GIOVANNI PIO (Gio’Pio) J.U.D. 1st Baron of Budach (and also 1st Marquis de Piro) 1673-1752 – He studied for his doctorate in Rome. He was appointed ambassador representing the Grand Master and the Università as procurator of Wheat. Grand Master Perellos created him Baron of Budach in 1716 with a tribute of two muskets to be paid on the feast of St Barbara every year. He became a Segreto of the Inquisition in 1720 and in 1728 was Curator of the Holy Office. He was placed in a position of further trust by being appointed Secreto of Malta, Gozo and Comino. His honours increased: he was appointed Lieutenant of the regimental company to which the Grand Master’s famigliari belonged. He was appointed Regio Secreto of Syracuse by the King of Spain.
By 1742 Gio’Pio was Senior Jurat of Valletta. As a stepping stone to his final accolade he was temporally created Viscount Cartely but this title was suppressed in order to raise him further: on November 6th, 1742 Philip V of Spain raised him to the rank of Marquis de Piro in the Kingdom of Castille.
Gio’Pio was an entrepreneur with seemingly insatiable ambition and unflagging energy. He was soon in charge of his family’s business including the transactions involving infidel slaves. The family archives hold a bill for 1,500 Scudi representing one transaction in which Gio’Pio is selling Muslims to a Muslim trader called Rais. But these were early days in his career, soon he would concentrate on other people’s administrations and prove his reliability.
His marriage to Anna Antonia Gourgion considerably increased his worldly assets, and fortune seems to have been showered upon him for the rest of his life. His wealthy father-in-law’s administration fell into his lap: Giovanni Gourgion was a landowner, Magistro di Sala of the Valletta Magisterial Palace and even a patron of Mattia Preti’s. The artist painted both Giovanni and his wife pouring water over the Holy Souls in Purgatory in a great altarpiece at St George’s Basilica in Gozo.
Gio’Pio’s career was a triumph and perhaps the most successful of any Maltese man of his period. He invested in land, ships, and cargoes of textiles, grain, sugar, rice and coffee. He would sometimes insure cargoes and ships on his own account. He sometimes lent money, and quite often to Knights of Malta including the illustrious Fra Carlo Albani, nephew of Clement XI.
Gio’Pio purchased land all over Malta, and, in Sicily, great tracts in the plains of Girgenti. He kept houses in Valletta, in Mdina, and, by the sea in Scicli and also in the hexagonal city of Avola. He also invested in good unions. He married off his daughter to the Baron Ferdinando de Ribera and his granddaughter to Francesco, eldest son of the Duke of Montalto. Both ladies were given conspicuous dowries, the descriptions of which survive in the family archives.
His business affairs were administered with efficiency. The surviving papers including many of his letters make the point. He was always aware of what was happening and crosschecked his information through a series of agents in Malta, Sicily, Naples and Rome. He organised the education of his sons through his contacts: Angelo went to Siena and was made to take Holy Orders against his will; Felicissimo Antonio went to Lyons and he pre-deceased his father; Vincenzo, his adored grandson and heir, went to Rome, under the tutelage of the Albani family.
Gio’Pio was conscientious and even religious. He endowed charities: he helped spinsters, and donated altars and embellishments, he gave oil and legacies for masses to churches. He died in 1752 after his son, and was succeeded by his grandson. He is buried with his wife in his family vault under an intarsio marble tombstone in the main isle of the Church of St Francis in Valletta.
ANTONIO FELICISSIMO Baroncino of Budach and Marchesino de Piro died before his father. He was Secreto to Grand Master Despuig. He married Elena Grech Balzani as his third wife in 1736 and died in 1739. From this final union was born a son and heir.
VINCENZO 2nd Marquis de Piro (and also 2nd Baron of Budach) and 1736-1799. He became a Jurat and also Procurator of the Inquisition. He was interested in military tactics and operations and was appointed Colonel Commandant of the Royal Sicilian Regiment. He helped to raise the rebellion against the French invaders, and was elected to be one of the four representatives of the people. He had married Maria Testaferrata Abela daughter of the 3rd Baron of Gomerino in 1757. He died in 1799 having nominated his eldest son Antonio to the Barony and his second son Giuseppe to the Marquisate.
