Maltesenobles43

Fiefs of Djar el Bniet et Bucana (a.k.a. “Title of Baron of Djar il-Bniet and Buqana”)

 

HISTORY

The title Barone di Djar il-Bniet et Bucana forms part of the Maltese Nobility. The claim to this title has a two-fold origin, one in a very old fief called “Djar il-Bniet” which was granted on the 4 January 1350, and the other in another fief called “Bucana” which was granted to a different family on the 11 November 1372.  

The fief of “Djar il-Bniet” was united by marriage to the other noble fief of “Bucana” and in 1404 the then possessor was invested in both fiefs, hence giving rise to the joint sobriquet. These fiefs are considered as being the basis of the Premier title of the Maltese Nobility. The title is not hereditary, but personal to the possessor of the fiefs. 

Some of the holders of Djar il Biet and Bucana were never addressed as Barons during their lifetime, but are nevertheless are counted and numbered as Barons in the genealogy (see link). Other sources may not include some of the Barons listed in the genealogy, and may even consider the Barony to have been created more than once.

Since 1969, succession by fief was abolished in Malta by Act 30 of 1969 dated 21 November, 1969. Provision is made in that law that nothing shall affect any title of nobility, and the laws in force concerning any such titles shall continue to have effect.

Since 1975, a general duty is imposed in the Republic of Malta not to recognize any title of nobility. 

ORIGIN AND NATURE OF TITLE

In considering the claim made in regard to the title of Barone di Djar il-Bniet et Bucana, a 19th century Commission found that the lands of “Diar el Bniet”were first granted to Francesco Gatto and the heirs of his body by Louis King of Sicily (House of Aragon) on the 4th January 1350 by a privilegium given at Messina whilst the fief of Bucana had been granted by another privilegium on the 4th November 1372 by King Frederick to Guglielmo Murina and his descendants “sub servitio imius equi alforati curiae nostrae perinde praesando.” Guglielmo (William) Murina had an only daughter Margherita wife of Manfredo Castelli. These in turn also had an only daughter Paola who became the wife of Francesco Gatto who was an agnate grandson of Francesco, senior. By another privilegium given at Catania on the 15th April 1404, King Martin confirmed in favour of Francesco junior, not only the possession of the fief of ‘Diar el Bniet’, but also that of the fief of ‘Bucana’. Paola and Francesco had one daughter Imperia who married Antonio Inguanez. The claims to the title of Baron were made through the Inguanez descendants. In fact the person claiming the title, Alessandro Sceberras is described as a descendant of Francesco Gatto, senior. On the other hand Maria Teresa D’Amico, the person to whom the title was eventually awarded by the Commissioners, is described as a descendant of Marc’ Antonio Inguanez who lived in 1725 

The 1350 and 1372 grants read as follows:

 LODOVICUS DEI GRATIA REX SICILIAE per praesens Privilegium notum fieri volumes universes tam praesentibus, quam futuris, quod nos considerantes puram fidem et devotionem sinceram quas Ciccus Gattus Castellanus Castri Insulae Meliveti fidelis noster erga Majestatem Nostram gessit, et gerit satis fideliter et devote, nec non grata obsequia per eum Culmini nostro praestita quae praestat ad praesens et praestare poterit in futurum, Domino Concedente, dicto Cicco suisque haeredibus in perpetuum de suo corpore legitime descendentibus quoddam viridarium cum aquis aquarum cursibus spatiis terries cultis et incultis juribus tenimentis, et pertinentiis suis vocatum de Irbniet situm et positum in tenimento Civitatis Meliveti, suis finibus limitatum, quod quidem viridarium olim tenebat, et possidebat quondam Michael Bava habitator Dictae Civitatis fidelis noster, vita sibi comite, post cuius obitum, suorumque haeredum ad manus nostrae Curiae extitit ratio nobiliter devolutum, de speciali gratia, liberalitate mera, et ex certa nostra scientia duximus concedentum fidelitate nostra haeredum, et successorum nostrorum in eodem Regno nostrae Curiae et cuiuslibet alterius juribus simper salvis; in cuius rei testimonium certitudinem, et cautelam praesens Privilegium sibi ex inde fieri, et Majestatis Nostrae Sigillo pendenti jussimus communiri. Datum Messanae per Nobilem Mattheum de Palicio Comitem Nohariae et una cum Sociis Regni Siciliae Vicarium Generalem, ac ejusdem Regni Cancellarium anno Domcae Incarnationis 1350. IV Jan IV Indictionis Regni Nostri Anno Nono feliciter. Amen

