Copyright © The Malta Historical Society, 2010.

[p.103]

THE MARQUISATE OF MALTA

Charles Dalli*

The marquisate of Malta was a short-lived late fourteenth century feudal policy within the kingdom of Sicily which comprised the county of Malta and Gozo together with a network of territories in Sicily. As the feudal project was hardly given time to become a reality because of the turbulent events surrounding its short existence, it has understandably attracted limited attention in Maltese historiography. The appointment of royal favourite Guglielmo Raimondo Moncada III, Count of Augusta and Noharia, son of Matteo Moncada Sclafani, and royal consanguineus, as Marquis of Malta in 1392, and again in 1396, by Martin I of Sicily is normally viewed as the final episode in a long succession of enfeoffments to the Counts of Malta which had periodically alienated the Maltese islands from the royal demanio since the 1190s. The elevation of the County of Malta to a marquisate in favour of Moncada in the period 1392 – 1398 was challenged by the rival baronial control of Artale Alagona the Younger in Malta, and was soon rendered irrelevant by the actions of the holder of the marquisate himself, as well as by the political decisions reflected in the deliberations of the parliamentary assemblies meeting at Catania and Syracuse in 1397 and 1398. The prompt crushing of Moncada’s rebellion and the successful royal siege of the Maltese maritime castle leading to the defeat of Alagona’s men, were a watershed which marked the end of baronial government and the beginning of a long period of municipal administration by the Maltese and Gozitan universitates in the royal demanio. The demanial control of the Maltese islands was interrupted only in the 1420s with the quasi-feudal administration of Gonsalvo de Monroy, and then in 1530 when the islands were given in fief to the Hospitallers.

[p.104] The objective of this short contribution is to exploit the limited documentation pertaining to what would, therefore, seem to be an undeveloped story: the failed transformation and integration of a two-hundred year old county into a larger, short-lived feudal entity with that county at its core.[1] From the Sicilian point of view, it studies the creation, short-lived development, and denouement of the marquisate of Malta in the 1390s, providing a reading and interpretation within the context of the Regno’s history.[2] As an episode in Maltese history, it marks a singular attempt to create a sub-state centred on Malta which also extended across the sea to include Naro, Mussomeli, Gibillini, Delia, Muxaro, Montechiaro, Favara, Guastanella, Misilmeri, Mineo, Mongialino, and Sutera. Extending over several hundred square kilometres of land, and subjecting a substantial population of subjects on both sides of the Sicily channel, the marquisate would have created a veritable ‘state within the state’, by grouping together fiefs which had been recovered by the Crown notably with the defeat of the Chiaramonte family.[3] In practice, the Aragonese restoration of royal power in Sicily was allowing Moncada to step in and fill the role vacated by the former Chiaramonte overlords, as the geography of the newly-established marquisate took shape by absorbing their dismantled domains. Moreover, Moncada’s other landholdings made him virtual lord of the Agrigento hinterland, besides important possessions accumulated notably in the Palermitan area.

It was historically significant that Martin I chose to create a marquisal title based on Malta for a person like the Count of Augusta and Noharia, Guglielmo Raimondo Moncada III, a great-grandson of Lukina de Malta.[4] The feudal network of the late medieval kingdom of Sicily was mainly a constellation of counties, and the marquisal title was an exception until the seventeenth century.[5] Unlike the fourteenth century marquisate of Randazzo belonging to the Aragona, and the fifteenth century marquisate of Geraci held by the Ventimiglia, which represented substantial territorial agglomerations on the main island of Sicily, the ‘Maltese’ marquisate was to be centred on the smaller island of Malta, and to [p.105] include the Maltese archipelago as one of its key components. A marquisal title in late medieval Sicily reflected relatively exceptional conditions – in marked contrast with the later trend which saw the establishment of numerous marquisal titles created in sixteenth-century Sicily - Licodia in 1509 for Ugo de Santapau, followed by eight other marquisal titles in the period 1543-69, as well as the first Sicilian dukedom instituted in 1554.[6] The Montcadas had a distinguished history in Catalonia, dating back centuries, and one early Guillem Ramon de Montcada was the ‘great seneschal’ of Aragon in the twelfth century who reportedly played a prominent role in the dynastic union of Catalonia and Aragon.[7] Following the War of the Vespers, Guglielmo Raimondo Moncada I had laid the foundations of family fortunes in Sicily, dividing his time between Tunis and Sicily, and consolidating his status through marriage to the heiress of the county of Malta and Gozo.[8] The Count of Augusta and Noharia, fourth generation Moncada of Sicily and future Marquis of Malta was, therefore, a scion of a prominent noble family which had established itself among the upper baronial ranks of the Val di Noto, notably the Fimetta at Lentini, thanks in part to a marriage alliance with the comital family of Malta.[9] Guglielmo Raimondo III proved to be something of a wildcard in the confused politics of post-1377 Sicily. The son of a former vicar-general of the Catalan duchies of Athens and Neopatras,[10] a leader of the so-called ‘Catalan faction’ in Sicily[11] as well as a nobleman who mortgaged his properties in Catalonia to organize privateering expeditions in Mediterranean waters,[12] Moncada distinguished himself in 1379 by kidnapping Queen Maria from Castel Ursino at Catania, an Alagona stronghold, in order to stop her planned wedding to Gian Galeazzo Visconti, thus frustrating the plans of her guardian Artale Alagona who planned a strategic marriage alliance.[13] Moncada’s bravado prevented this dynastic alliance from taking shape, dashing Milanese ambitions in Sicily. Queen Maria was entrusted to Catalan forces sent by Peter IV of Aragon to Sicily in 1380, then led to Sardinia, and thence to Catalonia, where she was eventually married to [p.106] the younger Martin I of Sicily. Moncada was richly rewarded for his services to Aragon in both Catalonia and Sicily. He was actively involved in the final years of Catalan Greece.[14] In 1392, the Aragonese launched the reconquest of Sicily. A new landed aristocracy enjoying the favour of the re-established Aragonese governors steadily replaced the old power networks across the island created by the vicarial families. As former baronial strongholds were defeated and their territorial conglomerates were dismantled, new structures were rapidly created to buttress the new regime. Moncada was a protagonist of the Aragonese reinstatement of 1392, and was immediately appointed Master Justiciar (a major office which had previously been held by Blasco and Artale Alagona the Elder), and Constable of the Regno, and in the period 1392 – 1397 enjoyed substantial wealth and authority in Sicily.[15]

