"The di Brindisi family"

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Provided by Stephen Abela.


It is recalled how Margarito of Brindisi, an Apulian pirate of Greek origin from Xante, had become Admiral of Sicily in 1184 under King William II (1166-1189), and had continued to serve under King Tancred (1190-1194) by whom he was created first Count of Malta sometime in 1192 in reward for his excellent services. Following the death of Tancred in February 1194 and during the brief interlude of the reign of Tancred’s minor son William III under the regency of his mother Sibilla, Emperor Henry VI, abetted by his Genoese allies, invaded Sicily, took Palermo and was crowned at Palermo Cathedral on Christmas Day of that same year 1194.


The first document published by Sciascia and dated 23 November 1194, a full month before King Henry’ s coronation, shows the monarch already confirming to Guglielmo Grasso, a Genoese, and to his heirs in perpetuity the County of Malta with all its rights while granting them a house in Messina belonging to the royal curia, known as the funduq-domum nostram Messanne que fundicus dicebatur.


The tide of fortune had obviously turned against Margarito who was to end his days blinded in a German prison after a revolt in 1197. By 1198 and following the death of Henry VI, it was Grasso’s turn to clash with the monarchy and be declared by Empress Constantia, Queen of Sicily, and by her four-year old son Frederick, King of Sicily, inimicum nostrum. In the same breath, it was found convenient at the time that the Maltese islands be promised reintegration within the royal demanium ‘for ever’. The empty promise was very soon to be forgotten and by 1203 Guglielmo Grasso’s son-in-law Arrigo, nicknamed Pescatore, a pirate turned admiral of Sicily, appears to have somehow inherited the title of Count of Malta.


After having faithfully served his master for a score of years using Malta as the base of his operations, in 1222 Arrigo fell out with the emperor and lost the title of Count of Malta. His services to the emperor, however, were not easily replaced and he was partially reinstated soon afterwards retaining the title of Count of Malta but not jurisdiction over the castrum of Malta.

By May 1232 Arrigo was presumably dead as the title was then being used by his son Nicoloso, for instance, when signing a treaty between Genoa and Arles. It is not clear why the same title was not adopted a decade later when Nicoloso appears as one of the treasurers of the Commune of Genoa in 1243.


Following the death of Frederick II in December 1250 and the succession to the throne by his son Conrad who, from Germany, left his Sicilian affairs in the hands of Frederick’s natural son Manfred, it appears that Nicoloso at the head of a Genoese faction in Malta engaged in otherwise undefined activities that ran counter to Manfred’s interests.


It was only in July 1257 that a peace treaty between Manfred and the Genoese was signed in Melfi that patched up the situation and Nicoloso was to be reinvested with the title of Count of Malta but, like his father, not with control of the castrum. Thereafter, and for a long time, Nicoloso retained the title even under the Angevin regime with which he sympathized.


This much has been known. Sciascia’s next document, the will of Simon Fimetta of Calatafimi and inhabitant of Salemi, dated 5 January 1281, reveals his connexion with the De Malta and with Count Nicoloso, in particular. Simon, who is about to travel to Greece, feels more secure to have drawn up his will before his departure. In it he bequeaths, inter alia, a thousand gold uncie to Guglielmo de Malta and to his brother Roberto de Malta, his nephews and sons of his late sister Aloysia from her marriage to the late Perinus, described as first-born son of Nicoloso Count of Malta:

Tenetur predictis Guillelmo et domino Roberto [de Malta] fratribus nepotibus suis in unciis auri mille promissis ... nobili quondam Perino primogenito egregii Nicolosi comitis Malte patri ipsorum Guillelmi et Roberti nomine dotis pro nobile quondam domina Aloysia sorore sua matre ipsorum Guillelmi et Roberti tempore quo dictus Perinus duxit eamdem dominam Aloysiam in uxorem ...


Aloisia drew up her last will and testament, dated 11 September 1284, which altered drastically her earlier dispositions:


Aloysia Phimecta de Lentini iacens in lecto gravi infirmitate detenta ... instituit ... heredes suos nobiles viros Guillelmus de Malta et dominum Robbertum de Malta militem fratres nepotes suos super bonis suis pheudalibus et burgensatibus ... videlicet: Casale unum quod dicitur Militellum, item casale unum quod dicitur Scordia superior, item casale alterum quod dicitur Flumenfrigidum ..., item casale alterum quod dicitur Bulfida et tenimentum terrarum quod dicitur MurgumMurgum.


The next document of interest is the will of Guglielmo de Malta who lies dying in the Gozo castrum on 8 February 1299, which document had been discovered earlier by Bresc. That this Guglielmo is the same person as the heir of Aloysia and of Simon Fimetta is confirmed from the fact that he bequeaths the Casale Burfide (Bulfide),to his wife Clara de Rocka.


