Count of Malta
The County of Malta was a Feudal Lordship of the Kingdom of Sicily, relating to the islands of Malta and Gozo. Malta was essentially a fief within the kingdom, with the title given by Tancred of Sicily the last Norman king of Sicily to Margaritus of Brindisi in 1190 who earned acclaim as the Grand Admiral of Sicily. Afterwards the fiefdom was passed from nobleman to nobleman remaining as a family possetion in a few instances. It was used mainly as a bargaining tool in Sicilian politics leading to a rather turbulent history. The fiefdom was elevated to a Marquisette in 1392 and either title was no longer used after 1429.
The first Count of Malta was Margerito de Brindisi, a sailor of Greek descent or origin from the city of Brindisi (south Italy), who was granted the fief by Tancred of Lecce then King of Sicily, for his service as admiral for the Kingdom, known at the time as ammiratus ammiratorum. Margerito de Brindisi then lost his fiefs including Malta in 1194 when Henry VI Holy Roman Emperor took control of the kingdom by military invasion. In 1197 on the death of Henry VI the title was given to Guglielmo (William) Grasso a Genoese pirate which was one of many North Italian and German warlords who had great interests in the new territory that was now open to them. Some accounts indicate that he was also admiral to the King of Sicily but it is also attested that he was a conspirator along with a Markward Von Anweiler to remove the young Frederick I from the throne and therefore in conflict with the crown. It is also attested that he was a corsair first and foremost with the population of Malta rising up against him by 1198 on various issues.
Enrico “Pescatore” inherited the fief from Guglielmo Grasso in 1203, apparently since he was his son-in-law and the latter had no sons. He used the islands in his exploits throughout the Mediterranean in his enterprise as a major corsair. It seems that he was employed in pirating activities against mainly Venetian and Arab vessels, but also seems to have been active in internal strife in Sicily. At around 1218 though, he was also elevated to Admiral for the King of Sicily. It seems that at around 1221 he may have lost the fief due to dispute with the crown although whether he regained it or not is not known.
Afterwards the title and fief were regained by his son Niccolò de Malta in 1232. Throughout the period during which he uses the title (1232–1266) though there seems to be present in Malta a number of royal governors including Paulino de Malta (1239–1240) and Gililberto Abbate (1240-?) during the period of the latter governor was written one of the most well known and important documents from the time, the report of Giliberto Abbate., It seems that Niccolò lost the fief in 1266 when the Kingdom of Sicily was conquered by Charles of Anjou, but the title was than re-instated to him even though he held nominal power. Apparently it was in this period that the ‘local’ nobility started to form, which is attested by a number of petition sent to the crown during the period by a number of distinct locals on matters of local significance. During the Sicilian Vespers uprising it appears that the island was easily taken by the Aragonese in 1282 with local aid, excluding the Castrum Maris which did not fall until 1283 after the naval Battle of Malta. It was therefore in 1282 that Andrea was given the title of Count of Malta after his and his family’s support of the native rebels in aiding the Aragonese claimants.
In 1300 Ruggiero de Lauria was given the title of Count of Malta by the Angevin crown after loss of support in the King of Sicily’s fleet and allied himself with the Angevin crown. It seems though that he never had control over the islands since they were still strictly Aragonese possessions after the Battle of Malta, which he himself had won for the Aragonese crown.
The heir apparent of the fief, Guglielmo de Malta, nephew of Count Andrea died in 1299 leaving all possetions to his daughter Lukina. It appears that during the period between 1300 and 1320 no Count of Malta held the fief although Lukina held on to the rights she had inherited from her father without actually holding any title or power. The most important positions were filled by natives and people appointed by the Crown.
At around 1320 King Frederick II, gave the title of Count of Malta to his son by Eleanor of Anjou, Guglielmo, it seems that in 1330 Guglielmo invested the county of Malta to his half brother Alfonso Federigo. Although no records are known to substantiate the common belief, it is maintained that he held the fief until his death in 1349. At this date the fief was inherited by his son Pietro Federigo. A year later in 1350 King Louis of Sicily incorporated the islands to the royal dominio, apparently after petitioning from the local nobility. During this period Queen Jeanne of Naples appointed Niccolò Acciaiuoli Count of Malta which title he claimed until 1360. In 1360 King Frederick III the Simple gave the fief to Guido Ventimiglia but by 1366 the fief was passed by the crown to Manfred III Chiaramonte. Once again in 1370 King Frederick III the Simple entrusted the fief to his illegitimate son Guglielmo d’Aragona. Manfred III Chiaramonte being Admiral for the King of Sicily, Captain of Djerba and the Kerkenna Islands, and Count of Modica took control of the islands later on after the death of the aforementioned king in 1377.
