Two D’Amico-Inguanez families.
There were in Malta two distinct branches of the D’Amico-Inguanez family:- Both are now extinct in the male line. The senor line also held two titles of marquis and one of hereditary knight.
There is no record of the D’Amico family in Abela’s Decrittione di Malta. There is a reference in passing at page 303 to Canon Antonino D’Amico of Messina (viv. 1113), but nothing appears to connect to the family being discussed in this section.
Little is known about this family and the book “The Family of Inguanez” (1888) says ‘We are unable to throw any light on the name of the head branch of this family, or of the exact date of its arrival in Malta, as the oldest documents in our possession only date back to the year 1600. From these we gather, that the family established itself here about the middle of the 16th century, was distinguished at that period, and possessed of property in Malta. Some of the earliest of these papers, record marriages at that period, and possessed of property in Malta.”
This family’s landed status is probably indirect. In 1644 the girl Maruzza of the noble Castelletti family and descendant of the older Noto, Surdo and Nava families, married one Claudio d’Amico, hence the surname ‘D’Amico Castelletti’.
The D’Amico family’s nobility was also indirect and occurred after Marco Antonio last Baron Inguanez of the direct line, died at Christmas 1760. Recent research shows his ancestors the families of Inguanez (originally Des Guanechs from Catalunya, Spain) and Gatto were originally involved in piracy.
According to his will drawn up in 1758 by Notary Gio Maria Zammit and published 5 days after the Baron’s death, part of his estate was bequeathed to the D’Amico, Galea and Manduca families. In addition to his own worldly goods, the baron also held the fiefs of Diar el Bniet et Bucana. These fiefs could not form part of his estate and reverted back to the government. However, by January 1763, Gio Francesco D’Amico Castelletti whose paternal grandmother Ersilia Fiott Farrugia was related to the baron by reason of her own mother being the younger sister of the baron’s father (the elder sister’s line becoming extinct in 1746 with the death of the Baron of San Giovanni Raffaele Portelli Abela) successfully proved his right to succeed the two fiefs described as “baronies” of Djar il Bniet and Bucana . Grand Master Pinto ordered his Secreto to relinquish these properties in favour of Gio Francesco, now surnamed D’Amico Inguanez. “Passato a miglior vita il Noble Cavle D. Marco Antonio Inguanez Barone di questi due Feudi senza figli, il Magco e Noble D. Gio Francesco D’Amico Inguanez terzo cugino del defunto Barone, avendo esposto al G. Mro Pinto che giusta le Regie concessioni e Disposizioni de’ suoi antenati si trovava chiamato al possesso della riferire non solo dalle due Baronie mede mappure di altri stabili, e Scritture ad essi riguardanti Supplico l’Altezza Sua che come Principe gliene dasse l’investitura col peso de’ servigj dovuti. Il G. Mro si degn’ su tale importante affare ordino si facesse il processo citato il Segreto dell’ Alt. Sua avanti gli Uditori dai quali riconosciuto vero tutto cio’ che aveva esposto il do Noble D’Amico Inguanez il Gr. Mro ordino al Secreto di rilasciargli il possesso, e frutti raccolti, delli quali il do Secreto aveva provisionalme preso possesso: Ed ottenne l’investitura avendo prestato il Giuramento, sotto le riserve espresso nei Diplomi di di Feudi, e specialme di tenere un cavallo bardato per ciascuno di di Feudi. 20 Gen. 1763: ab Indne fo 282 p. 2.”.
Undoubtedly there the 1763 document confirms the fiefs as baronies. However it is not clear whether Marc’ Antonio Inguanez ever considered his title to refer to these two properties or as the “Baron of Ortigos” in Catalonia (Spain) which is described in the book “The Family of Inguanez” (Malta, 1888) as having been enjoyed by his ancestor Angeraldo Desguanechs.
Gio Francesco D’Amico Inguanez was married to Asteria Testaferrata de Noto daughter of Enrico and Felicita’ of the wealthy Cassar de Saynfamily. Gio Francesco’s marriage was convenient for two reasons, first she provided the necessary funding to fix the palazzo in Mdina. Montalto (1979) reports it had fallen into such a state of disrepair Asteria had to spend a considerable sum of money ‘to render it in some way habitable’having found the palace ‘practically destroyed’. The second reason was because Asteria brought to D’Amico not less than another 3 titles of nobility because by deed made on the 10 September 1772, between members of the Testaferrata family intended to compromise all matters between them it was covenanted:-“Praefati quoque Dni contrahentes pro se et suis, convenerunt et convenient quod tam memoratus Dnus Don Gilbertus, ac sui filii et descendentes in infinituum, quam preti Dni Daniel, Don Pandulphus, et Donna Asteria eorumque filii et descendentes in infinitum, reciproce ac unite uti possint uti possint titulis omnibus honorificis atque nobilibus familiae competentibus, ac segnantur titulis Marchionatus Sancti Vincentii Ferreri et Marchionatus de Testaferrata et Equitis Sacri Romani Imperii, quorum copia uni alteri consignare debet, aliisque juribus etiam patronatus simplicis familiae competentibus et non aliter.”
