Three Inguanez families.
There was in Malta a family surnamed Inguanez. This family originally surnamed Desguanecks and Desguanechs, appears to have held, some time before 1457 (probably 1285), the fief of Ortigos in Panades, Catalonia.
This family is first noted in Malta in the person of Antonio Desguanechs, Captain of the City of Malta in 1428 and who hosted the king of Sicily in 1432.
The Desguanechs claims nobility through the patri-lineal lines stemming from the same Antonio who in 1432 was conferred the fief known as Saccaia (remarkable because it was the only fief recorded to have not been burdened with any obligation whatsoever) and through his wife Imperia Gatto whose family had held the fiefs of Deyr il Bnietand Chimesia since 1350 and 1397 respectively and which also came to succeed the fief of Bucanae through her maternal Castelli ancestor’s marriage to that of Murina. This couple had many children including a son Lanza who although Archdeacon of the Cathedral had issue by his mistress.
In this section we deal with the three most prominent branches which are now all extinct in the male line.
Antonio’s elder son Goffredo succeeded the fief of Saccaia, the second son Angeraldo succeeded the fiefs of Deyr il Bniet, Bucanae and Budac, whilst the youngest son Francesco directly succeeded their maternal grandfather in the fief of Chimesia. The two senior lines retained the surname “Desguanechs” whilst the most junior adopted the surname “Gatt’ Inguanez” in accordance with the terms of succession ordered by the grandfather.
It appears that by now Desguanechs and Inguanez were used interchangeably and the latter was the preferred style. However, Parish records show other variants of this surname as “Inguanes”, “Inguimes” and “Ghimes”.
Goffredo Desguanechs had one son Antonio Goffredo styled Barone di Ortigos but having failed to produce any sons of his own, this male line became extinct.
Francesco Gatt’ Inguanez’s male line was extinguished very quickly. Abela sheds some light by explaining that his granddaughter Perna (later wife of Cosmo Bell’Huomo) came to be invested in 1515 in the fief of Chimisea after her father Antonio was murdered by one of his brothers. This fief was eventually sold in 1631 by a cognate descendant named Bou Coralles to the Grand Magistracy of Malta and thereafter the fruits of this property were applied to the Grand Master de Paule’s “fondatione di galee”. Another of Francesco’s descendants Imperia wife of Antonio di Narohad bought the territory of Aayn Toffieha from Giovanni Guevara without investiture which Abela explains to be the reason why the territory was repossessed by the Royal Court.
The remaining principal line represented by Angeraldo Desguanechs/Inguanez very nearly severed its ties with Malta altogether. This happened after the Order of Saint John took possession of Malta. Angeraldo’s son Giacomo Angerao applied for permission to the King of Spain so that he may emigrate from Malta without incurring any penalties from the new rulers of Malta. Permission was in fact given by the King on the 21 March 1536 by a letter which reads as follows:- “DON CARLO BY THE DIVINE MERCY EMPEROR OF THE ROMANS, always August King of Germany, Donna Giovanna His Mother, and the same Don Carlo, by the Grace of God, Sovereign of Castile and Arragon, of the two Sicilies, of Jerusalem, of Hungary, of Toledo, of Valencia, of Galizia, of Mallorca, of Seville, of Sardinia, of Cordova, of Corsica, of Murcia, of Jaen, of the Algarvi, of Algesira, of Gibraltar, of the Canary Island, and lands of the Oceanic Sea, Archdukes of Austria, Dukes of Burgundy and of Brabant, Counts of Barcellona, of Flanders, and of the Tyrol, Lordsof Biscaglia, of Molina, and Dukes of Athens and of Neupatria, Counts of Rosiglione and of Cerdagna, Marquises of Orestagni and Gariano. To the Most Reverend the Grand Master of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem, of the Cerco of Rhodes, our very dear and well beloved friend, health and every good wish. The Mag. co. Giacomo Angrao Inguanez of that city of Malta, having by means of his son Marco Inguanez, sent to petition that he being a gentleman, and person who prompted by good and just reasons, no longer wishes to live in that island, but to go over with all his property, he and his children, and several relations, to live in our Kingdom of Sicily, from whence those of his family derive their