In the final decade of the fourteenth century, the Maltese islands changed hands more frequently than at any other point during the preceding two centuries. The alternation of periods of feudal lordship with periods of royal administration proceeded in parallel to the political circumstances and trends of the Regno, and was not brought to an end by royal decrees which periodically proclaimed the integration of the islands into the demanio. Broadly speaking, from 1194 to 1350 there were two major chapters of feudal rule in the Maltese islands, the first being that of the comital rule of the Genoese de Malta family,[16] which was followed by the shorter period of rule of the Aragonese Fadrique clan. From the 1320s the Maltese islands were held by members of the extended Aragonese royal family, including Frederick III of Sicily’s son Guglielmo de Aragona, Duke of Athens, who invested his half-brother Alfonso Fadrique as Count of Malta and Gozo in 1330.[17]

The collapse of centralized government in Sicily, especially under kings Ludovico and Frederick IV, permitted the emergence of quasi-autonomous local strongholds, like that developed by Giacomo de Peregrino in the Maltese islands from the 1350s to 1372. Comital appointments in favour of Guido Ventimiglia at the end of 1360[18] and Manfred Chiaramonte in May 1366[19] did not effectively undermine Peregrino’s control. Married to a member of the extended Aragonese clan, de Peregrino was not a Count of Malta, but he enjoyed the chief offices of the islands, as well as substantial revenues and landholdings, until he was toppled by a Genoese expedition to Malta with the personal intervention of King Frederick [p.107] IV of Sicily.[20] Despite Frederick’s effort to ensure the passage of the Maltese county to his natural son Guglielmo,[21] after Frederick’s death in 1377 the Maltese islands were firmly drawn into the extended political sphere of the Count of Modica Manfred III Chiaramonte.[22]

Planned and then postponed in the final years of Peter IV, the Sicilian reconquista was finally launched by Martin Duke of Montblanch, infante of Aragon, and his son Martin, the latter being the husband of Queen Maria of Sicily. Martin the Elder was to become King of Aragon in 1396, while the object of the Aragonese military intervention in Sicily initiated in 1392 was to affirm the position of the younger Martin and his wife Maria as King and Queen of Sicily. The Regno was emerging from years of decentralized government under the Quattro Vicari. Following the death of King Frederick IV in 1377, royal government had been suspended and the kingdom was practically divided into baronial spheres of influence controlled by four magnates who led the powerful clans of the Alagona, Chiaramonte, Peralta and Ventimiglia. The Maltese islands were subjected to the sway of one of the vicars, Lord Manfred III Chiaramonte, Admiral of Sicily, titular Duke of Djerba, and Count of Malta and Gozo since 1366 - effectively from 1377. Chiaramonte power was destroyed in one of the early acts of the Aragonese intervention, when Martin the Younger authorized the public decapitation of Manfred’s son and successor Andrea I Chiaramonte in front of a major symbol of the clan’s power, the Steri in Palermo.[23] The leading candidate who stepped forward to take over a substantial part of the Chiaramontan inheritance was the Count of Augusta, Guglielmo Raimondo III Moncada.