In reality during much of this period the islands were in the control of Giacomo de Pellegrino, a Messinese who had settled in Malta, and who from 1356 to 1372 holding various titles and administrative positions along with a lucrative cotton cloth warehouse along with a privateering business took over the politics of the fiefdom. He was finally removed from power after an invasion of Malta from an allied force of Genoese and Sicilian navies and a 2-month siege of Mdina by both these forces and Maltese rebels from both peasants and other noblemen. his power in local politics and administration made him many enemies on the islands and with the Sicilian claimants to the county, while his privateering business made him enemies in both Sicily and Genoa.
Manfred III Chiaramonte than held the fief until his death in 1391, after which the fief was to be inherited by his eldest child Elizabetta Peralta Chiaramonte, although actual management of the territories was probably undertaken by her brother Andrea Chiaramonte. Finally Andrea Chiaramonte was executed in 1392 after he had been accused as a major conspirator in the anti-Aragonese unrest during the early reign of Maria of Sicily.
Post 4 Vicar's of Sicily Period
All the territories that were held by the Chiaramonte were then divided by the new King Martin I between Guglielmo Riamondo Moncada and the Cabrera Family. During this period the fief was elevated to a marquisate and Guglielmo Riamondo Moncada was given the fief since he was great grandson of Lukina de Malta descendant of Enrico Pescatore. It was at this time that the greatest threat to the crown was Artale II Alagona member of the Alagona Family which was a major player in the unrest of 1377-1392. Therefore, Guglielmo Raimond Moncada ceded the fiefdom back to the crown so it could be used in negotiations with Artale II Alagona. The fief was therefore transferred to Artale II Alagona in 1393 which he controlled until 1396, after which King Martin I once again gave the islands back to Guglielmo Riamondo Moncada. It is apparent that the populations of Malta and Gozo along with the nobility were divided on the question on who should be Marquis of Malta, which led to widespread violence throughout both islands, especially after Moncada lost favour in Sicily. He finally lost Malta in 1397 while Artale II Alagona held to the Castrum Maris until a year later in 1398.
1398-1420 and Monroy period
During the period of 1398-1420 control of the Islands fell to the early Universita, a local government elected by the local nobility to safe guard their rights in the islands and maintain day-to-day management. They maintained the lobby to remain part of the Crown of Aragon which they were until 1420. Alfonso V, King of Aragon, was following various campaigns in the Mediterranean and was in need of both money and support. Therefore, he granted the islands to Gonsalvo Monroy, but the contract of payment was signed and the payment made through Viceroy of Sicily Antonio de Cardona on behalf of Monroy. This caused great trouble in Malta and Gozo since they pledged allegiance to Cardona and not Monroy, after the transfer of jurisdiction to Monroy on the 7th of March 1421. Little is known about the period from 1421 to 1425. The rebellion of the Maltese and Gozitan populations of 1425-1428 is well known in Malta although it was not the first. The initial violence erupted in Gozo and spilled into Malta by 1426, finally control of the islands fell in the hands of the rebelling populations with Monroy’s garrison and wife Lady Constance de Monroy were encircled in the Castrum Maris. The tension remained until 1427 when Alfonso V decided that the Universita could buy the fief if they could pay the fee that Monroy paid in 1421, that of 30,000 Aragonese Florins over 4 months, an effectively impossible task for the poor population of the island and the relatively wealthy local nobility. By the end of 1427 they had not collected the money and had to bargain for a new deal whereign Viceroy Muntayans held onto 15,000 Aragonese florins worth of seized Maltese assets in Sicily, 400 uncie was given by Francesco Gatto and Marciano Falco local noble men. The Univarsita were to pay 5000 florins within a month while the remaining 10,000 florins were to be paid by October 1428. By the deadline the Universita still had to pay 10,000 florins this led to a stall in negotiations until April 1429 when Gonsalvo Monroy was on his deathbed decided to pardon the remaining debt of 10,000 florins.
Post Monroy Period
Therefore, the islands were returned to the dominio by 1429. Whether or not the outcomes were positive for the natives is in debate considering that the frequency of corsair attacks remained high with chronic poverty and periodic famine rampant. Afterwards the titles and fief of the Marquisate of Malta was never given to any one ruler of the islands. The period of dominio status for Malta and Gozo than came to an end in 1530 when Charles V of Spain gave the islands to the Order of Saint John and although they were to pay tribute to the Viceroy of Sicily they were not given the title of Count or Marquise of Malta, thus concluding the line of Counts of Malta.