extraction. We decide that he is to be given permission to do this, without incurring thereby any punishment or disobedience whatsoever; and should he leave any of his fiefs, or possessions, they are not to be seized or prejudiced; and We in consideration of the services that he, and those of his house, rendered to the most Serene Kings of Arragon, our predecessors, and afterwards to ourselves, it is our wish that so it should be, to such effect we beg you, and we recommend to you affectionately, that should it be the wish of the aforesaid Giacomo Angerao Inguanez, and his children and relations, with all their property and family, to go over and live in our Kingdom of Sicily, you are not to give him, or to allow him, to be given trouble or anxiety, or to oppose any hindrance or difficulty whatsoever; and should they wish to sell their property, you will allow them to do so, and should they leave any fief or other property to be sold, you will see that they enjoy the same, treating them in all their affairs, well and favourably as our good and legal servants, and that every thing done by you for them, We shall receive from you with special favour. And so be it, very Reverend Grand Master of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem, our very dear and beloved friend. God our Lord have you in his keeping and protection. From Naples the XXI day of the month of March, of the year of the birth of our Lord 1536.”Giacomo Angerao Inguanez never emigrated. However, his son Marco Angerao died at Catania in 1577.
In 1660 an issue arose between one of the descendants and the Government. Marco Antonio Inguanez’s possession of the Barony of Djar el Bniet et Bucane was challenged by Grand Master Lascaris. A judgment dispossessed Marco Antonio but his appeal was upheld by the Viceroy of Sicily who immediately reminded the Grand Master that he too was a servant of the Crown of Sicily and therefore subject to that Royal Court. Lascaris died and his successor Grand Master Redin (incidentally a former Viceroy of Sicily) revoked the first judgment declaring that Marco Antonio was the lawful holder of the fiefs.
The last descendant in the male line of Angeraldo was Marc’ Antonio Inguanez who died without issue in 1760 after contracting marriage with Diana Testaferrata Cassia and Maria Galea Feriol. The fiefs of Bucanae and Djar el Bniet were taken over by the Grand Magistracy. However his third cousin Gio Francesco D’Amico applied to Grand Master Pinto for the fiefs and other properties and he was invested on the 20 January 1763.
By then the Inguanez identity had well and truly become extinct. After the death of the last Baron Inguanez, his palazzo in Mdina fell into such a state of disrepair that Gio Francesco’s wife Asteria Testaferrata de Noto had a spend a considerable sum of money ‘to render it in some way habitable’ having found the palace ‘practically destroyed’.
Technically the Inguanez family, as mere barons, ranked amongst the lowest of titled 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 Inguanez ranked equally, “in regulating the precedency among the Nobles of this our dominion, whether first-born or cadets indiscriminately”. An attempt 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 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.” One of the most vociferous opponents to this attempted change was Baroness Maria D’Amico who was the then possessor of the two fiefs.
In terms of the 1795 legislation, the Inguanez family was entitled to precedence on its own merits because of the grant of Ortigos dating to 1285 and Saccaia dating to 1432. However, both entitlements appear to have been overshadowed by this family’s connection to the Gatto and Murina families. This might be explained by the fact that after 1760 there were no more male-to-male descendants of the Inguanezes, and the D’Amicos could only claim nobility under the 1763 succession.
The 1878 Commission gave such importance to the latter that the fiefs of Djar il-Bniet and Buqana were henceforth deemed to have been created a barony with effect from 1350.
Such importance was given to the descent from the original feudatories of Djar il-Bniet and Buqana, that during the French occupation of 1798-1800, the Citizen Alessandro Damico requested permission to retain and preserve a document describing the extent of the fiefs of Bucana, and Diar el Biniet to which a title of barone was attached.