The Chiaramonte coat-of-arms as incorporated within the insigna of the town of Chiaramonte Gulfi

The marquisate of Malta represents a short-lived political experiment strictly tied to the events marking the final decade of the fourteenth century in the kingdom of Sicily, and the project seemed to fit the person for whom it was designed. In 1390, Martin of Sicily appointed Guglielmo Raimondo as his procurator at the curia of the Avignon Pope Clement VII to take the oath of fealty for the [p.108] island of Sicily.[24] In 1392, Guglielmo Raimondo Moncada III and the Count of Modica, Bernat Cabrera – Admiral of Sicily and Moncada’s successor as Master Justiciar in 1398 – were two major beneficiaries in the redistribution of territories confiscated from the rebels.[25] Both would rebel against the Crown, the former in 1397-98, the latter in 1403 and 1411. From 1392 onwards, Moncada’s rise to power in the Aragonese regime was rapid and, in 1396, reached its peak when Martin the Elder entrusted him with the guardianship of the young Martin I.[26] 

The political expediency behind the project becomes evident when one considers that, only four months prior to the investiture of Moncada with the marquisal title, the Aragonese monarchy had reportedly confirmed the Maltese county in favour of a member of the rival Alagona clan. The capitoli presented in November 1391 by the Chancellor of Sicily, Giacomo Alagona, to Martin the Elder and Martin I of Sicily included a petition, which was reportedly approved, confirming the comital title of Malta and Gozo in favour of Giacomo’s niece Giovanna de Alagona, provided her future marriage would only take place with the Crown’s consent.[27] The conditional enfeoffment in favour of Giovanna de Alagona in 1391 is one element which explains the defiant resistance by the Alagona in Malta and Gozo, which was to end only on 31 May 1398 with the surrender of the Maltese castrum maris.[28] A second element, elaborated by Henri Bresc, would also connect Alagona claims in the Maltese islands to the same Lukina Moncada alias Lukina de Malta, wife of Guglielmo Raimondo I. Evidently Lukina did not relinquish all her rights in Malta and Gozo despite the permutation of the Maltese county with Augusta, and these rights were passed on to her heirs upon her death in 1347. Lukina de Malta’s great-niece Lukina de Alagona, according to this interpretation, managed to pass on those vestigial rights of the de Malta counts to her daughter Giovanna de Alagona, as indicated in the above-mentioned capitoli of 1391 as well as in the will of her uncle Giacomo de Alagona.[29] The common genealogical links of Artale Alagona the Younger and Guglielmo Raimondo Moncada III to the last representative of the Genoese counts of Malta, and the claims they may have fuelled, give the Maltese story an ironic twist. The conflicting claims and interests of the Moncada and the Alagona in Malta would result in a decade of confusing enfeoffments and counter-enfeoffments, matched only by similar confusion in the conflicting appointments to the Maltese bishopric.[30]

An artistic rendering of the Moncada coat-of-arms published in D.Gio.A. della Lengveglia,
Ritratti della Prosaipia et Heroi Moncada nella Sicilia, Real de Valenza 1657.

[p.109] A fortnight after reaching Favignana island off the coast of Sicily on 23 March 1392, Martin invested Moncada with the newly-created marquisate of Malta on 4 April 1392.[31] There had been several enfeoffments of Malta and Gozo since the late twelfth century, and more would follow after that date. Nevertheless, the creation of the marquisate of Malta, which was to prove short-lived, marked a departure from the normal pattern of enfeoffments in three basic ways:

a) it marked the promotion of Malta and Gozo a step up from their traditional comital title;

b) it was an enfeoffment which was intended to symbolize the new state of affairs brought into being across the Regno with the Aragonese intervention;

c) it marked the creation of a polity which grouped together a number of localities across Sicily, together with Malta and Gozo.

In this last respect, the marquisate of Malta remains a unique experiment in Maltese history, in that it marked the creation of a territorial political structure which had Malta as its centre, but which also extended to include other territories outside the Maltese islands. It was a strategy which revived a longstanding connection between Malta and the Moncada clan in Sicily, who were directly descended from the old de Malta comital family. Its ambitious scope underestimated the tenacity of baronial resistance, such as that of the Alagona in Malta, and almost took for granted a quick restoration of royal power, which was not fully achieved before 1398.

On 4 April 1392, at Alcamo, Martin I invested the new marchio Meliveti and his heirs and successors in perpetuity with the county of Malta and Gozo as well as the castle and terra of Naro, the castle and fief of Delia, the castle and terra of Sutera, the castle of Mussomeli with the terra of Manfredi and the fortress and fief of Gibillini, the castle and terra of Favara, the castle and terra of Muxaro, and the castle, terre and fiefs of Montechiaro, Guastanella and Misilmeri, the castle and terra of Mineo, and the castle or fortress and fief of Mongialino. Liable to the Crown for the military service of five horsemen, Moncada was to enjoy his title cum omni mero et mixto imperio et cum gladii potestate, including all the rights previously formerly possessed by Manfred and Andrea Chiaramonte in those lands which were now incorporated in the new marquisate.[32]

