered in the Gold Book or other
“Official” Lists of Italian nobility. The fact the person
is not registered does not mean he cannot continue to use his title, as
long as it is true, thus reaching a clear distinction between “existing
title” and “recognised title”. What counts is the effective
concession of the title and legal possession by the person or family;
possession which must be proved by historic, genealogical, legal and canon
documentation. The person must possess the appointment deed (letters patent
and decree) that proves the claimed right to nobility, so that he does
not need to be recognised and, less still, to be registered in the various
lists. Noble titles granted by the Head of Name and Arms of a Dynasty,
to be received and born, do not require any registration in the registers
of the ex Heraldic Consulta, nor in the various Official Lists, or lists
in the current Gold Books held by private associations (The Heraldic Council),
as those noted pursuant to the Order of the Italian Nobiliary State refer
exclusively to titles granted or recognised by the Savoy Family and subsequently
those by the Vatican, recognised further to the Agreement of 11th February
20. – How can a noble title or coat of arms be protected today?
A.: We feel this matter should be examined further, as it was only mentioned
in passing earlier, given the intrinsic importance, and the importance
derived by the novelty of the situation which probability could recur
in the future; we are at the beginning of a reawakening by a great deal
of astute citizens, who so far put up with or believed they had to put
up with the incomplete enunciation of the Constitutional Deed.
As a great deal of these people attribute undeniable historic, and genealogical,
importance to noble titles, and, no matter what the personal opinion,
it is certain that when faced with this real existence of these ideas,
law cannot neglect them and must study and regulate the various friction
that could arise.
The famous XIV Transitory Disposition of the current Constitution Deed,
orders that the Heraldic and Nobiliary Institute has no further recognition
by the State, dictating: “noble titles are not recognised. The predicates
of titles granted prior to 28th October 1992 can be used as part of the
surname. The law will regulate the suppression of the Heraldic Consulta”,
which, by the way, never took place.
The unhappy formula of this disposition gives rise to various different
opinions regarding its interpretation, but the expression “noble
titles are not recognised” did not intend abolishing the titles
or forbidding their use.
In fact, the right of those who have right has not been revoked or fallen
with the veto against their use, rather the State has done away with the
previous function – not for its own jure – to grant
the legal use of titles or their confirmation, and all heraldic matters,
as noble titles had lost the protection of the law.
Therefore, according to the Constitution, the State is not interested
whether a person has an ancient or new noble title, and does not forbid
the title being born and used in public and private relations, nor is
the abuse of noble titles considered a crime.
The Republican Constitution does not want to suffocate or destroy a part
of the country’s historic wealth (expressed through issuing noble
titles), rather it wants to suppress nobility as a distinction for a category
of individuals and let noble titles remain as a historic reminder and
as part of the name with the separate predicates, or alongside the surname,
again as a predicate.
This note is necessary so as not to damage the historic dignity of the
family, for the title to become a demographic and biographic, historic
reminder of the person.
Therefore, today, the ordinary Magistracy is the only authority with the
task and power to ascertain the legal existence of a certain family –
and to declare the right to noble titles, predicates and coats of arms.
Today, as a group of researchers of nobiliary right, attentive to conserving
the traditions of our country’s history, we have managed to conjugate
juridical fact with noble virtues, as discoursing on noble elevation,
today like yesterday, is not anachronistic, even if it is now in contrast
with the political, philosophical and social orientation which, fed by
a logic of equality, wants to deny history and traditions.
The International Arbitration Tribunal, established under Italian and
International law, issues a sentence ascertaining the right to noble titles,
predicates and legitimacy of the noble coat of arms.
The sentence issued by the International Arbitration Tribunal is a first-degree
sentence under Italian law, once an execution decree has been issued by
the President of an ordinary tribunal, pursuant to art. 825 of the Italian
Civil Procedure Code. The extract of the sentence and the decree by the
president of the ordinary tribunal are published in the Official Gazette.
This sentence is irrevocable under Italian Law, and can be executed, within
the limits established by international law, within those States that
signed the New York Convention on 10th June 1958. Likewise the sentence
establishes that on the confirmation and baptism certificates, the title
and predicate can be included.
This milestone is an uncontrasted truth granting justice to that nobility
that boasts an inheritance of honour and a wealth of virtue.
21. – The debellatio of the Savoy House and possible implications
on the constitution?
A.: The formal declaration of loyalty to the Republican Constitution,
by Vittorio Emanuele and his son, brings us to certain legal considerations
which reflect on the effectiveness of certain constitutional dispositions
directly and indirectly involved in the reformation of the XIII transitory
and final disposition of the Deed. To better clarify the terminology involved,
we should distinguish between abdication, renouncing the throne and debellatio.
