The Maltese nobility consists of those families holding titles granted by sovereigns of the Islands of Malta prior to their being given, by Charles V, to the Sovereign Military Order of St John in 1530; or granted by the Grand Masters of the Order between that year and 1798; or granted by foreign sovereigns and formally recognised by the Grand Masters up to 1798 and duly registered in the Grand Chancellery of the Order. Subsequently, these titles were recognised by HM Queen Victoria of Great Britain and Ireland, following the report of a Royal Commission in 1878. They continued to be recognised by the Maltese State until 1975.
There are 32 titles, and some title-holders have more than one title.
The Committee of Privileges of the Maltese Nobility was established in 1882 and is elected by all title-holders over the age of 18. Maltese titles descend by primogeniture jure Francorum, in other words to the eldest son, and in the absence of sons to the eldest daughter. Exceptionally the grantors have in some cases specifically derogated from this rule by allowing nomination of a successor or by expressly limiting the succession strictly to males. Apart from sons and daughters of titleholders and members of cadet male lines descended from title-holders, there is no untitled Maltese nobility.
The Assembly of the Maltese Nobility, established in 1889, consists of the title-holders, their sons and daughters, and all those persons descended in the male line from the title-holders. Its President is always a title-holder.