[p.110] As part of the approach adopted by the Martins in Sicily, some of the rebel barons were enticed with generous offers to lay down their arms. By 1 June 1393, Martin I had convinced Moncada, in the interests of this strategy, to renounce the county of Malta in order to pave the way for the investiture of Artale Alagona and his wife Beatrix, conjunctim vel divisim, with the comital title of Malta and Gozo, carrying the annual tribute of a white horse and a pair of silver bowls to the value of fifty marks. In exchange, Alagona was to surrender immediately his stronghold of Aci, Patern? and other territories.[33] By mid-July 1393, Moncada showed every sign of abiding by the agreement, dispatching his own son to Malta on a royal galley.[34] Nevertheless, it had become evident that Alagona had no intention of surrendering Aci and exiling himself on Malta; guarantees were produced by Martin the Elder to Artale’s brother Jaymus for his ransom with the disclaimer compluti oy rupti li facti di Malta.[35] On 25 July, Orlando de Castro, Alagona’s lieutenant in Malta, was freed from his bond of service and instructed to regard himself as a Crown official.[36] On 30 July 1393, the Crown expressed impatience at Alagona’s failure to surrender his Sicilian strongholds in return for Malta. On 1 August, Martin I informed the Maltese universitas that Artale Alagona had forfeited his comital title from the hour of vespers of Saturday 26 July 1393, and they were to acknowledge only the king as their true lord.[37]

From August 1393 to December 1395, the Maltese islands were nominally absorbed in the royal domain, but in fact remained under Alagona’s control.[38] The absence of administrative documents from this period is one indicator of the problems faced by the local municipal administrators in asserting Crown rights in view of Alagona’s continued control and active resistance in the islands and their waters. At one point in 1394, Alagona’s title to Malta was again recognized by the Crown but, by December, a small force led by Ramon Abella was dispatched to Malta to attack Alagona’s forces there.[39] Nothing was achieved at the time. Meanwhile, Moncada was reportedly persuaded to accept the fief of Campetro in token compensation for the loss of Malta.[40] In contrast to failure in Malta, progress achieved by the royal forces, against centres of baronial resistance which still held out, enabled Martin I to re-launch the project of a marquisate of Malta in January 1396 in favour of Moncada. Moncada was now at the peak of his career, enjoying vast possessions besides the marquisate, and virtually acting as Martin’s [p.111] right hand man in Sicily. On 15 February 1396, Moncada was renamed Marquis of Malta, with the full rights and powers which had been outlined in the grant of 1392.[41]

As noted, the project of a Maltese marquisate for Guglielmo Raimondo III had revived a connection between that family and Malta and Gozo which went back at least to the first decade of the fourteenth century. Guglielmo Raimondo III’s ancestor and namesake, Guglielmo Raimondo I Moncada y Peralta had reached Sicily in the service of Peter I of Sicily and later married Lukina de Malta, the great-niece and heiress of the Count of Malta Andrea de Malta. He was also well-known for serving as governor of the Christian militia in Tunis. By March 1319, Frederick III brought to an end the long association of the Genoese comital family with Malta, which had started way back in 1194, with the investiture of Guglielmo Grasso with the county of Malta. On 23 March 1319, Raimondo I Moncada and his wife received the castellany of Augusta in Sicily with all the royal incomes from that terra, together with the castle and terra of Altavilla, the village of Melilli, and 120 uncie per annum on the baiulatio of Caltagirone, all in exchange for the county of Malta and Gozo.[42] As already mentioned, the permutation of Malta for Augusta may not have severed all the pretensions of the old comital family toward the island. Nevertheless, the exchange did open the way for a new comital establishment in Malta, centred on a cadet line of the Sicilian Aragonese royal family.

Moncada’s second tenure as marquis of Malta would not be much longer than the first one. Alagona’s men again prevented Moncada from fully asserting his authority in the Maltese islands. The Crown tried to entice those subjects who were still supporting the lingering baronial resistance. In a letter dated 6 April 1397, the marquis dispatched the knights Benedetto Calvino (who later served as Maestro Razionale of Sicily), and Giovanni Panpana as his procurators to the Maltese islands to receive on his behalf the homage of the inhabitants.[43] A few days later, Guglielmo Raimondo was again affirmed by the Crown as the lord of Malta and Gozo on 17 April 1397 when the same knights Benedetto Calvino and Giovanni Panpana were deputied to the islands to deliver Martin I’s offer of a formal pardon and full amnesty to all those Maltese and Gozitan subjects who had participated in the rebellion of Artale Alagona, on condition they acknowledged Moncada’s lordship.[44] In the latter document, the islands were said to have been recently delivered from Alagona’s tyranny. These Malta-related acts indicate that [p.112] Moncada did not rise in rebellion in January 1397, as has been frequently stated.[45] Other acts support this view that Moncada was still in royal service until late 1397. In March 1397, Moncada appointed Vitale de Filesio and Luca Furmusa as his procurators to sell the Palermitan possessions formerly belonging to the Chiaramonte donated to him by the Crown.[46] Moncada’s royal appointment as rector of Agrigento in February 1397,[47] when the town was taken by royal forces, was followed by the royal grant on 4 June of 200 uncie on the possessions of the defeated rebels there.[48] A day later, on 5 June 1397, Moncada received a Maltese delegation in Augusta, and demanded their obedience.[49] Evidently hard-pressed to pacify old enemies, Moncada represented his siblings on 8 October 1397 in a notarized agreement which settled the long-standing feud between the Moncada and Peralta clans, which included the latter’s claims to the Maltese islands. The agreement won the Crown’s approval on 12 October.[50] Moncada’s rebellion, in late 1397, may therefore be confidently dated to the period 13 October to 16 November 1397. On 16 November 1397, the Crown ordered the confiscation of the whole patrimony of Guglielmo Raimondo Moncada, who was deprived of his offices and titles, including the marquisate of Malta.[51] The armed rebellion made it virtually impossible for the Crown and the Master Justiciar to negotiate themselves out of the new state of affairs, and Moncada, debite fidelitatis immemor, was officially condemned for his crimen lese majestatis.

