Titles of BONALBERGO/BUONALBERGO
and the Maltese family of CUMBO
BUONALBERGO ( Bonum Albergum aut Albergum )
situated in the province of Principato Ultra
Innico de Guevara, Grand Seneschal of the Kingdom, Marquis of Vasto, Feudal Count of Ariano, of Potenza and Apice, donated to his nephew Juan de Guevara and his heirs and descendants the land of Buonalbergo and Savignano in the province of Principato Ultra with all rights and jurisdictions.
King Ferrante I of Aragon (aka Ferdinando d'Aragona, Don Ferrando (born Valencia, 2 June 1424, died Naples 28 June 1494), gave the royal assent to this donation in the year 1463.
John de Guevara appears to have been succeeded by Alfonso de Guevara. It is not clear how this succession came to be as the acts of succession relative to the lands of Savignano also situated in the province of Principato Ultra show that Giovanni de Guevara did not have any descendant by the name of Alfonso.
One may guess that Giovanni had sold this fief to Innico (the second) his brother, or to Giovanni (the second) son of Innico and therefore his nephew or directly to Alfonso who was the son of Giovanni (the second).
Alfonso de Guevara then donated the lands known as Buonalbergo, Arpaja and the fief of Morrone to Innico his son, who was to wed Raimondetta Saracino.
On the 14 December 1528 the Viceroy of the kingdom Philibert de Chalon gave formal assent. In turn Innico sold the land of Buonalbergo and the fief Montechiodo to his brother John Francis (or Francis) de Guevara, husband of Aurelia Caracciolo, for the price of 20000 ducats, and obtained the necessary royal assent from the Viceroy Don Pietro di Toledo on 3 November 1552.
Meanwhile Hippolyta, wife of Godfrey Palagano, eldest daughter of Innico de Guevara (the third) and Raimondetta Saracino obtained from the Holy Royal Council a judgment condemning John Francis de Guevara to release the land of Buonalbergo, assigning her 600 ducats per annum over the revenues of the estate al on account of 6000 paid by Godfrey to the creditors of Innico de Guevara.
At the instance of Inico’s creditors, the fief was sold in 1558 by order of the Sacred Royal Council for 17,800 ducats to Diana della Tolfa.
She was in turn succeeded by her son Pier John Spinello,who settled the outstanding balance and made payment to the Court.
The fief was again sold this time on account of the debts incurred by Pier John Spinello and his eldest son Charles. In fact the Court of the Sacred Royal Council sold the lands of Buonalbergo to Charles de Guevara for the price of 41,000 Ducats. Royal assent was issued from Naples and dated 26 October 1603.
Subsequently Charles donated the fiefs of Buonalbergo and Montemalo to his first born son Antonio on the occasion of his marriage to Julia de Curte Carafa. Assent was granted by the Viceroy Count of Lemos on 3 November 1611.
Yet another Royal assent was granted by the same Viceroy on 28 October 1612 authorizing the sale of the estate of Buonalbergo for the price of 38,000 ducats by Charles and Antonio de Guevara to John Baptist Spinello.
Spinello and his heirs were granted on 27November 1623 the title of Marquis of Buonalbergo by the munificence of King Philip IV of Spain. Relative decree was signed in the Royal House of St. Stephen and dated 14 February 1621 with effect from the 10 December of the same year.
The first Marquis of Buonalbergo John Baptist Spinello, Prince of San Giorgio by instrument dated 2 January 1640 in the acts of Notary Domenico de Masi di Napoli donated the land Buonalbergo “with the attached title of Marquis” and the lands of Montemalo to his only son John Pier on the occasion of his forthcoming marriage to Beatrice Spinello daughter of Thomas Francis Marquis of Fuscaldo.
On 2 March 1648 Pier John Spinello together with the Duke of Salza, the Marchese Giovanni Angelo Bonito Pisanello, the noblemen Pietro Giovanni Spinola, Francis Magrone, and Carlo Russo, was killed by rebels loyal to the Duke of Guise.