It transpires from this will that his uncle is Andreas Comes insularum Malte et Gaudisii, to whom he bequeaths his bay horse. The title of Count of Malta would normally have been passed on from Nicoloso to his first-born son, Perino, the father of Guglielmo. Perino, however, was already dead in 1281 when Nicoloso was still alive so that Perino never inherited the title.


Andreas, Guglielmo’s uncle, would have been Perino’s younger brother who must have inherited the title sometime between 1281 and 1290. It is known that on 16 June 1290 Charles of Anjou confirmed to the noble Andriolo Comes Malte and to his heirs in perpetuity the county of Malta and other property in Sicily, including very interestingly, domum Guillelmi Crassi quam habuit in Messana que fundicus dicebatur. If the point need be further laboured, the document continues que omnia ex collationibus et confirmationibus domini Henrici Sexti Imperatoris Romanorum etc.Andreas, being the grandson of Arrigo Piscator, therefore, had every right to inherit the funduq in Messina, originally granted to Guglielmo Grasso and to his heirs in perpetuity.


In the immediate aftermath of the Sicilian Vespers, the insurrection of Sicily against the French, and the staking by Aragon of a claim to Sicily, it was not very clear as to the direction in which the favourable political winds were blowing. Thus Andreas, who in 1290 appears to have retained his father’s allegiance to Anjou and was able to retain his title, soon discovered that it was more advantageous to back the opposite side and by late October 1292 it was King Jaime of Aragon who had recognized his title as Count of Malta, making him contribute towards the maintenance of the Castrum Maris.


This, naturally, brought about a punitive reaction from Charles of Anjou who, on 22 April 1300, stripped him of the title and invested his faithful admiral Rogerio de Lauria with it. This state of affairs continued practically throughout the whole of the following century with Counts of Malta being appointed simultaneously and independently by Aragon and by Anjou.


To return to the De Malta, in his will of 1299, Guglielmo mentions an only daughter named Lukina who was then still unmarried. By 1323 she had married Guglielmo Raimondo Moncada, by whom she had two sons, Guglielmo Raimondo (named after his father) and Pericone, as well as a daughter, Clara (named after Lukina’s mother). Another document dated November 1338 reveals that this Clara had by then married a certain Ferrarono de Abela  who is encountered receiving the dowry promised him by Pericone and his wife’s parents.


On 4 February 1344 Guglielmo Raimondo Moncada, close to death, makes a donation of the fief called Lu Murgu, which he must have acquired through his wife’s dowry, to his elder son Guglielmo Raimondo.  On 12 April 1347 Donna Luckina, now a widow, makes a donation to her other son, Pericone, including, interestingly enough the fiefs of Bulfida and Scordia Soprana and much else besides. It is important to note that these other lands in Sicily had been acquired in exchange for the County of Malta as is described in the same donation:


... quas [terras] dicta donatrix una cum dicto quondam magnifico viro suo habuit a Serenissimo Principe quondam bone memorie domino rege Frederico olim Sicilie rege ex quadam permutacione olim innita, facta, habita et tractata inter dictum regem Fredericum de dictis unciis auri centum viginti [per universitatem terre Calatagironi racione antique assise et baiulacionis] et dictam magnificam donatricem per comitatum insularum Meliveti et Gaudisii olim suo cum omnibus villis, terris ... cum quibus ipsa donatrix et antecessores sui hactenus bona donata predicta tenuerunt.


This exchange must have occurred sometime before 1323, as on 18 July of that year, King Pedro II orders the payment by the vice-secreto of Caltagirone of the hundred and twenty uncie on the cabella antiqua assise baiulacionis, referred to, to Guglielmo Raimondo Moncada and to his wife Luckina.




Having re-acquired Malta, the Aragonese Frederick III, King of Sicily, granted the islands to his younger son Guglielmo, who by 1330, had ceded them to his half-brother Alfonso Federigo d’Aragona.35On the latter’s death in 1338, Malta was inherited by his first-born son Pedro Federigo d’Aragona who was Lord of Salona in Greece where he resided until his death in 1355.


On 7 October 1350 the islands were reintegrated within the Royal demanium but, within a decade, were alienated again to Guido de Ventimiglia (in 1360).37Between 1375 and 1377 Frederick IV’s natural son Guglielmo d’Aragona was Count of Malta.