It is not easy to explain Moncada’s transformation in 1397 from a chief servant of the Crown to a rebel baron. Considering the patrimony he had accumulated, it is hard to believe that Moncada remained unsatisfied with what he had received in compensation for his troubles. Chroniclers of the Moncada family suggested palace jealousies against the marquis were at the root of Moncada’s downfall. It was also suggested he had pangs of conscience at having joined the ranks of the Catalan-Aragonese against fellow Sicilian barons in the conquest of his native Sicily in 1392. But could those purported second thoughts lead the Master Justiciar to take drastic action in the form of armed rebellion? Considering the delicate balance between Catalan and Sicilian interests at court, Moncada may have been the misguided victim of a palace conspiracy hatched by the bishop of Catania Pere Serra, and the royal chamberlain Francesc Sagarriga, [p.113] as suggested by Zurita.[52] Gregorio offered a simpler explanation for Moncada’s frustration, describing him as non pago dei suoi nuovi acquisti, e credendo tolto a lui quel che davasi ai catalani.[53] Moncada’s protestations of loyalty to Martin I[54] may hint that he had been misled to revolt in order to pre-empt what he imagined would be imminent royal action against him, but his true motives remain undecipherable.

Moncada’s rebellion in the Val di Noto was followed across Sicily by leading Sicilian barons, including the Count of Collesano Antonio Ventimiglia (later to die in exile in the Maltese castrum), the Count of Alcamo Enrico Ventimiglia, the lord of Cammarata Bartolomeo Aragona, and the Count of Aidone Enrico Rosso.[55] Moncada’s forces occupied Lentini and besieged Palazzolo. Moncada’s rebellion threatened to undo all that had been achieved by the Aragonese Crown in Sicily in the period 1392-1397. Despite Moncada’s remonstrances of loyalty to Martin I of Aragon, the spread of the rebellion across the kingdom undermined the Marquis of Malta’s ability to negotiate a reconciliation with the Crown. The monarch was determined to crush the uprising, which posed a dangerous example of baronial resistance. The extent of Moncada’s rebellion, and the baronial following it attracted, ushered in a second wave of royal redistribution of resources. The Catalan marshal of the kingdom, Ramon Bages, mobilized royal forces against the rebels, while help was sought [p.114] from Aragon through Bernat Cabrera. Ramon Bages had mustered an army of 600 horsemen against Moncada and his companions, while Bernat Cabrera soon showed off the Sicilian coast with an impressive galley fleet.[56] By 14 February 1398, chancellery documents spoke of quondam Guillelmus Raymundi de Montecatheno, indicating that the former Marquis of Malta was dead by then.[57] The memory of the late Marquis of Malta in nepharia rebellione defunctus was attacked.[58] The confiscation of Moncada’s patrimony extended to possessons which he had sub-enfeoffed to third parties. In effect, the defeat of Moncada and his fellow barons enabled the Crown to dismantle those Sicilian power networks which had survived after 1392, and to redistribute the seized possessions among numerous smaller holders.

Guglielmo Raimondo Moncada III depicted in a mid-17th century impression published in D. Gio. A. Della Lengveglia, Ritratti della Prosaipia et Heroi Moncada nella Sicilia, Real de Valenza 1657.