In modern public law, the concept of abdication has been changed since
Roman law, but has conserved the meaning of voluntary abandon of the sovereign
office, further to a manifestation of the King’s will, which therefore
opens the path to succession in the same manner as if he had died. Abdication
is a personal act, which is only done by the King and not for his heirs
– for whom it would be valid only further to approval by the parliament,
and does not allow the King to abdicate in favour of a person other than
the one who is directly in line for the throne. Abdication is absolute
and not temporary or revocable, meaning that the abdicated King cannot
be returned to the throne unless a specific law is issued which changes
the natural order of succession. It must also be recorded in an authenticated
deed, so that no doubts remain regarding the explicit and free will of
the King, although a law is not considered necessary, as it is a personal
act by the King.
Abdication is distinguished from renouncing inheritance to the throne,
which means a refusal or failure to accept the crown when the succession
line is opened (meaning who abdicates is King, but who renounces is not
but should be) and from debellatio, a term changed by international
law, which indicates the total dissolution of a conquered State. In reference
to a Sovereign or Pretender Prince, debellatio involves the loss
of sovereignty further to an accepted spontaneous deed, where they renounce
their functions and special prerogatives connected to their exercising
their powers. If this spontaneous act is not given, the Sovereign, no
matter how he has been dethroned, continues certain manifestations of
reigning power, and thus the figure of Pretender Prince arises. With the
debellatio, as long as it is not imposed but freely executed, the
Sovereign and Pretender Prince are considered as private citizens, but
conserve the sovereign titles, including that of Royal Highness. Without
debellatio, however, the titles remain the right of the Sovereign
and his descendents, and remain such even when he has lost his sovereignty
over a territory: the holder is always the firstborn and sovereignty (even
without Jus imperii, i.e. the power of command, Jus gladii,
right to obedience by his subjects, and Jus majestatis, i.e. the
right to receive defence and honours) is part of the family’s wealth.
In other words, a sovereign can be deprived of the throne, i.e. be dethroned;
he can also be banished from the country, but he cannot be deprived of
his qualities: in this case, as we said, there is no debellatio,
the Pretender to the throne is formed, who is also internationally recognised.
The Pretender is normally forced to abandon his country, but maintains
intact all the rights of sovereignty that do not create an obstacle to
the changed legal-institutional position, and which he can continue to
exercise, while the other powers are suspended: among the rights he conserves
intact is the Jus honorum, i.e. the right to grant noble titles
and honours and ranks in knightly orders which are part of the personal
dynastic patrimony of the family. Sovereigns who have lost the throne
due to regular debellatio and pretenders who execute a regular
deed of renouncement or who do not wish to conserve the figure of pretender,
conserve just the title of sovereign ad infinitum, without the inherent
rights; all rights also cease regarding the possible future restoration
of the throne.
To return to the institutional consequences of the formal declaration
of loyalty to the Republican Constitution by Vittorio Emanuele di Savoy
and his son, the hypothesis of debellatio figures for himself and
descendents, and involves certain legal reflections on various levels,
inside and outside of the Savoy Family.
However, Vittorio Emanuele di Savoy had already lost the rank of Pretender
further to the dynastic laws that regulate succession to the throne, art.
92 of the current Italian Civil Code, which orders that “For marriages
between royal princes and princesses to be valid, the assent of the Emperor
King is required “, and the Regis Patents of 7th September 1780
and 16th July 1782, emanated by Vittorio Amadeus III, King of Sardinia,
according to which, the marriage of “blood princes” must be
approved by the Sovereign and, in the event he does not approve and the
marriage “was contracted with a person of lower condition or rank,
both the spouses and their descendents from their marriage will have lost
all the rights coming from the Crown and the right to succeed the same,
likewise all honours and prerogatives of the family".
Well, King Umberto II formally denied consent to the marriage of his son
to Marina Doria, and, as he could have by the Regis Patents, did not convalidate
the marriage. In fact, in a note addressed to Vittorio Emanuele, he reminded
him “The law of our House, in force for more than 29 generations
and respected by 43 Heads of Families, my predecessors, succeeding themselves
according to the Salica Law through marriage with Sovereign families.
This law, I 44th Head of Family, I do not intend and I do not have the
right to change, despite my affection for you”. To be precise, with
reference to the possibility for Vittorio Emanuele di Savoy to continue
granting knightly distinctions of Savoy Knightly orders, even after the
effects had ceased of the XIII transitory and final disposition of the
Constitution, the application of the Regis Patents would have stopped
this prerogative at its roots. Now that the son of King Umberto II has
become an Italian citizen to all effects, all the current dispositions
in force in our country are applied without any limitations, including
Law n. 178, 3rd March 1951 – governing the Institution of the Order
“Merit to the Republic of Italy” and governs the concession
and use of honours – and art. 8 orders that “While art. 7
remains confirmed (regarding non national orders or those granted by foreign
countries), honours, decorations and knightly distinctions may not be
granted in any form or name, by boards, associations or private bodies.