Following the death of Frederick IV on 27 July 1377, his son’s claim appears to have lapsed as King Pedro IV of Aragon is encountered reasserting his rights over the islands and conferring the County on his kinsman Lluis Federigo d’Aragona, Lord of Salona.  This title he held till his death sometime before [p.366] October 1382. Manfredi Chiaromonte’s will of 1390 provided his daughter Elisabetta with the County of Malta but Martin Duke of Montblanch, having re-established his hold on Sicily, sought to procure local support by granting out these islands to various magnates, starting with Giovanna d’Aragona in 1391. A year later, Guglielmo Raimondo Moncada was offered the Marquisate of Malta and Gozo, which he turned down and which was granted, in turn, as a County to Artale and Beatrice Alagona in 1393. Following their rebellion soon afterwards, the Marquisate was re-confirmed to Guglielmo Raimondo Moncada in 1396, which he now lost due to his rebellion against the King during which he also lost his life. The islands were reintegrated within the demanium in November 1397


1. Margaritone "di Brindisi" Grasso, Count of Malta r. 1190-97., Grand Admiral of Sicily, Principe di Taranto and Duca di Durazzo, married Marie Bastard di Sicilie, with issue.
1.1. Guglielmo di Brindisi, Conte di Malta r. 1197-1204., married with issue.
1.1.1. N.N. di Brindisi, married Enrico Pistore "de Castro", Grand Admiral of Sicily, Conte di Malta r. 1204-65, with issue. Andrea Pistore, Conte di Malta, (1285-1300). Perino Pistore, (died 1281), married Aloisea Fimetta, with issue. Nicolo Pistore, Conte di Malta r. 1265-66. Lucina Pistore, Contessa di Malta r. 1266-96. Margherita "Grasso" Pistore, married c.1260 to Judge Roberto de Vassallo di Bauvso. Guglielmo Pistore (died 1299), married Clara de Rocka, with issue. Luccina Pistore, married Guglielmo Raimondo Moncada. (Press Here).

1.2. N. di Brindisi, married to Maio I Orsini, Cr: 1194 Count of Kefalonia, (d. 1238), with issue.

1.2.1. Mai II Orsini, (d. 1259), Count of Kefalonia, married 1228 to Anna Comenus Angelos, with issue. N. Orsini, married to Guillaume de Mery. Riccardo Orsini, (d. 1304), Count of Kefalonia., married (1) N, married (2) 1299 to Marguerite de Villehardouin, Lady of Matagriphon and Katochi, with issue. Giovanni Orsini, (d.1317), Count of Kefalonia, married 1293 to Maria Comneus Ducas, with issue. Niccolo Orsini, (d. 1332), Count of Kefalonia., , married 1318 to Princess Anna Paleologo of Byzantine Empire. Giovanni Orsini, (d. 1335), Lord of Epirus, Count of Kefalonia., married to Princess Anna Paleologo of Byzantine Empire, with issue. Nikephoros II Dukas Orsini, (d.1359), Lord of Epirus, Count of Kefalonia, married 1342 to Princess Maria Cantakuzene, with issue. Antonia Cantakuzene Orsini, (d.1400), Lord of Epirus, Count of Kefalonia,  died as a Monk. Tomaida Comenus Orsini, married to Symeon Uros Nemanjic, King of Serbia. Guido Orsini, (d.1324), married with issue. Joannes Tsaphas Orsini Dukas, titular Count of Leukas. Margherita Orsini, (d. 1339), Lady of Zante, married 1311 to Guglielmo II Tocco. "Daughter" Orsini, married to Engelbert van Liedekerke. "Daughter" Orsini, married to Jean de Tournay, Baron of Kalavryta. Guglielmo Orsini, (d.1305). Guillerme Orsini, (d.1317), married (1) to Jean Chauderon, Barone of Estamira and Roviata., Grand Constable of Achaia., married (2) Nicolas III de Saint-Omer. Agnese Orsini, (d. 1316), married (1) to Jean de Clery, married (2) Amaury de Saint-Clair, married (3) Geoffrey de Milly, married (4) 1300 to Gaucher de Noyors "Daughter" Orsini.

1.2.2. Benedictus Orsini, First Bishop of Kefalona 1207, Bishop of Zante 1222. Teodora Orsini, Greek Patriarch of Antioch. N. Orsini, married to Baudouin d'Aine.

1.4. Ruggero di Brindisi, Viceammiraglio, ottenne la terra di tripo, gia apparetenuta al Loria. Va identificato col frate Ruggero de Brundiso dell'ordine Sacre Domus Militie Templi che nei primi mesi del 1302, per le scorrerie che compiva, determino le lamentele di re Giacomo II d'Aragona, e con Ruggero de Flor, che fu a capo della compagna degli almogaveri che si trasferi nel l'oriente bizantino, sotto le insegne del sovrano di Sicilia.

Reference:  [Repertorio della Feudalita Siciliana 1282-1390]



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