Such was the new prestige of the first line of the D’Amico Inguanez family that in 1765, the princely Pinto who lived to be ninety two agreed to hold the baptism of Baron D’Amico’s son in the Chapel of the Magistral Palace in Valletta. Pinto sent five kaless ; a carriage drawn by two mules, accompanied by four pages and four servants. These brought the D’Amico family to the Palace for the ceremony after which the Grand Master presented the child with a gold cross. Baroness D’Amico was given a ring and a necklace of diamonds, and the boy’s grandmother, Marchioness Testaferrata, received a jeweled pendant. The fact that the Grand Masters sent a carriage drawn by two mules to bring the family to his palace was, in itself, a great honour, since the number of mules, or horses for his carriage was a sign of prestige regulated by custom.
The son Claudio Emanuele was destined to remain an only child and in 1779 he was installed as successor in the baronies of Diar el Bniet and Bucana: “Succeduta la morte del Nobile D. Gio Francesco D’Amico Inguanez, che fu’ possessore delle Baronie di Bucana, e Diarilbniet: Il Gr. Mro concesse l’investitura delle medme al Nobe D. Claudio Emanuele D’Amico Inguanez, unico figlio del dto fu’ Gio: Francesco. V. Boll. 10.Maggio 1779, f. 293”
Claudio Emmanuele died without issue and this line of the D’Amico Inguanez became extinct.
He was succeeded by his father’s brother Alessandro. “Accaduta la morte del rifto Nobe D. Claudio Emanuele D’Amico Inguanez senza figli, ha dato il Gr. Mro ordine, sia spedita la solita Bolla d’investitura delli suindicati Feudi di Bucana, e Diarilbniet in favore del Nobe D. Alessandro D’Amico Inguanez Zio paterno del dto defonto Claudio Emmanuele, ed in seguito il medmo Nobe D. Alessandro fece il solilto giuramento di fedelta’. 24. Novembre 1782, f. 265.”
The second line of the D’Amico Inguanez family is controversial.
It appears this family caused the restored commemorative tablet of the Mdina Gate to read something different to the original. According to “The Family of Inguanez” (1888), King Alfonso “gave permission to have the arms of Inguanez placed on the inner side of the main gate at Notabile, beneath those of the Royal arms, to commemorate Antonio Desguaneck’s having reduced the islands of Malta and Gozo to submit to the House of Aragon. These arms were on the entrance of Notabiel until 1798, when these, together with nearly all other escutcheons, were removed by order of Napoleon, during the French occupation. They have recently been replaced by the descendants of the Inguanez family during the administration of Sir Lintorn Simmons, K.C.B. & G.C.M.G. in 1886.”
However, the restored tablet does not tally with the description provided by Abela (1647) (see below).
When Malta was occupied by the French in 1798, all titles of nobility were abolished and the nobles were ordered to burn their documents on the fete day of the 16th Messidor of the 6th year of the French Republic (14 July 1798). Alessandro now using only his real surname of D’Amico, indicated his willingness to comply but compelled by the consideration the document held by him contained his right to the two fiefs denominated Bucana and Diar el Bniet he asked for an exemption. Permission was granted by Bosredon Ransijat, President on the 13th Thermidore of the 6th year of the French Republic (31 July 1798).
Alessandro died in 1801 and was succeeded in the properties by his son Vincenzo. On the 5th October 1802, Commissioner Alexander Ball invested the widow Maria on behalf of their minor son Vincenzo.
Vincenzo D’Amico Inguanez last male descendant of the D’Amico family died unmarried on the 1 August 1850. He was survived by his elder sisters Maria Teresa, also unmarried. The younger sister Rosalea wife of Pasquale Sceberras (a Lord Lieutenant) died in 1741.
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 Sceberras Testaferrata 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.
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
There is nothing in the genealogies of the D’Amico Inguanez family to support the view expressed by the 1878 Royal Commission that Maria Teresa Damico was a descendant of Marc’ Antonio Inguanez. As seen above the record of 1763 shows he died without issue.
Maria Teresa last of the direct line of the barons D’Amico Inguanez (line of 1782), died on the 11 November 1880. She was succeeded not by her sister’s son Alessandro Sceberras but by her sister’s 15 year old granddaughter Maria Francesca later married (1890) to Colonel Alexander Chalmers Mc Kean of the 6th Innisklling Dragoon Guards.
Buhagiar and Fiorini (1996) describe the Baroness as a “trailblazer” of tourism. The article in “Malta and Gibraltar” (1915) has photos beckoning the reader to rent rooms at her house.
