Effects of 1969 legislation on certain fiefs identified by the 1878 Royal Commissioners as “noble fiefs”.
We last discussed fiefs explaining how the Royal Commissioners identified three categories of fiefs in Malta and how in 1878 the non-noble fiefs of “Ghariescem and Tabia” and “Djar il-Bniet et Buqana” were backdated with nobility to the date the non-noble fief was first granted and how in 1969 a law abolished all fiefs but made provision so that “nothing shall affect any title of nobility, and the laws in force concerning any such titles shall continue to have effect”.
There was good reason to insert the proviso in the 1969 law. The purpose of that provision was clearly to avoid the automatic extinction of a nobiliary title founded on a fief (of the second or third class) in the event of an extinction of the fief to which the title refers.
The reasoning was summed up the British Secretary of State in 1878 when he wrote that each of the titles considered by the Royal Commissioners 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 “Ghariescem and Tabia” and “Djar il-Bniet et Buqana” those ante-dated titles of nobility were personal to the holders.
Logically, if either fief were to be lost or sold, then one cannot, anymore, claim to be a baron. Those titles may not be regarded transmissible by inheritance if the fief is extinguished.
This reasoning was in fact also upheld by the Maltese Courts in 1957 in a case concerning the “Barunija ta’ Bukana u Djar il-Bniet” which reported that as soon as that fief is extinguished, for whatever reason, then the title too is extinguished.
In effect, although the fiefs of “Ghariescem and Tabia” and “Djar il-Bniet et Buqana” were extinguished in 1969 the titles were to remained unaffected by reason of the legal proviso.
An examination of the respective genealogies shows that as at 1969 the then holder of the fiefs were Francis Sant Cassia, (1920-88) andFrances Mary Carmen Chesney Sceberras D'Amico Inguanez, (1898-1981) respectively. These therefore remained in possession of their respective personal titles by reason of that legal fiction.
But what happens when a title is personal? The answer is explained in the 1878 Commissioners’ Report regarding the personal title granted by the Grand Masters. For example, in the case of the title of Conte di Beberrua the Commissioners could not regard the title as anything more than a personal one unless they were provided with proof of some form of extension, therefore they went on to declare that that title had become extinct upon the death of the original grantee.
Writing in 1981, Charles A. Gauci in his book “The Genealogy and Heraldry of the Noble Families of Malta”, with a foreword by Jerome De Piro D’Amico-Inguanez, KM (Hon&Dev.), President of the Committee of Privileges of the Maltese Nobility, Gauci describes the (two ?) titles of Baron of Buqana and Baron of Djar il-Bniet as having become dormant with the death of 1981 of the aforesaid Frances Chesney. “Dormant” is an inappropriate term because the title became extinct in 1981.
On the other hand, the same book describes that Francis Sant Cassia was still living at the time and states that the title of Baron of “Ghariescem and Tabia” was still held by him. Although that book does not make any reference to the 1969 law, it is in effect the correct description.
It appears that we must be missing something because later publications portray a different picture altogether.
- Writing in 1986, the same Charles A. Gauci in his book “A Guide to the Maltese Nobility”, with a foreword by the same Francis Sant Cassia, President of the Committee of Privileges of the Maltese Nobility says that the (two ?) titles of Baron of Buqana and Baron of Djar il-Bniet as having been succeeded 1983 by the latter’s kinsman the Carmelo Apap Bologna Sceberras D’Amico Inguanez. The aforesaid Francis Sant Cassia is described as still living at the time.
- More detail is divulged in 1992, when the same Charles A. Gauci in his new book “The Genealogy and Heraldry of the Noble Families of Malta Volume Two”, with a foreword by aforesaid Carmelo Apap Bologna Sceberras D’Amico Inguanez, President of the Committee of Privileges of the Maltese Nobility, describes that that the (two ?) titles of Baron of Buqana and Baron of Djar il-Bniet are is described as having fallen into abeyance 12th January 1981 and they were called out of abeyance by the Committee of Privileges of the Maltese Nobility 29th September 1983 in favour of the aforesaid Carmelo Apap Bologna Sceberras D’Amico Inguanez (23rd). There is no entry in the 1992 book about the title of Baron of “Ghariescem and Tabia” but the genealogical table shows that Francis Sant Cassia died in 1988.
Whatever is stated in those later publications, we now know that in terms of the 1969 legislation, the last of the two ante-dated, personal titles tied to “noble fiefs” became extinct with Francis Sant Cassia’s death in 1988.
A question has now raised whether one can assert a different basis for justifying the styles of “Baron of Ghariescem and Tabia” and “Baron of Djar il-Bniet et Bucana” that is to say whether proof can be established of some form of extension after the year 1969, as happened in 1883 in the case of Conte di Beberrua.