Up to 1398, Malta continued to serve Artale Alagona the Younger as a springboard from which to carry on the resistance against Crown interests in Sicily, all in the name of a baronial cause which had been all but lost. Alagona’s forces continued to hold the castrum maris in Malta until the end of May 1398.[59] On 18 January 1398, the knight Ferrandus de Podio was appointed castellan of the Maltese castrum maris, with the specific task of crushing the resistance still offered by Alagona’s men at Birgu.[60] By May 1398, Torgisio de Montalto of Syracuse had been appointed Captain of Malta, signalling that the Crown was taking a firmer hold on the administration of the island.[61] As reward for services rendered in the reduction of Malta to royal obedience, substantial grants and concessions were made in February 1398 in favour of the Maltese knights Antonio de Santa Sofia, Johannes de Osa, Pinus Vaccaro, Ingus Vaccaro, Ludovico Plosasco and Francesco Gatto, as well as to the Sicilian knights Antonio de Calafato of Syracuse, Guillotta Sardu of Catania, and the Catalan knights Johannes Aulesa and Arnaldus Gueraldo of Barcelona.[62] In an effort to consolidate local loyalty to the Crown, concessions were likewise granted to Maltese and Gozitan petitioners from all walks of life. On 31 May 1398, the Maltese jurat and royal galley captain Francesco Gatto, together with the chaplain of the castrum Antonius de Budara, presented a set of capitoli on behalf of the rebel garrison, who were now seeking an amnesty to surrender. This was duly granted to all fideles quoscumque tam Siculos quam Cathalanos seu Melevitanos.[63]

[p.115] A theme which emerges from this mesh of feudal claims and counter-claims is the way in which the pretensions of the county’s former holders could sometimes outlive their authority and their purpose. The Florentine seneschal of Naples, Nicola Acciaiuoli, was made titular Count of Malta by the Angevin court in 1357, a claim inherited by his son Angelo.[64] A grandson of Alfonso Fadrique, who had been made Count of Malta in 1330, obtained the papers for the county of Malta from Peter IV of Aragon in 1380, though the island was really held by the Sicilian magnate Manfred Chiaramonte as Count of Malta at the time.[65] Artale Alagona the Younger continued to style himself as Count of Malta years after the Maltese islands were returned to the royal demanio when, as annual podestà of Florence in 1414, he presented himself as comes Meliveti de Sicilia.[66]

Similarly, the claims of the Moncada clan to a marquisate of Malta would outlive Guglielmo Raimondo III’s death in 1398. The Moncada obtained confirmations of the exchange of the county of Malta and Gozo with Augusta carried out in 1319, in 1365, 1373 and 1404.[67] Moreover, in a pragmatic sanction of 1402, Martin I remarked that the late Marquis of Malta had been declared a rebel in 1398 ‘et non multo post…absolutus et in gratiam a rege receptus’.[68] Significantly, the universal heir of the late marquis seems to have taken the matter very seriously. In January 1394, Guglielmo Raimondo III had instituted as his universal heir Guglielmo Raimondo IV, his first-born son from his second marriage. Sixteen years later, Guglielmo Raimondo IV apparently succeeded in convincing Martin I of Aragon to grant in his favour the marquisate of Malta forfeited by his father. On 31 March 1410, two months before the king’s death, Guglielmo Raimondo Moncada IV allegedly obtained the restitution of the marquisate of Malta from an ailing Martin of Aragon, who had sadly succeeded his son as Martin II the Elder of Sicily. In a deed entitled by the early modern copyist restitutio marchionatus [p.116] Malte, Martin reappointed Guglielmo Raimondo Moncada IV as marquis of Malta pro exoneratione conscientie nostre.[69] Following the establishment of the new Castilian dynasty on the throne of Aragon, the issue of the marquisate of Malta seems to have resurfaced. In 1413, Ferdinand I wrote to the Infante Alfonso about alguns fets toquants interés molt gran de nostre patrimoni, ax? toquant lo marquesat de Malta com altres, and encouraged his brother to seek the advice of the Crown’s fiscal advocate on this matter.[70]

The Alagona coat-of-arms: six white circles on a light blue field.

It is said that Guglielmo Raimondo’s Catalan counterpart, the admiral Bernat Cabrera, had been given the county of Modica in 1392 by Martin I sicut ego in regno meo et tu in comitato tuo. Had Moncada allowed himself to enjoy his territories peacefully, instead of revolting against the Crown, he might have easily governed his marquisate in a similar way, for the powers granted to him by the investitures of 1392 and 1396 were hardly inferior to those enjoyed by the admiral. Cabrera, too revolted against the Crown – in 1403 and later in 1411, challenging the regency of Queen Bianca – but was lucky to achieve his full rehabilitation in the county of Modica, where his successors governed until the 1700s. Moncada’s comparable ‘state within the state’ did not survive his downfall in 1398. Arguably, this turn of events affected the long-term development of Malta and Gozo a lot more than has hitherto been conceded in their historiography.

Would the marchio Meliveti have found the energy and resources to overcome the considerable logistical challenges posed by disparate territories on both sides of the Sicilian channel? The question must remain unanswered. In reality, the marquisate of Malta had been created to suit the political expediency of the Crown in the difficult years of the Sicilian reconquista, adding substantial reward and symbolic prestige to a magnate who played a prominent role in stabilizing the precarious regime. The uncompromising attitude he had shown against his fellow Sicilian barons from 1392 up to the eve of his rebellion in 1397 proved to be his undoing when it led him to emulate his long-term rivals and organize armed resistance to the Crown. The very forces which had led to his ascent now dragged him inexorably down to his downfall. Guglielmo Raimondo Moncada III, lu Magnificu Markisi di Malta, was dead by mid-February 1398, robbed of the opportunity to rehabilitate himself in time to regain the marquisate for his heirs and successors. Martin I’s pardon and Moncada’s proposed rehabilitation were the final act of the Maltese marquisate and, as with most of the acts concerning it since its inception, they were destined to remain unrealizable.