Buhagiar and Fiorni (1996) also lament the Baroness’s decision to make architectural changes to her properties in Mdina. Interestingly, “Malta and Gibraltar” (1915) shows the “apartment that formed the King’s Bedchamber”. On the other hand the tradition that King Alfonso was entertained in a certain room within the Inguanez palace is dismissed by Buhagiar and Fiorini (1996) as a “recent fabrication”. The photos shown in both publications are similar and probably show the same room.
Technically the D’Amico Inguanez family, as barons, ranked the lowest amongst the local nobility. However, by a general legislation of the 17 March 1795 enacted by Grand Master Rohan-Polduc, holders of titles of nobility were made to rank for the purposes of precedence in appointment to municipal offices ('giurati') according to their dates of creation and all the other new creations came to be ranked after the older, “It being a principle universally acknowledged that the lustre of Nobility principally depends on its greater antiquity, nothing is more just and reasonable than that the older Nobles should have precedence over the more recent”.
The legislation clarified that holders of foreign titles could enjoy this precedence only if they effected due registration. At the same time, equal precedence for the same purposes was accorded to the holder of Maltese titles and any descendant from such holder provided he was descended in the male to male line, if he lives on rent of his own property, and this only if his intermediate ancestors had also lived on such rent.
In terms of the 1795 legislation, as lineal male-to-male descendants, all branches, and sub-branches, of the D’Amico Inguanez ranked equally, “in regulating the precedency among the Nobles of this our dominion, whether first-born or cadets indiscriminately”. Therefore in terms of the 1795 legislation, had the Inguanez family not been extinct in the male to male line it would have been entitled to precedence on its own merits because of the grant of Ortigos dating to 1285 and Saccaia dating to 1432.
An attempt – spearheaded by a member of the Barbaro family - to change this rule of precedence to favour the new counts and marquises was defeated by Lord Granville on the 19 May 1886 who ruled that in view of the considerable opposition especially by Maria Francesca Sceberras and the small support which the proposal received, “I have to request that you will inform the Committee of Privileges that I am not prepared to reconsider the decision of Grand Master Rohan.”
According to the 1878 Report, the Commissioners decided to ante-dated the title of Barone di Djar il-Bniet et Bucana to the year 1350. In this way the baroni of Djar il-Bniet et Bucana were ranked before the later creations.
Very strangely, the official lists (after 1878) of titles of Maltese Nobility have no reference to either Inguanez or D’Amico as original barons. This might be explained by the reasoning that following the 1760 reversion and the terms of the 1782 investiture, the correct date for purposes of precedence in male to male descent should be 1763.
The use of the titles of "Most Illustrious" and "Noble" was criminalized in 1725 and the Grand Masters relaxed this rule in favour of only some families. Of all the various enactments between 1725 and 1798 it appears that none favoured any member of the D’Amico Inguanez family to be styled "Most Illustrious" or "Noble". However, on the 18 June 1884, the Committee of Privileges of the Maltese Nobility requested the British Secretary of State for the Colonies, for permission to allow each 'titolato' the use of the style and title of 'The Most Noble' explaining that “during the Government of the Order of St. John each and every Titolato in Malta was allowed the style and title of Most Noble or Most Illustrious”. At first this request was resisted by the British Authorities, not because the claim was misleading, but because British law allowed only Princes of the English Blood Royal use the title of “Most Illustrious”. Not wanting to offend what was wrongly perceived as a Maltese custom, a compromise was reached and on the 23 February 1886, Lord Glanville instructed Governor Simmons that:- “I am also to desire you to give directions for the resuming the practice of according to the ‘Titolati’ in all public and official documents and in all communications from officers of the Government their customary titles of ‘Illustrissimo e Nobile’ or the ‘Most Noble’ as suggested in your despatch of the 7th of December, as there can be no good reason for withholding a courtesy the discontinuance of which has been felt to be a grievance.”
Therefore all the ‘titolati’ acknowledged by the British Administration became entitled to the style “The Most Noble”.
An important feature about the “title of Baron of Djar il-Bniet and Buqana” in terms of the 1878 Report is that unlike other titles descendible by primogeniture, it is not a hereditary title but a title personal to the holder of the fiefs known by that name. The Commission categorized “Djar il-Bniet et Buqana” in the third class of fief, which in order to give rise to a title of nobility must satisfy three criteria, 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. Another author, Ruvigny (1909) criticized the Commissioners’ third class because mere tenure does not constitute a privilege of Peerage. He explained 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. This criticism is valid there is no evidence the mere feudatories ever enjoyed a title of nobility, the title originating much later after 1350.
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.
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, since 1975, Malta has had a law called the Gieh ir-Repubblika Act which provides for the abolition of titles of nobility and the control of honours and decorations. Everyone, it says, is obliged to refrain from recognizing in any way, and from doing anything which could imply recognition of, any title of nobility or honour which is not recognized in accordance with the law.