FREDERICUS REX DEI GRATIA REX SICILIAE, et Athenarum, et Neopatriae Dux Praesentis particularis scripti serie notum fieri volumus universes et futuris, quod ad humilem supplicationem Culmini Nostro factam per Guillelmum Murinam de Meliveto fidelem Nostrum considerantes puram fidem et devotionem sinceram, quas idem Guillelmus erga celsitudinem nostrum simper gessit, et gerit, ac grata, et accepta servitia per eum Majestati Nostrae collate fidelitate ferventi, et viribus indefessis, quae confert ad praesens et praestare poterit in futurum, concedente Domino gratiare eidem Guillelmo et suis haeredibus de suo corpore legitime descendentibus in perpetuum quoddam tenimentum terrarum nostrae curiae vocatum Bucanae situm, et positum in insula Meliveti prope’ tenimentum haeredum Michaelis de Bernardo, secus terras Fratris Benedicti Camenza via pubblica, et aliis confinibus, cum juribus, limitibus, redditibus, proventibus, et pertinentiis suis omnibus, suo servitio unius equi Alforati Curia nostra provide praestando; quod servitium idem Guillelmus Curiae nostrae per se, et dictos haeredes suos ipsi Curia sponte obtulit praestiturum protestans proinde fidelitatis debitum juramentum, ac faciens minibus, et ore homagium iuxta sacrarum Constitutionum Imperialum Regni nostril continentiam, et tenorem de liberalitate mera largitate munificentia, et speciali gratia, et ex certa nostra scientia duximus concedendum fidelitate nostra, haeredum et successorum nostrorum in eodem Regno nostrae concessionis futuram memoriam et robur perpetuo valiturum praesens patens scriptum fieri proinde, et sigillo pendenti maiestatis nostrae iussimus communiri. Datum in Insula Meliveti Anno Dominicae Incarnationis M.C.C.C. LXXII novembris xj Indictionis. 

The Commissioners explained that as a rule there are two classes of fief namely: simple fiefs and noble fiefs and that those of Djar il-Bniet et Bucana fell into the first category. The Commissioners explained that in this first class of fiefs, the feudatories were sometimes styled miles or magnificus but these personal designations conferred no title of nobility descendible to the feudatory’s heirs and successors in the fief. 

The Commissioners observed that the original feudatories of the fiefs of Djar el Bniet (1350) and Bucana (1372) were never expressly granted a title of nobility. Technically these fiefs are not “noble fiefs”. 

The second class of fief is described by the Commissioners as that to which the dignity of Baron or other title was annexed. Such grants were not unknown to Malta but in terms of the Commissions’ Report, there is not one known instance of a fief based in Malta dating prior to the advent of the Knights in 1530 made out specifically with a title of nobility attached to it. Thus, there is not one title now claimed, which existed in Malta as titles created by grant or patent before 1530.  The Commissioners therefore concluded that the fiefs “Djar il-Bniet et Buqana” do not qualify as “noble fiefs”. In effect, this meant that these two fiefs were land possessions without right to any title whatsoever.  

However, the Commissioners went on to identify a third class of fief as follows: “In feudal times, however, the possessors of a fief, though not entitled to enjoy the dignity of Baron, commonly styled themselves barons, an appellation which was intended to designate the holder of an estate in fee, and not to confer a particular title of nobility on the descendants of the person who had originally obtained the grant and the feudal investiture.” – The Commissioners continued with the following emphasis:- “But when a fief which, according to the original deed of grant was a simple and untitled fief, and all its successive possessors were acknowledged and styled as barons, in that case, the title and dignity of baron was considered as annexed to the possession of that fief, and inheritable by all the holders of it.”

 It is in this third context that the Commissioners considered the complex claim of Alessandro Sceberras to the title of “Diar il Bniet et Bucana”. This claim was rendered complex because that claimant was not the actual possessor of those lands. In fact the Commissioners reported that those lands were held by his aunt Maria Teresa Damico. Instead of dismissing Alessandro’s claim, the Commissioners considered whether Maria Teresa D’Amico would qualify under the third class of fiefs. The Report states the sufficient grounds for holding that the title was conferred or recognized occurred in 1725 when the title was acknowledged in the person of Marc Antonio Inguanez by Grand Master Manoel de Vilhena, who having on the 30 April 1725 issued an order prohibiting the use of the Titles of Illustrissimo and Nobilespecifically exempted Marc’ Antonio referring to him and his wife as Baron and Baroness. Moreover, the Commissioners noted that Marc’ Antonio was 34 times between the years 1705 and 1760, appointed Capitano della Verga, and always designated as Barone Inguanez”. The office of Capitano della Verga was the highest municipal office of Malta and entitled the holder to precedence in terms in the 1739 legislation.