* Charles Dalli, born in 1971, obtained a BA in Maltese and History from the University of Malta in 1990, followed by a first class BA (Hons) degree in History with a dissertation about the capitoli of Medieval Malta. He continued his post-graduate studies at Cambridge University, UK, where he specialized in Medieval History. In 1992, he was elected Fellow of the Cambridge Commonwealth Society. Charles lectures in Medieval History at the Faculty of Arts of the University of Malta and has carried out extensive research in Maltese, Italian and Spanish Archives about the society, economics and cultural developments of the Central Mediterranean, the Kingdom of Sicily and the Maltese Islands with special emphasis on the last three centuries of the Middle Ages. He is a member of a number of international organisations concerned with this period of study and has authored a number of specialised articles on many aspects of life in Medieval Malta. He has also published two books about Malta in the Middle Ages: Iż-Żmien Nofsani Malti (2002) and Malta The Medieval Millenium (2006).

[1] The majority of the documents concerning the creation of the marquisate of Malta are published in: Documentary Sources of Maltese History. Part II: Documents in the State Archives, Palermo. No.1: Cancelleria Regia: 1259-1400, ed. S.Fiorini, Malta 1999. [Henceforth referred to as Documentary Sources 1999].

[2] Key works on the political history of Sicily in this period include V.D’Alessandro, Politica e società nella Sicilia aragonese, Palermo 1963; H.Bresc, Un monde méditerranéen. Economie et société en Sicile, 1300- 1450, 2 vols, Palermo - Rome 1986; P. Corrao, Governare un regno. Potere, società e istituzioni in Sicilia fra Trecento e Quattrocento, Naples 1991.

[3] On the Chiaromonte’s rise and fall see P. Sardina, Palermo e i Chiaromonte: splendore e tramonto di una signoria, Caltanissetta - Roma 2003. On the later history of the Moncada in Sicily, see L.Scalisi, La Sicilia dei Moncada: le corti, l’arte e la cultura nei secoli XVI-XVII, Catania 2006.

[4] L. Sciascia, Le donne e i cavalier, gli affanni e gli agi. Famiglia e potere in Sicilia tra XII e XIV secolo, Messina 1993, 53-107.

[5] E.Mazzarese Fardella, I feudi comitali in Sicilia dai Normanni agli Aragonesi, Palermo 1974, 64.

[6] E.I Mineo, Nobiltà di Stato. Famiglie e identità aristocratiche del tardo Medioevo: la Sicilia, Rome 2001, 99-100; S. Laudani, Lo stato del principe. I Moncada e i loro territori, Palermo 2008, 22-6.

[7] J.C.Schideler, A Medieval Catalan Noble Family: the Montcadas, 1000-1230, Berkeley 1983.

[8] L.Sciascia, Pergamene Siciliane dell’Archivio della Corona d’Aragona (1188-1347), Palermo 1994, 84- 90, 118-21, 150-2; on Moncada’s role in Tunis, see C.E.Dufourcq, L’Espagne catalane et le Maghrib aux XIIIe et XIVe siècles, Paris 1966, 101.

[9] For the Sicilian links of the de Malta comital family including the Fimetta, see L.Sciascia, ‘I Fimetta: una famiglia di guelfi siciliani durante il vespro’, Medioevo: Saggi e Rassegne, viii, 1983, 10-40.

[10] K.M.Setton, Catalan Domination of Athens, 1311-1388, London 1975, 54.

[11] D’Alessandro 1963, 84.

[12] On the legal and financial problems faced by G.R.Moncada III in Catalonia, see M.Pastor i Madalena, El cartulari de Xestalgar, Barcelona 2004, 79-80; for the privateering activities of Moncada cf. D. Coulon, Barcelone et le grand commerce d’orient au moyen âge, Madrid 2004, 172.

[13] D’Alessandro 1963, 112

[14] A.T.Luttrell, Latin Greece, the Hospitallers, and the Crusades, 1291-1440, London 1992, item xi, 122.

[15] Corrao 1991, 64, 77-81.

[16] Sciascia 1994, 41-2.

[17] A. Rubi? i Lluch, Diplomatari de l’orient català, Barcelona 2001, 480-4; Setton 1975, 103, 108.

[18] Documentary Sources 1999, 8-10, 29 December 1360.

[19] Ibid., 23-4: 4 May 136; 26-9, annulled and subsequently reconfirmed 19 May 1366.

