The Maltese fiefdom of Ghariescem et Tabia.

Footnote: The fief of “Ghariescem et Tabia” was never granted as a title in the strict sense. However, the holder of this untitled fief was by custom accorded the title of “barone”

Published sources show this fief as having been granted in 1638 by Grand Master Lascaris. This is not the case because the only instrument of that year relative to this fief is in act a mere deed of compromise (“deed of transaction”) between Grand Master Lascaris and his council and one Giacinto Cassia in relation to certain property claims. Moreover, it appears that the first time this title was ever mentioned was only as late as 1659 whilst the first time it was so described in the context of a formal investiture was in 1678. This is described in the Commissioners Report which only attributed a date of creation of this title. (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. 86-90).

The actual report reads as follows:- 

The fief possessed by Conte Sant was originally granted by Frederick King of Sicily to Enrico de Sosa, November 12th 1372. That fief having subsequently reverted to the Crown,was re-conferred upon Stefano Lo Blundo, by King John, Infante of Spain, on the 28th June 1416. These two grants were made before the Order of St. John took possession of these islands. Stefano Lo Blundo sold the fief to Antonio Inguanez, from whose family it was acquired by Gio Maria Cassia, whose son Giacinto Cassia was dispossessed of it, in consequence of its having reverted to the principality, by a judgment dated the 18th June 1535, after the Rota Romana had, by various decisions (Decisiones S.R. Rom. Recentiores, Pars 6; Decis. 29, Decis, 212, Decis. 310, Decis. 314.), declared the feudal nature of the aforesaid land, which Giacinto claimed to hold in his own right. A deed of transaction was subsequently entered into between the said Giacinto and the Procurators of the ComunTesoro of the Order. That deed was received by Notary Michele Ralli on the 14th April 1638, and was assented to by Grand Master  Fr. Giovampaolo Lascaris de Castellar and his Council, on the 16th April 1638. By virtue of that transaction, the land ta ghariescem was ceded to Giacinto Cassia and to his children and to his descendants for ever, and the feudatories were to discharge the annuity which their predecessors were bound to pay. It was further agreed that the land should be possessed iure feudi; that it could not be transferred to and divided among the descendants of both sexes of Giacinto Cassia, without the Grand Master’s license, until the total extinction of the descent of Giacinto; and that the holders of it should annually pay into the Tesoro of the Order, fifty Sicilian ounces of general weight, equivalent to 10/.Sc. 4d sterling. Giacinto was to obtain the investiture, take the oath of fealty , and procure the Bulls from the Cancelleria, and all his successors in the fief were to receive the investiture from the Grand Master. The Conte Gio. Francesco Sant, who proves his descent form Giacinto Cassia through a female line, and who is the possessor of the fief “taghariescem” and “Tabia”, cannot found his claims on the two grants made in 1372 and 1416 by Kings Frederick and John, those grants having become extinct; but the title of the Conte Sant to the possession of the aforesaid fief is to be derived from the transaction entered into in 1638 between his ancestor Giacinto and the Grand Master and his council. Now the title of “Barone” is neither mentioned in the grants of 1372 and 1416, nor in the transaction of 1638: the last-mentioned instrument contains no clause from which it may be inferred that a noble fief or jurisdiction was conferred on the feudatory, who is therein simply styled DominusHiachyntus Cassia feudatarius. Conte Sant, therefore, deriving his claims from the deed of transaction of 1638, cannot maintain his pretensions to any particular title of nobility by virtue of the sovereign grant made to Giacinto Cassia and his descendants; he might only assert, as the holder of a fief which is not titled, the right of bearing the denomination of Barone, which was borne by other feudatories, who were formerly styled Barons or holders of fiefs.

Although no particular title of nobility appears to have been conferred upon Giacinto Cassia and his descendants in 1638, we must, however, submit that since the date of the above-mentioned transaction, seven investitures of the fief “Ghariescem” and “Tabia” were granted under the government of the Knights. The first was given to Giacinto Cassia on the 27th April 1638; the second to Gio. Antonio Cassia, on the 15th January 1655; the third to PietroCassia, on the 13th August 1658; in which three investitures each of the feudatories is designated as Magnificus . The fourth investiture was granted to Domenica Cassia, wife of Stanislao Xara, on the 21st August 1678, in which she is called “filia vero quondam Magnifici Petri Cassia J.U.D. olim Baronis de Ghariescem et Tabia”. The fifth to PietroPaolo Xara, on the 28th August 1721, in which the following words occur: “quod quidemPheudum ad eum uti dicta quondam Nobilis Baronissae Domonicae Cassia et Xara filiumprimogenitum pervenit, ad quod supradictum Nobilem Petrum Paulum Xara”. The sixth was granted to Stanislao Xara, styled “Nobilis Stanislaus Xara quondam Nobilis Petri Pauli XaraPheudi de Ghariescem et Tabia Baronis filius primogenitus”; and the seventh was given on the 20th August 1797, to Felicita Chiara Sant  “filia vero primogenita quondam MagnificaeAntoniae Bonnici sororis secundogenita quondam Magnifici Stanislai Xara olim Baronis De Ghariescem et Tabia.”.

During and even before the time of the Order, there existed at Notabile (old capital town), a municipal corporation called Universita” della Citta” Notabile , consisting of four members called Giurati , and of a Capitano Giustiziero known by the name of Capitano della Verga, and Governor  of Notabile. These functionaries exercised jurisdiction in the city and the adjoining district. The Giurati were appointed annually, and their appointment was confirmed by the Grand Master. The “Capitano della Verga”, who was considered to hold the highest and most important of all civil offices, was appointed directly by the Grand Master, and was usually chosen among the members of noble and conspicuous families of the island. From the records of the Cancelleria it appears that in the year 1659, by a Magistral Bull, the office of “Capitano della Verga” was conferred upon “Nobili ac Magnifico Pietro Cassia J.U.D. Baroni de Ghariescem et Tabia” and that in the years 1776 and 1777 the office of Giuratowas bestowed on “Magnificum et Nobilem Baronem Stanislaum Xara”.

Now after these explicit declarations of the Grand Masters from 1659 to 1797, made not only on the occasions of the investiture of the fiefs but also of the appointment of some of the descendants of Giacinto Cassia to important offices under the Government of these islands, on which occasions they were styled barons and constantly designated as nobles, we do not think ourselves justified in refusing to Conte Gio Francesco Sant the title of barone, notwithstanding the non existence of the authentic and original grant of the title, and his name will therefore be inserted in our list, not only with the addition of Conte but also with that of “Barone de Ghariescem” e “Tabia”, though the family name Cassia will not be appended to the latter title. For the foregoing reasons the date of creation is stated to be the 16th of April 1638. 

The foregoing reasoning implies that any claim to this title could only be made if based on the tenure of the fief of “Ghariescem et Tabia”. 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 fief of “Ghariescem et Tabia” was 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 property, or whether the title should “follow” the ownership of said property.

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