§ VISCOUNT SIDMOUTH
, in asking the Secretary of State for the Colonies, Whether he will cause a list of the Nobles of Malta, whose titles have been recognized by Her Majesty, to be published in The London Gazette, as was recently done in the case of a Canadian nobleman? said, that the nobility of Malta was 132 not a mushroom nobility, but had existed for hundreds of years. Many of the titles went back as far as the 13th century, and the rights of the nobility had been over and over again confirmed in Statutes by the Grand Masters; and when Malta was handed over to this country a solemn engagement was given that all their rights and privileges should be respected. It was felt by them as a great grievance that the recognition formerly accorded to them had been taken away by despatches from the Colonial Office. When Queen Adelaide visited the Island he was present, and the nobility occupied the place of precedence. Things went on in the same way until His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales was in the Island. On that occasion the matter was referred to the Governor, and he understood that the Judges somehow or other claimed to take precedence of the nobility contrary to all precedent. The question was referred to Lord Carnarvon, then at the Colonial Office; and though he would be the last person to accuse his noble Friend of neglecting any matter that came before him, he could not help thinking that the noble Earl could have paid but slight attention to the subject, for he wrote back that the precedence always allowed to the nobility should give place to that of the Judges, and in a subsequent despatch he extended the precedence to the Judges' wives. That had created a very unpleasant feeling in Malta. He had been long acquainted with the Island, and he could say that the nobility were strongly attached to the British connection, and that many of them were of considerable wealth, cultivated intelligence, and eminently fitted to adorn the high station they before occupied. They naturally felt grieved that their position and their representations had been persistently ignored by the Colonial Office. The noble Earl was asked on a recent occasion whether he would permit their titles to be published in The London Gazette. Unless that was done they would have no status at the English Court. Considering this as a matter of policy, he thought that the claims of the nobility of Malta should be recognized. In India we should not attempt for a moment to refuse their high rank to the Princes and nobles of that country, nor ought we to do it in this case, because 133 we had no danger to apprehend. "What he would ask was whether the noble Earl would allow those titles to be published in The London Gazette, so that those gentlemen might take their places at the English Court?
§ THE EARL OF DERBY
said, that there was no intention on his part, and he was sure there had been none on the part of any of his Predecessors, to treat with disrespect or neglect the Maltese nobility. They were a very respectable but not a numerous body, consisting of between 20 and 30 families. When he saw the Question of the noble Viscount on the Paper he referred the matter to Sir Albert Woods, Garter King-at-Arms in Heralds' College, who was the highest authority on such points; and he received an answer the purport of which was that what the noble Viscount proposed—namely, the publication of the list of those nobles in The London Gazette, would certainly not have the effect the noble Viscount desired. It would not, he was informed, give the possessors of Maltese titles rank or precedence in England; and, with respect to the rank and precedence they enjoyed in Malta, their status had been fully recognized. What the noble Viscount proposed, therefore, would not alter their status in any respect. The noble Viscount raised another question—that of their precedence as compared with the precedence of official dignitaries in the Island. That was not the Question which the noble Viscount had given Notice of, but referred to an entirely different matter; but he believed it was a general rule in the Colonies and in India, as well as in Malta, that official rank took precedence.
§ VISCOUNT SIDMOUTH
said, what he wished to state was that the grievance felt most strongly was that the conditions upon which Malta had been annexed to this country had not been observed. It was promised that all the rights of the nobility should be preserved, and that they should enjoy the same position with respect to public functionaries as they had enjoyed at the time of the Grand Masters.
§ THE DUKE OF EDINBURGH
Perhaps your Lordships will allow me to say a few words on this matter. Your Lordships must be fully aware that the intercourse between the English and Maltese societies does not always run quite smoothly, and I think that if the 134 noble Earl, although he may not be in the position to accord entirely what the noble Viscount's Motion proposes, could yet in some way further recognize the position of the nobles of Malta, it would be a great benefit. There is one point to which I would venture to allude as creating a difficulty between English and Maltese societies, and that is the absolute refusal of the members of the club to receive the Maltese within the club. I think—and I have always expressed myself at Malta in the same sense—that that is the greatest possible mistake, and a great injustice to those high-minded Maltese gentlemen who are so anxious to become members there. I think, perhaps, if the Government could in any way give some further recognition to the position of the nobility in Malta, it might act as a great inducement to the members of the club to elect Maltese to it; and I am certain that the result would be that intercourse there would run far more smoothly, and I am sure would only tend to strengthen British rule in that Island.
§ THE EARL OF DERBY
said, the subject referred to by the illustrious Duke was not within the competence of the Government. He was quite sure the Maltese nobility would feel very grateful for the interest shown in their position by their Lordships' House; and he cordially concurred in what, had been said, that it was most desirable that the social relations between the Maltese and the English should be closer and more cordial than hitherto.