Therefore the criteria for this third class of fief, of which the aforesaid fiefs “Djar il-Bniet et Buqana” form part are three in number, namely (1) descent from the original grantee of a simple fief, (2) actual possession of the fief and (3) proof that in the interim period there is a sufficient number of declarations showing that previous holders of that fief is considered to be a baron. This is weak argument because mere tenure does not constitute a privilege of Peerage. Another author, Ruvigny criticized the Commissioners’ third class explaining that whereas land could come into possession of illegitimate children or be willed away, on the other hand the right to title of Nobility could only descend by primogeniture, i.e. under a system of succession identical in principle to that under which the Crown devolves.

In his summation of the Commissioners’ Report, the British Secretary of State wrote that each of the titles considered is either personal to the holder of a fief, or descends in order of primogeniture so as to be held only by the eldest male descendant. Thus, in the case of Djar il-Bniet et Bucana the title is personal to the holder and cannot be regarded transmissible by inheritance if the fief is extinguished. Logically, if either fief were to be lost or sold, then one cannot, anymore, claim to be a baron.

Recognition by the Government of the Order of Saint John

According to the 1878 Report, the aforesaid enactments and appointments in favour of Maex’ Antonio Inguanez were tantamount to the Government of the Order of Saint John accepting the title of Barone di Djar el Bniet et Bucana as one of the titles forming part of the Nobility in Malta. In effect the Grand Masters upheld the correct view of Peerage law, by practically creating a new title as a recognition of an established custom, in a case were a holder of land by military tenure had vulgarly come to be known as a Baron, and the Sovereigns had been induced to acquiesce. But the Commissioners did not stop there. Ruvigny observes that although according to strict Peerage law, no titles are traceable in Malta created by an existing patent of Nobility previous to the rule of the Grand Masters, titles having their legal foundation in a recognition by the Grand Masters have been ante-dated for purposes of precedency, to coincide with the date of grants of land under a military tenure inferior to baronial tenure. In fact the Commissioners ante-dated the title of Barone di Djar il-Bniet et Bucana to the year 1350. 

PRECEDENCE ENJOYED BY THE HOLDER OF THE FIEF/TITLE OF BARONE DI DJAR EL BNIET ET BUCANA

In terms of the general 1739 legislation the Barone Marco Antonio Inguanez, having been a Capitano della Verga for many years, was entitled to precedence over every one else. However that argument is irrelevant here as the issue to be determined is to what precedence an ‘ordinary’ Baron of Djar il-Bniet be entitled. 

In terms of legislation, it follows that the direct recognition extended in 1725, albeit unregistered in accordance with 1739 legislation, allowed Marc’ Antonio a right to precedence. In terms of that legislation this precedence was allowed to him as well as to his male-to-male descendants (“Il discendente per linea mascolina”). However, from an examination of the genealogy (see link), Marc’ Antonio died childless and he could in fact not have transferred this right to any descendant. 

By virtue of the later general legislation of 1795, the holder of the title of Barone di Djar el Bniet et Bucana and the qualifying agnate descendants are to rank before the holder of any title created after 1725 (year of first recognition) and respective descendants. Therefore, it follows that the Barone di Djar el Bniet et Bucana ranks before the Conte della Bahria (created in 1743), Marchese di Scriop el Hagin (1776) and the Marchese di Ghajn Kajet (1796) even though all the latter titles purport a higher rank. The same position holds in regard to the respective male-to-male descendants. In the context of the 19th century Commissioners’ Report, once the title was ante-dated to the year 1350, the Barone di Djar el Bniet et Bucana does not rank after the earlier titles of Barone di Gomerino (1710) and Barone di Budacco (1716), but before them. 


THE ROYAL COMMISSION APPOINTED TO ENQUIRE INTO THE CLAIMS OF THE MALTESE NOBILITY

After the Capitulation of the Order of Saint John the new French Rulers formally abolished all titles of nobility. A total of 3 general orders were made to this effect. The French in turn lost Malta in 1800 when the Commander in Chief Vaubois surrendered to His Britannic Majesty. On the 30 May 1814 (Treaty of Paris) it was stipulated that the island of Malta and its dependencies belong in full right and sovereignty to his Britannic majesty.