The title of “Baron of Djar il-Bniet and Buqana” is not a hereditary title but personal to the holder of the fief known by that name.
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. That of Inguanez was the first family to have been so exempted (“Of Titles – Prammatica – His Most Serene Highness in virtue of the present enactment, about to be of perpetual value, wishing to remedy the abuses and inconveniences for time introduced in the matter of title, - orders and commands that from today henceforth, no Advocate, Notary, or Registrar of this our Dominion, shall dare to give the title of “Most Illustrious” or “Noble” in writings, contracts, or public documents to any of our vassals, with the exception of the “Capitano della Verga”, pro tempore, and the two Jurats of our city of Notabile and Valletta, and the Milite Barone Marco Antonio Inguanez, our Feudatory, with the Baroness Inguanez, his wife, and their descendants”). The 1878 Commission regarded this enactment as proof of recognition of the title of Baron of Djar il-Bniet and Buqana.
The reasons for the 1725 enactment are explained by the Grand Master himself in a letter from The Private Secretary of the Grand Master Antonio Manoel de Vilhena to Baron Marco Antonio Inguanez as follows: “Most Illustrious Lord – Having receive the most polished letter of Your Lordship dated the 18th inst. together with the accompanying authentic documents, after mature reflection, I thought it proper to submit their contents to the consideration of His Eminence the Grand Master, and at the same time to submit to His Eminence the validity of the reasons that clearly support your request. His Eminence has deigned to hear every thing with favour, and as he feels specially inclined to render you justice, he has ordered me to tell you as I proceed to do, that by having last year published the pragmatical constitution, by means of which and by rule of good government, and in order to put a stop to the abuse introduced for some time past of rendering equal and common, at the caprice of Notaries, the giving of the honorary titles of Illustrissimo and of Nobile in public contracts or deeds, he had simply the idea of reducing things to order, and his having excepted from the said Constitution the family oif your Lordship, who is in the enjoyment of a feudal barony with the duty of Military service, as your ancestors really held military service under the most serene Kings of Sicily and of the most Eminent predecessors of his Eminence, in the same way as you still at the present time continue to do with so much glory, excepted also the Baroness your consort and all other descendants of your most Illustrious self, bearing in mind likewise the distinction which the family of Inguanez has always enjoyed from the time of King Alfonso of glorious memory, who in his passage through Malta when he was returning fro Barbary, was pleased tro make manifest the distinction to which your family was entitled, by accepting the hospitality of your house, as also for having ben declared to be the rank of Knight, Councillors and royal Algozzini, with many more privileges, and as a reward for having many times reduced these islands to the obedience of the King, when they had by sedition thrown off their allegiance, and for the reason that your ancestors have repeatedly administered the government of these same islands, with mero and mixto impero and power of death, and power to pardon the crime of rebellion, and for having subsequently held various other offices including embassies for the safety and custody of the Kingdom of Sicily, and the command of the Galleys of His Catholic Majesty, so that it cannot be matter of doubt to any one whosoever, that it was the intention of His Eminence to preserve to your family, that distinction which he well knows belongs to he same. And as His Eminence wishes that your Lordship should avail yourself of this explanation of these his thoughts and sentiments, you may also register this letter in this Court, and wherever else it may please you, in order that you make use of it on any occasion, as he wishes that your family may continue to remain distinguished above all the other families of this his dominion, as it has always been in the past. Thus much I must communicate to Your Lordship, in fulfillment of the above express orders of the same Most Eminent my Lord the Grand Master, in execution of which I remain with the most profound respect – Malta 23 March 1726 – Your Lordships’ Most humble and devoted Servant – Fr. Stefano Pacciarotti, Private Secretary to the Grand Master – To the Baron Marc’Antonio Inguanez (Notabile))
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”.