GIUSEPPE 3rd Marquis de Piro d. 1852 was the second son of Vincenzo de Piro and also inherited the great Gourgion estates. His older brother Antonio inherited the Barony of Budach. From 15th September 1799 to 8th September 1800 Giuseppe was captain of the insurgent and heroic troops called ‘Cacciatori Maltesi’. Under British rule he became Colonel of the Royal Malta Fencible Regiment and completed 47 years and 194 days service. A document dated 1888 declares that during the siege of Valletta, ‘Col. The Marquis Giuseppe de Piro C.M.G. was always selected by his colleagues to convey personally the dispatches to Lord Nelson. His eldest son succeeded him.
ADRIANO 4th Marquis de Piro 1817-1866 died unmarried, and the next in line was his brother my great-great-grandfather Dr Carmelo de Piro M.D. 1820-1869 however it was his younger brother who was nominated.
FRANCESCO XAVERIO 5th Marquis de Piro 1824-1894 married Adelaide Testaferrata daughter of 5th Marquis Cassar Desain. He was a Member of the Council of Government; sometime President of the Committee of Privileges of the Maltese Nobility; Lieutenant Colonel commanding the Royal Malta Fencible Artillery. He retired in the rank of Colonel in 1884.
GIUSEPPE LORENZO 6th Marquis de Piro was born in 1858 and was educated at Stonyhurst College. He was made C.M.G. on the occasion of Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee. He was Chamberlain to Pope Leo XIII; A.D.C. to the Governor of Malta; a Knight of Malta; Lieutenant Colonel Commanding the 1st Battalion of the Royal Malta Militia. He became a legend in the Mess due to his gourmandish proclivity and capacity. His brass bed was so enormous that on one occasion when it was moved to his summer residence it was mistaken for a bandstand. He was succeeded by his only daughter.
ADELINA VICTORIA 7th Marchioness de Piro in her own right 1892-1962 used the title by consent of the senior line. She was a renowned beauty and married Kenneth MacPherson. They lived in Lija and Monaco and had no children.
JEROME 8th Baron of Budach and 8th Marquis de Piro 1914-1996. Educated at Collège Champittet, Lausanne, Switzerland. He served as a gunner in World War II in the 2nd A.A. Regiment of the Royal Malta Artillery (Africa Star, 1939-45 Star, War Medal 1939-45, Victory Medal). He had been a member of the Committee of Privileges of the Maltese Nobility for 40 years and for a long period its President. On his retirement, he was elected President of the Committee of Privileges Emeritus ad vitam. Jerome represented the Maltese Nobility in the National Congress and in the National Assembly; also, with my mother at the Coronation of H.M. Queen Elizabeth II. He was a Knight of Honour and Devotion of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta. He was recognised as 8th Marquis de Piro by the Committee of Privileges of the Maltese Nobility.
He married Phyllis Cassar Torreggiani and they had 5 children: Nicholas, Madeleine, Mary, Elizabeth and Margaret.
NICHOLAS 9th Baron of Budach and 9thMarquis de Piro b.1941. Married Frances Elizabeth Wilson on October 1st 1970 and has issue: Cosmo, Clement, Louisa and Anton’. The family lived at Painswick House in Gloucestershire for 14 years before returning to Malta in 1990 to open Casa Rocca Piccola to the public.
Nicholas is the author of 6 books: ‘Lost Letters’ (with Kenneth Zammit Tabona and others; Pedigree Books London). ‘The International Dictionary of Artists who Painted Malta; ‘Picking Through The Stones, Notions, Nostalgia and Nonsense’ Poems (both Said International, Malta); Valletta; Mdina; The Temple of the Knights of Malta (all three Miranda Publications with photographs by Daniel Cilia); Costume in Malta (contributor and joint-editor with Vicki Ann Cremona). There are five grandchildren Serafina, Nicholas and Mary Benedicta, Teddy and Isabella.