In time, the use of nobiliary titles was resumed. However, it appears that the unregulated and improper use of titles of nobility and other honours was tolerated by the local authorities who were themselves found to be at fault for encouraging such improper use. Throughout this period, a group known as the Assembly of Maltese Nobles is known to have functioned at this time but it did not enjoy any official role.

In 1876, the British Secretary of State for the Colonies commissioned a report on those titles alleged to have been conferred to Maltese families before the annexation of Malta to the British Dominions, namely 1800. The Commissioners’ Report and Supplemental Report were published in 1878 together with relative correspondence. 

To facilitate the preparation of the report, an “ad hoc” Committee of Nobles was requested to provide a list of claimants. In that list, Alessandro Testaferrata Sceberras Damico Inguanez is listed with the title of “Barone di Djar el Bmiet et Bucana”. This listing is at variance with that published in 1870 by the Marchese Giorgio Crispo Barbaro in his “Maltese Nobility and the Maltese Gentry holding Foreign Titles” where Teresa Damico Inguanez is described as a Maltese Lady holding the foreign title of “Bucana and Diar el Bniet” created on the 13 November 1372 by King Ferdinand of Sicily.

UNSUCCESSFUL CLAIM OF ALESSANDRO SCEBERRAS TO THE FIEF/TITLE OF BARONE DI DJAR EL BNIET ET BUCANA AND AWARD OF TITLE TO MARIA TERESA D’AMICO

The Commissioners explained that although the Barone Alessandro Sceberras proved his descent from the before-mentioned Francesco Gatto; they could not accept his claim because he was not the then possessor of the two fiefs in question.

The Commissioners noted that in fact the two fiefs were actually held by Baronessa Maria Teresa Damico who was described as a descendant of Marc’ Antonio Inguanez who received recognition in 1725.

The Royal Commission therefore concluded that to Maria Teresa Damico belongs the title of “Baronessa di Diar el Bniet” and “Bucana”, and that Alessandro Sceberras, her nephew, could not, at that time, claim this title. 

The 1878 Report also describes how Alessandro Sceberras made an unsuccessful claim to the title of Barone della Marsagranted to conferred to Ferdinando Castelletti by Grand Master Manoel de Vilhena by a patent of the 12th June 1725 but was successful in the title of Barone di Ciccianowhich had previously devolved to Fabrizio Testaferrata in 1695. 

CONTROVERSIES 

The first controversy stems from the fact that Maria Teresa D’Amico is described as a descendant of Marc’ Antonio. It appears that the genealogy of Marc’ Antonio was not considered by the Commissioners. The reasoning of the Royal Commission implies that the basis of the recognition/conferral is only the act of 1725 in favour of Marc’ Antonio Inguanez, the then holder of the fiefs, but it does not follow that the commissioners were correct in awarding the title to Maria Teresa D’Amico in view of the genealogical fact that  Marc’Antonio Inguanez died without issue in 1760, thereby rendering it impossible and wrong for the Commissioners to have considered Maria Teresa as a descendant of Marc’ Antonio. 

The second controversy refers to the need to establish a valid basis of recognition or conferral some time after 1782. After the death without issue in 1760 of Marc’ Antonio Inguanez, the fiefs of Djar el Bniet and Buqana were invested in the family of D’Amico-Castelletti-Fiott-Farrugia-Inguanez (i.e. the descendants of Pietro D'Amico-Castelletti through his marriage to Ersilea Fiott-Farrugia Inguanez, a descendant of Alessandro Inguanez). This succession was confirmed by judgments of the “Supremo Magistrato di Giustizia di Malta” one of the 4 November 1761 in favour of Gio Francesco D’Amico Inguanez, and another of the 22 November 1782 in favour of Alessandro D’Amico Inguanez. It is also a genealogical fact that Gio Francesco D’Amico Inguanez’s only son died in 1782 without any surviving issue. Therefore on the assumption that Alessandro D’Amico Inguanez did receive, sometime after 1782, a recognition similar to that extended to his kinsman Marc’ Antonio in 1725, only the descendants of Alessandro who are in possession of the fiefs of Djar el Bniet and Buqana are entitled to the personal title of “Baron”. 