Pier Giovanni was survived by his first born son Charles who became the 3rd Marquess of Buonalbergo. Charles’s son Julius married Ippolita Carafa. From this marriage Carlo Emanuele was born in Buonalbergo on 31 January 31, 1681.
On the 5 June 1684 the Vicar of the Great Court declared Carlo Emanuele heir of Julius and he was entrusted to the care of his grandfather, Charles, Prince of S. Giorgio.
Carlo Emanuele eventually succeeded his grandfather, who died in Buonalbergo on 27 September 1689. In 1695 the same Ippolita Carafa, mother and guardian of Charles, son paid homage to the Court for the fiefs of Grotlola in the province of Basilicata and Buonalbergo in the Principato Ultra.
Carlo Emanuele Spinello married Maria di Capua, daughter of the Prince of Riccia Giovan Battista and the Duchess of Airola Antonia Caracciolo. Carlo Emmanuele died on 19 August 1708, leaving two daughters, Ippolitia and Antona. Ippolita being the eldest succeeded as Princess of St. George and Marchioness of Buonalbergo. She paid homage and was installed on the 18 March 1726 bin the lands of Buonalbergo and the fiefs of Montecalvo and Montechiodo.
By instrument made in the acts of the neapolitan notary Orazio Maria Cretari of the 28 March 1727, the same Hippolyta and her husband Louis Sanseverino, Prince of Bisignano sold unto the Duke of Paduli Baldassare Coscia the lands of Montemalmo and Buonalbergo together with the vacant fief of Montechiodo for the proce of 126,359 ducats, 1 taro and 14 grani, that is to say Buonalbergo and Montechiodo for 78,067 ducats 2 tari and 5 grani, and the land of Montemalo for 33,353 Ducats, 3 tari and 15 grani.
This sale received royal assent from the Emperor Charles VI of Austria through a diploma issued in Luxemburg dated 29 may 1728 with effect from the 25 December of that year.
The same Emperor by another diploma issued in Vienna dated 4 December 1728 effective from 22 January 1729, granted the civil, criminal and mixed jurisdiction of the second and third court casese of the lands of Paduli, Montemalo and Buonalbergo to the aforesaid Baldassarre Coscia.
Ont he 15 January 1729 he also obtained from the Viceroy of the Kingdom the assurance of the vassals of the lands of Buonalbergo and Montemalo. On the 3 December of the same year he was installed in the lands and fiefs of Montecalvo and Montechiodo.
The Duke of Paduli Baldassarre Coscia was kidnapped on the 17 August 1729 and by preambulary decree of the Grand Court of the Viceroy dated 21 August 1729 his primogenital son Raffaele was declared heir. Raffaele Coscia was the last to be invested in the lands of Buonalbergo, Grottaminarda and Montemalo and the fiefs of Montecalvo e Montechiodo.
situated in the territory of Nicosia
The fief of Buonalbergo in Nicosia, Sicily was first granted to Bartolomeo Spatafora in 1373. He was succeeded by Blasco Alagona after whom the property reverted to the Crown.
In 1392 this fief was granted to Raimondo de Cumbis.
The Cumbo family of Malta claims to have succeeded this fief. However there is no documentary evidence supporting this claim. The Maltese branch do not descend directly from Raimondo but from his brother Pietro. In any case, a claim of succession would have to be supported by proof of investiture.
Investitures were not unknown at Maltese law. As the islands formed part of Sicily one can still find in Sicilian archives various records of Maltese fiefs: As seen above there is record of Raimondo receiving the fief in 1392.
