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The Maltese fiefdom of Djar il-Bniet e Buqana.

 

Footnote: The two fiefs of “Diar el Bniet” and of “Buqana” were never granted as titles in the strict sense. However, the holder of these two untitled fiefs (together) was by custom accorded the title of “barone”

Published sources show these fiefs as having been granted in 1350 in favour of Francesco Gatto and 1404 in favour of Guglielmo Murina, as they in fact were. 

However, it appears that the first time “Buqana” was ever referred to as a title was only in 1512 in favour of Giacomo Arginaldo Inguanez, whilst the first time the holder of both fiefs was referred to as a “barone” in a legislative act was in 1725 in favour of the Marc’Antonio Inguanez and his wife the baronessa. This is described in the Commissioners Report which only attributed a date of creation of this title of Diar el-Bniet AND Buqana. (See:- “Correspondence and Report of the Commission appointed to enquire into the claims and grievances of the Maltese Nobility”, May 1878, presented to both Houses of Parliament by Command of Her Majesty (C.-2033.) (See Report Paras. 91-96).

The actual report reads as follows:- 

“The gentleman who claims the title of barone of the two fiefs of ‘Djar el Bniet’ and of ‘Bucana’ is the ‘barone di Cicciano’ Alessandro Sceberras. The lands of ‘Djar el Bniet’, situated in these islands were first granted to Francesco Gatto and to the heirs of his body by Louis, King of Sicily (House of Aragon), on the 4th January 1350, by a privilegium given at Messina, the fief having reverted to the Crown after it had been held by Michele Bava. The grant was afterwards confirmed in Malta on the 12th November 1372, by King Frederick, brtoehr of the said King Louis, in favour of Lancea Gatto, son of the above-mentioned Francesco, sub militari servitio unius equi alforati curiae nostrae perinde praestando ; and was once more confirmed by King Martin, at Catania, on the 14th February 1397, in favourof another Francesco Gatto, son of the said Lancea, as appears from authentic documents laid before the Commission. 

By another privilegium given at Catania on the 15th April 1404, King Martin confirmed in favour of the said milite Francesco Gatto, not only the possession of the fief of ‘Diar el Bniet’, but also that of the fief of ‘Bucana’ which had been conveyed to Gatto, and had been previously by a privilegium given in Malta on the 4th November 1372, assigned by King Frederick to Gugliemo Murina and his descendants sub servitio unius equi alforati curiae nostrae perinde praestando.

Barone Alessandro Sceberras who in the committee list is styled Barone TestaferrataSceberras Damico Inguanez proved his descent from the before-mentioned Francesco Gatto; but he is not the present possessor of the two fiefs in question, the name being actually held by Baronessa Maria Teresa Damico.

With regard to these fiefs, it is to be remarked that the feudatories were bound to render to the lord, personal military service and that, in the diplomas or privilegia, they are styled militesIn an old and highly authoritative work, “La descrizione di Malta del CommendatoreGio Francesco Abela”, written in 1647, the two fiefs of ‘Diar el Bniet’ and ‘Bucana’ are referred to as noble fiefs, with the title of barone annexed thereto. From old memorial accounts it appears that Giacomo Arginaldo Inguanez, who possessed the said two fiefs in 1512, was sent by the Governement of Malta in the capacity of ‘ambasciatore’ (as such agents were then styled) to the court of the Viceroy of Sicily for the object of obtaining certain franchises, on which occasion he was designated as Barone of ‘Bucana’ (vide: Abela, Lib. 4, Notiz. 3 #38).

Although this does not appear to have been expressly granted in the diplomas or Privilegiagiven in 1350 and in 1372, yet there are sufficient grounds for holding that at a later period that title was conferred or recognized, for Grand Master Manoel, on the 30th April 1725, issued a Prammatica or Ordinance, by which in order to remedy abuses and inconveniences, which had for some time prevailed in regard to titles, that Grand Master ordered and commanded that thenceforward no advocate, notary, or attuario should take upon himself to give in any instrument, contract, or other public act drawn up by him, the title of ‘illustrissimo’ or of ‘noblile’ to any of the prince’s vassals, with the exception of the “Capitano della Verga pro tempore, of the two Magistrati of the cities of Valeltta and Notabile, and the ‘Milite barone Marc’Antonio Inguanez our feudatory, and BaronessaInguanez his wife, and their descendants.” Other nobles who will be mentioned hereafter were subsequently excepted form the provisions of the above “Prammatica.

Barone Marco Antonio Inguanez is the ancestor of Maria Teresa Damico, the present Baronessa. By the foregoing legislative act he, as the holder of the two fiefs in question, and his descendants were recognized by the former Government as barons. Marc’Antonio was moreover thirty-four times between the years 1705 and 1760, appointed Capitano dellaVerga, and always designated as Barone Inguanez.

We are therefore of the opinion that to Maria Teresa Damico belongs the title of “Baronessadi Diar el Bniet” and “Bucana”, and that Alessandro Sceberras, her nephew, cannot at present claim this title. Her name will therefore be included in our list, and the date of creation of her title stated to be the 4th January 1350. 

The foregoing reasoning implies that any claim to this title could only be made if based on the tenure of the fiefs of “Diar el Bniet” and “Bucana” (together). This is further reinforced by the fact that unlike what is stated in the report, Marc’Antonio Inguanezdied without issue in 1760 and the fiefs were succeeded by his kinsmen the D’AmicoInguanezes who came to enjoy the title of “barone”.

However, it now appears that in Malta the holding of properties in fief, was subsequently revoked by the DISENTAILMENT OF PROPERTY (EXTENSION TO FIEFS) ACT (ACT XXX of 1969). That ACT makes specific provision nothing therein ‘affects any title of nobility’, thereby ensuring a statutory exception to the automatic extinction of a nobiliary title in the event of an extinction of the fief to which the title refers. Thus the fiefs of “Diar el Bniet” and “Bucana” were extinguished in 1969 and therafter held like any other property. 

 It now remains debatable whether this title should descend amongst the descendants of the 1969 holder of the aforesaid properties, or whether the title should “follow” the ownership of both of the said properties or either one of them.