[20] H.Bresc, ‘Documents on Frederick IV of Sicily’s Intervention in Malta: 1372’, Papers of the British School at Rome, 41, 1973, 80-100.

[21] Bresc 1986, 783-4.

[22] A.T.Luttrell, ‘La casa de Catalunya-Arag? i Malta: 1282-1412’, Estudis d’Hist?ria Medieval, 1, Barcelona 1969, 26.

[23] Sardina 2003, 79-83.

[24]  G.Fasoli, ‘Giovanni di Pe?afiel e l’ unione della Sicilia all’Aragona’, in Fernando el Cat?lico e Italia, ed.A.Boscolo, Zaragoza 1954, 90; Zurita, Anales de la Corona de Arag?n, X, 45.

[25] E.Léonard, Gli angioini di Napoli, Milano 1967, 339-66.

[26] J.Zurita, Anales, X, 62.

[27] D’Alessandro 1963, 122, 327-9.

[28] Documentary Sources 1999, 269-72.

[29] Bresc 1986, 682.

[30] Documentary Sources 1999, xxv-xxx.

[31] Ibid., 171-7.

[32] Ibid., 171-7.

[33] Ibid., 180-7.

[34] Luttrell 1969, 26.

[35] Documenary Sources 1999, 188.

[36] Ibid., 187; Luttrell 1969, 27.

[37] Documentary Sources 1999, 191-2.

[38] Visit of N.de Martoni to Malta in 1394: L. Le Grand, ‘Relation du pèlerinage à Jérusalem de Nicolas de Martoni, notaire italien: 1394-1395’, Revue de l’orient latin, III, 1895, 578-9.

[39] Luttrell 1969, 27.

[40] Ibid., 27.

[41] Documentary Sources 1999, 193-9.

[42] G. L. Barberi, Il «Magnum Capibrevium» dei Feudi Maggiori, ed. G. Stalteri Ragusa, 2 vols, Palermo 1993, 240-1, 245-66; Archivio di Stato Palermo, Moncada, 157, 89-93.

[43] National Library of Malta (NLM), Univ 4, doc. 40.

[44] Documentary Sources 1999, 209

[45] D’Alessandro 1963, 152; Luttrell 1969, 27; but see Archivio di Stato Palermo, Cancelleria, 31, 94.

[46] P.Sardina, ‘Il notaio Vitale de Filesio, vicesecreto di Agrigento nell’età dei Martini (1392-1410), Mediterranea: ricerche storiche, III, 8, 2006, 428. Accessed online at http://www.storiamediterranea.it/ public/md1_dir/r609.pdf

[47] P.Sardina, ‘Il Capitanato di Agrigento dai Chiaromonte alla morte di Alfonso V (1355-1458)’, Bullettino dell’istituto storico italiano per il medio evo, 109, 2007, 278-83

[48] P.Sardina 2006, 428.

[49] Luttrell, 28 and note 49.

[50] Archivio di Stato Palermo, Moncada, 396, 407.

[51] Archivio di Stato Palermo, Cancelleria, 33, 13.

[52] Zurita, Anales, X, lxvii; Corrao 1991, 101.

[53] R.Gregorio, Considerazioni sopra la storia di Sicilia, V, 1810, 84,

[54] Corrao 1991, 103.

[55] Gregorio 1810, 84.

[56] Corrao 1991, 533, 535.

[57] Documentary Sources 1999, 226.

[58] Ibid., 237, 252.

[59] Ibid., 269-72.

[60] Ibid, 211-2

[61] Ibid., 265. Tarcisio Montalto barone della Milocca was captain of Syracuse in 1410: A. Romano, Giuristi siciliani dell’età aragonese, Rome 1979, 36.

[62] The royal concessions of February-May 1398: Documentary Sources 1999, 212-269.

[63] Documentary Sources 1999, 279-72.

[64] F.P.Tocco, Tra memoria e identità: la parabola insediativa di una famiglia fiorentina nella Sicilia tardomedievale: i Buondelmonti di Sciacca, Messina 2006, 33.

[65] A. Rubi? i Lluch, Diplomatari de l’orient català, Barcelona 2001, 480-4.

[66] Archivio di Stato Firenze, ‘Elenchi nominativi dei podestà del comune di Firenze e dei capitani del popolo in carica dal 1343 al 1502’, ed. S.Ginanneschi, 2002, 24. Accessed online at: http://www.archiviodistato. firenze.it/.

[67] Archivio di Stato Palermo, Moncada, 127, 117.

[68] A.Romano, ‘I ribelli nella legislazione e nella dottrina giuridica del Regnum Siciliae’, in Ordnung und Aufruhr im Mittelalter, ed.M.T.F?gen, Frankfurt am Main, 159.

[69] Archivio di Stato Palermo, Moncada, 127, 430-2v.

[70] Epistolari de Ferran I d’Antequera amb els infants d’Arag? i la reina Elionor (1413-1416), ed. C.L?pez Rodr?guez, Valencia 2004, 91.