Other records in Sicily showing old Maltese fiefs are still available. The fief of Barberi was held by Lorenzo Buscheri/Cuzkeri husband of Domenica but this reverted to the crown and was granted anew to Guglielmo Raimondo Moncada in 1392; The fief of Gumarino/Gomerino was held by Sirio Solimella, then Guglielmo Surdo in 1318, by Guglielmo Ragusia in 1320, and later by Ylaria Ragusia and her husband Tommaso di Santa Sofia and then by Antonio di Santa Sofia. The fief of Marza/Marsa was not granted as at year 1335, but was later invested in favour of Pietro de Nava and in 1509 Alvaro de Nava was installed in this fief. The fief of Migarini/Mgarr was held by Giovannuccio de Osa in 1375 and the fief of Tabaria/Tabatia/Tabria was held by Accardo Barba in 1316, later by Simone Barba after whom it reverted to the Crown and was granted anew to Arnaldo Gueraldo in 1398.
The whole of the Maltese Islands were granted at different times in fief long before the islands were granted to the Order of St. John. At one time the archipelago was held by Margarito di Brindisi, in turn succeeded by Guglielmo Grasso (1197-1203), then in 1223 by Romana Grasso and her husband Enrico Pescatore (1223), in turn succeeded in 1259 by Nicola Pescatore, later in 1299 by Andrea di Malta, thereafter by Guglielmo di Malta, in turn (ante 1308) by Lukina di Malta and her husband Guglielmo Raimondo I Moncada, after whom the fief reverted to the Crown in 1320. This was followed by a new grant of the islands in favour of Alfonso Aragona, who was succeeded in 1366 by Manfredi III Chiaromonte and then by Guglielmo Aragona in 1376, who was succeeded by Manfredi Chiaromonte then Elisabetta Chiaromonte in 1390 and Guglielmo Raimondo III Moncada in 1396.
Had the Maltese Cumbo family really succeeded the fief of Bonalbergo, one would expect to find a record.
The Cumbo Family of Malta
The noble families, extant and extinct, of Malta in year 1647 numbered 121 in total. The Maltese family of Cumbo features amongst them and is described as subdivided and related to many of the principal families of Malta.
The historian Abela notes the most remote ancestor of the Cumbo family was Errigo Cumbo who disposed of his estate in favour of his brothers Ruggeri and Andrea by means of a will made in the acts of Notary Paolo Bonello dated year 1467. No mention is made of Errigo’s connection to the Sicilian feudatory Raimondo de Cumbis. However Abela concedes the same surname is found in the city of Reggio di Calabria where Raimondo Cumbo was secretary to the Duke Martin (who was later King of Aragon and therefore of Sicily).
Later studies show the Cumbo family supplied a dynasty of legal practitioners which seems to have started before the Order of St John settled in Malta in 1530. The well-known legend of the Bride of Mosta, a pillar of Maltese folklore, possibly dates to 1526: The unfortunate bride was said to be the daughter of Dr Giulio Cumbo, after whom is named the impressive Torri Cumbo on the outskirts of Mosta.
John Cumbo (XVI century) was father to James and he in turn was father of another John, and of the noted criminal jurist Doctor Agostino Cumbo.
The second John was father to another James whose son Doctor John married Cornelia daughter of Ugolino Navarra, last of his line. Their descendants adopted the surname of Cumbo Navarra.
Recent studies show the renowned Palazzo Falson in Mdina owes its origins not from the Falson family but from that of Cumbo Navarra. In arriving at this conclusion, the researchers give much importance to the marriage deed dated 11th January 1681, in the Acts of Not. Andrea Vella which in turn referred to a fedecommissium primogeniale established by Ugolino Cumbo Navarra on the 25 February 1657 in the acts of Notary Pasquale Debono. In the 1681 deed Federico Falsone drew up a document by which he passed the Bahria estates onto his son, Carlo Falsone Navarra since his son was to marry into the Testaferrata family.
Carlo Falsone Navarra eventually received untitled nobility in 1725 probably as a result of who he was married to, but as his patronym was Falson it cannot be said the Cumbo family was ever formally ennobled in Malta.
A look at the official index of Titles of Nobility in Malta confirms the Cumbo family does not feature amongst any of the recipients of titles created by the Grand Masters during 1530-1798 or even of any foreign title registrable under the laws of Grand Masters Despuig and Rohan for the purposes of precedence amongst nobles.