The third controversy refers to whether this personal title has been rendered transmissible. Since 1969, the holding of properties in fief in Malta has been revoked by law. However, provision is made in that law in the sense that 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 although the fiefs of “Diar el Bniet” and “Bucana” were extinguished in 1969 and thereafter held like any other property, the title remained protected. An examination of the genealogy shows that in 1969 the then holder of the fief was Frances Mary Carmen Chesney Sceberras D'Amico Inguanez, (1898-1981) who therefore remained in possession of the personal title by reason of that legal provision. However, this consideration alone does not render a personal title transmissible to future possessors of the erstwhile fiefs.

A fourth controversy would arise if the third is resolved. If the title is deemed transmissible, a question could arise whether it should descend according to the rule of primogeniture, or whether the personal title should “follow” the ownership of both of the said properties or either one of them

OTHER ENTITLEMENTS

For the purposes of precedence amongst the Nobility in Malta, in terms of the the 1739 and 1795 legislations combined, the holder of the title of Barone di Djar il-Bniet et Bucana would rank according to antiquity of creation and relative registration of this title. The Barone di Djar il- Bniet et Bucana would rank before the holder of Cicciano (1695) because the latter title was first directly recognised only a few months later  in 1725. However in view of the fact that the Commissioners ante-dated the title of Barone di Djar il-Bniet et Bucana to the year 1350 which is a year preceding every other title known in Malta, it follows that the holder of that title ranks before all other titles.

The limited use of the title “The Most Illustrious and Noble was first regulated in Malta in 1725 and was extended by the Grand Masters to only some families, not necessarily titled-families. However, this title was considered unacceptable to the British authorities who opined it could only be borne by Princes of the blood Royal. A compromise was reached allowing the introduction of the style “The Most Noble on the premise that all title holders were entitled to the title. Thus, as from the year 1886, the holder of the title of Barone di Djar il-Bniet et Bucana became entitled to be styled “The Most Noble”. On the one hand, this was unnecessary in regard to Djar il-Bniet et Bucana because Marc’ Antonio’s descendants were already entitled to the title of “The Most Illustrious and Noble” by reason of the aforesaid decree dated 1725. On the other hand it is a fact that Marc’ Antonio did not have any descendants. 

The British Colonial administration also allowed presumed successors of titles of nobility, the diminutive style of the respective titles, in this case Baroncino di Djar il-Bniet et Bucana. But the Colonial administration did not allow any legal right to the use of these styles. 

Other descendants of the various holders of this title are by custom entitled to be styled dei Baroni di Djar il-Bniet et Bucana. Again, the Colonial administration did not allow any legal right to the use of this style.

PRESENT DAY

Since 1969, succession by fief was abolished in Malta by Act 30 of 1969 dated 21 November, 1969. Provision is made in that law that nothing shall affect any title of nobility, and the laws in force concerning any such titles shall continue to have effect.

 Since 1975, a general duty is imposed in the Republic of Malta not to recognize any title of nobility. (Act 29 of 1975 dated 17 October 1975). 

GENEALOGY

For full Genealogy of the Fief holders of Djar il-Bniet et Bucana please see: 

http://www.maltagenealogy.com/libro%20d'Oro/djarilbniet.html

and 

http://www.maltagenealogy.com/libro%20d'Oro/djarilbniet1.html

 

REFERENCES

(1) Grant of lands of ‘Djar el Bniet’, situated in the Maltese islands 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. 

(2) Grant of lands of ‘Bucana’, situated in the Maltese islands to Guglielmo Murina and to the heirs of his body by King Frederick on the 11 November 1372

(3)        Enactment by Grand Master Manoel de Vilhena dated 30 April 1725 regulating the use of the Titles of Illustrissimo and Nobile.

 OTHER:

Additional Note:- Another present-day claim to this title is based on the premise that Marc’ Antonio Inguanez who died in 1760 should not have been succeeded by Gio Francesco D’Amico because in terms of Francesco Gatto’s will it is stipulated  that upon extinction of the male line, the estate would devolve in favour of the closest natural descendants and not to D’Amico who was in a more remote  degree. http://www.maltagenealogy.com/libro%20d'Oro/inguanez.htm

 

In time, this claim gave rise to the legend that a curse was put on the descendants of the D’Amico family so that they be deprived of issue. 

 

Something might be made out of the fact that Gio. Francesco’s son as well as his brothers had no ulterior issue of their own, however the curse was not so effective in regard to Gio Francesco’s sisters Rosalea Sceberras and Eugenia Galea.