Transgressors are punished with between six months and two years imprisonment
and a fine between 1,250,000 and 2,500,000 liras! Art. 9 of Law 178/1951
also orders that “The Order of SS. Annunciate and the relative honours
are suppressed. The Order of the Crown of Italy is suppressed and no honours
can be granted of the Order of Saints Maurizio and Lazarus”.
But if we do not want to consider Vittorio Emanuele of Savoy as having
lost the rank of Pretender to the Throne further to the above dispositions,
even if we want to recognise the Prince has the right to the position
of Pretender to the Throne further to the lack of debellatio by
his father, King Umberto II – the ceasing of the effects of the
XIII transitory and final disposition of the Republican Constitution has
a double effect.
The first aspect that is cut off is the tie between the current order
– which in its maximum expression indirectly indicates the Savoy
family as legitimate Pretender to Throne, no matter who is the heir in
the Family according to dynastic laws – and the House itself, so
that removing all positive references to the ex-reigning Family from the
constitutional laws, all legally founded pretension is cancelled (according
to Republican orders) from the Savoy family, putting it on the same plane
as any other family, titled or not (with the marginal result that any
debate or discussion about who is the heir to the throne among the various
members of the ex-reigning family, no longer directly refers to the Pretender
to the throne of Italy but just becomes a simple internal affair of the
Savoy family, with the further result that the loss of the effects of
the XIII disposition means that no other member of the ex-royal family,
who may be recognised as heir to the throne further to the dynastic laws
mentioned above, could be exiled in place of the male descendents to the
ex-King of the Savoy Family, which the XIII disposition directly refers
to: with this idea, the Savoy Aosta Family is the legitimate pretender
to the throne of Italy in the person of his Head, Amadeus of Savoy, Duke
The second consequence which is closely linked to the former, and not
secondary in any way. Is that with the ceased effects of the XIII transitory
and final disposition of the Constitutional Deed, the effects are also
ceased of the constitutional regulation, art. 139, in the section dedicated
to the revision of the Constitution, according to which “The Republican
form cannot be subject to constitutional revision”.
In fact, the consideration that there is a contrast between this last
disposition, which doctrine considers the self-destruction of the constitution,
and the regulation of art. 1 of the Constitution, which contains the founding
Principles of the same, states that “Sovereignty belongs to the
people, who exercises it in the form and limitations given by the Constitution,
meaning that there would be an unavoidable consequence of an intrinsic
limitation of the spreading of the effects of art. 139 until such times
as the emergency or hazardous conditions remain, which lie behind the
article and decide its adoption and enforcement, which are the same that
advised the Constitutional Members to apply the XIII as a result of the
preparatory work for the Constitution; i.e. exclude the chance of changing
the institutional form, considered dangerous for the survival of the institutions
to propose a decision on this matter.
Given that art. 139 is closely woven with the XIII, if the effects the
latter cease, then the effects of the article cease as well, because they
could not be applied. The only real new light, or better still, tout court
light that emerges, are the principles of popular and democratic sovereignty,
which no longer being conditioned could be freely manifested under the
freedom of institutional choice, because sovereignty that art. 1 of the
Constitutional Deed talks of, as the effects of art. 139 have ceases,
is restored to the people. The institutional referendum of 2nd
June 1946, even if the result had been different, has in fact introduced
the basis for just popular sovereignty in the institutional form, that
the institution can suppress, as long as the duration of the limitation
is non indefinite, without denying the essence of the same: in fact, we
could not propose the foundation for choosing the institutional system
on the principle of popular sovereignty and, at the same time, deny it.
The contradiction therefore cannot be eternal, unless we affirm that the
Republican institution, as configured by the Constitution, is degraded
to an illiberal regime. The institutional question at that point, no longer
limited to the Savoy family for the choice of monarchy, would be “cleared”
and there would be no, formal, obstacle to free and serene debate about
monarchy and republic and, if the Italians so wished, the celebration
of a new institutional referendum, no longer conditioned by juridical
due reference to a single family or dynasty, if not for any possible considerations
of a different nature.
22. To conclude, we could say:
a) Nobility is the only emanation of Royal, Imperial and Serene prerogative
and to be more precise, Sovereign;
b) Once a noble title has been acquired with relative predicate and arms,
it is not lost if it is not used or a term lapses, as it is a part of
the unavoidable wealth of the person;
c) the predicate should be an integral part of the surname;
d) “Noble Titles” should not be confused with the “Sovereign
Titles”, even if their qualification (e.g. Prince) could be the
same, and we must remember that the former are subject to special regulations
(regarding their recognition, succession, etc.), the latter do not require
any formalities, as they are native.
This way the concept of nobility, today without any conceit or privilege,
becomes part of sociology as a refinement of the human race in its continued
future, with the aim of holding high the banner of the country’s
history, which is the symbol of respect for traditions, undeniable life
force and source of energy in any evolution of time, society and institutions.