The other line was represented by Judge Doctor Agostino.
When Malta and Gozo were granted in fief by Emperor Charles in his capacity as King of Sicily to the Order of Saint John, the grant included the Castle and Fortress of Tripoli. This was soon lost in 1551 during the magistracy of Grand Master d’Homedes who was universally blamed for the debacle. The Grand Master tried shifting blame on the battered knights and he had them all arrested and clamped in iron fetters, charging them with cowardice, desertion and treason, with a view of having them expelled from the Order.
The historian Louis de Boisgelin gives an extremely detailed account of how D’Homedes turned to the greed and pliancy of the Maltese judge Dr. Agostino Cumbo. “A man easily corrupted, being always ready to sacrifice his conscience for his love of money” undertook that, for a substantial bribe in gold, paid in advance, he would convict the disgraced knights and condemn them to death, giving the Grand Master the judicial certificate he needed to placate the outraged sovereigns of Europe.
The leading knight Durand de Villegagnion somehow discovered and publicly denounced this backroom horse-trading in all its lurid details, in an unannounced harangue that left D’Homedes speechless, discomfited and disgraced. Judge Agostino survived the shame of the exposure of his corruption, but was eventually removed from office in 1563 by Grand Master de Valette who also ordered an official investigation into his acta et gesta.
Despite the loss, the order continued to be nominally invested with Tripoli at least up to the 18th century.
There is no known result of the findings of this investigation. Perhaps Agostino was only doing what was expected of him. Judges in the various courts of Malta did not receive a fixed salary. For a living they had to rely on ‘fees’ they levied on the litigants. In Civil cases the judges received a percentage of the value at stake and in Criminal cases the Maltese judges were expressly authorized by a decree of Grand Master Verdalle of 1582 to receive part of the fines imposed on convicted criminals.
Agostino proved neither the last, nor the most infamous of the Cumbo judges.
Another judge, Dr Giulio Cumbo, appears in the late 17th century. Appointed to the bench by Grand Master Perellos in 1698, he died, still serving as a judge 73 years later whilst serving Grand Master Pinto. The torture bench (with a sharp inverted V-shaped ridge running through its length, on which the suspect was dropped astride with his or her legs apart) in Malta lost its original Italian name of cavalletto squarciapalle (Judas’s chair) anbecame popularly known as iz-ziemel ta’ Cumbo. No children survived him and his conspicuous estate fell on his niece, the widow of the lawyer Dr Ellul.
Another Cumbo judge Dr. Giuseppe was one of the three judges who shifted into overdrive when the serious conspiracy of the slaves fell apart in 1749. Pinto’s orders left little to the imagination: The judges meted out the most indescribable tortures on the suspects during interrogations followed by harrowing torments on the gallows. In all they executed about 38 miscreants amid prolonged, stomach-churning agonies in stage-managed public spectacles.
“Istoria de' Feudi del Regno delle Due Sicilie”, Erasmo Ricca, 1859
“Repertorio della feudalità siciliana (1282-1390)” (Antonino Marrone) in Volume 1 of Quaderni-Mediterranea, 2006
“La descrizione di Malta del Commendatore Gio Francesco Abela”, 1647
Translation of the grant in fief of the Maltese Islands to the Order of Saint John of Jerusalem
Investiture of Order of Saint John in the fief of Malta, Gozo and the Castle of Tripoli 1714.
Grant of the titles of “Most Illustrious and Noble” to Carlo Falson and his wife Eleonora in 1725 in “The quiet usurpation of the titles “Illustrissimo” and “Nobile”, later “The Most Noble””
“From the original volumes of the Archives of the Order: The definitive lists of Titles of Nobility in Malta in Volume 627”
“Maltese Rules of Precedence amongst the Nobility (Description of the system of precedence amongst the Maltese Nobility, as established in the 18th Century)
“Ancient and Modern Malta”, Louis de Boisgelin, 1805