List of Counts of Malta
- Roger I of Sicily (1091-1101), conqueror of Malta
- Simon of Sicily, count of Malta (1101-1105)
- Roger II of Sicily (1105-1154)
- William I of Sicily (1154-1166)
- William II of Sicily (1166-1189)
- Tancred of Sicily (1189-1190)
- Margaritus of Brindisi (c.1190-1197)
- Guglielmo Grasso (c.1197-1203)
- Enrico "Pescatore" (c.1203-1232)
- Nicoloso (c.1232-1266)
- Charles I of Naples (direct rule 1266-1282), usurper during the Sicilian vespers; with Nicoloso as claimant (1266-1281)
- Andreolo da Genova (1282-1300), with Roger de Flor as claimant (1285-1296)
- Roger of Lauria (1300-1305)
- Lukina de Malta and her husband Guglielmo Raimondo I (1305-1320)
- Guglielmo II (c.1320-1330)
- Alfonso Federigo d'Aragona (c.1330-1349)
- Pietro Federigo d'Aragona (c.1349-1350)
- Louis of Sicily (direct rule 1350-1355)
- Frederick the Simple (direct rule 1355-1360), with Niccolò Acciaioli as claimant (c.1357-1360)
- Guido Ventimiglia (c.1360-1362)
- Frederick the Simple (direct rule 1362-1366)
- Manfredo III Chiaramonte (c.1366-1370)
- Guglielmo III d'Aragona (c.1370-1377)
- Luigi Federigo d'Aragona (1377-1382)
- Manfredo III Chiaramonte (1382-1391)
- Elisabetta Chiaramonte and her brother Andrea Chiaramonte (c.1391-1392)
- Guglielmo Raimondo III Moncada (c.1392-1393)
- Artale II Alagona (c.1393-1396/1398)
- Guglielmo Raimondo III Moncada (c.1396-1397)
- Maria of Sicily (direct rule 1397-1401) with her husband Martin I of Sicily (direct rule by jure uxoris 1397-1409)
- Martin of Aragon (direct rule 1409-1410)
- Ferdinand I of Aragon (direct rule 1412-1416)
- Alfonso V of Aragon (direct rule 1416-1420)
- Antonio de Cardona (c.1420-1425)
- Gonsalvo Monroy (c.1426-1428),
- Alfonso V of Aragon (1428-1458)
- John II of Aragon (1458-1479)
- Ferdinand II of Aragon (1479-1516)
- Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor (1516-1530)
- De Lucca Denis, Mdina A history of its urban space and architecture, Said International, 1995.
- Dalli Charles, Malta The Medieval Millennium, Malta's Living Heritage collection, Midsea Books Ltd, 2006.
- Vella Andrew P., Storja ta’ Malta, Vol. 1, Klabb Kotba Maltin, 1974.
- Dalli Charles, Malta the Medieval millennium, Malta’s living Heritage collection, Midsea Books limited, 2006, p. 98
- Dalli Charles, Malta the Medieval millennium, Malta’s living Heritage collection, Midsea Books limited, 2006, p. 97
- Dalli Charles, Malta the Medieval millennium, Malta’s living Heritage collection, Midsea Books limited, 2006, p. 98-99
- Dalli Charles, Malta the Medieval millennium, Malta’s living Heritage collection, Midsea Books limited, 2006, p. 100-101
- Vella, Andrew P.et al, Grajjiet Mata, it-tieni ktieb, Dipartiment ta' l-Edukazjoni ta' Malta, 1983, p. 36
- Dalli Charles, Malta the Medieval millennium, Malta’s living Heritage collection, Midsea Books limited, 2006, p. 126
- Dalli Charles, Malta the Medieval millennium, Malta’s living Heritage collection, Midsea Books limited, 2006, p. 144
- Dalli Charles, Malta the Medieval millennium, Malta’s living Heritage collection, Midsea Books limited, 2006, p. 145
- Dalli Charles, Malta the Medieval millennium, Malta’s living Heritage collection, Midsea Books limited, 2006, p. 151-152
- Dalli Charles, Malta the Medieval millennium, Malta’s living Heritage collection, Midsea Books limited, 2006, p. 166
- Dalli Charles, Malta the Medieval millennium, Malta’s living Heritage collection, Midsea Books limited, 2006, p. 166-167
- Dalli Charles, Malta the Medieval millennium, Malta’s living Heritage collection, Midsea Books limited, 2006, p. 168-170
- Dalli Charles, Malta the Medieval millennium, Malta’s living Heritage collection, Midsea Books limited, 2006, p. 170
- it:Andrea Chiaramonte
- Dalli Charles, Malta the Medieval millennium, Malta’s living Heritage collection, Midsea Books limited, 2006, p. 188
- Dalli Charles, Malta the Medieval millennium, Malta’s living Heritage collection, Midsea Books limited, 2006, p. 204
- Dalli Charles, Malta the Medieval millennium, Malta’s living Heritage collection, Midsea Books limited, 2006, p. 206
- Dalli Charles, Malta the Medieval millennium, Malta’s living Heritage collection, Midsea Books limited, 2006, p. 207-208
- Dalli Charles, Malta the Medieval millennium, Malta’s living Heritage collection, Midsea Books limited, 2006, p. 212
- De Lucca Denis, Mdina A history of its urban space and architecture, Said International, 1995, p. 126
- Dalli Charles, Malta The Medieval Millennium, Midsea Books Ltd, 2006, p. 98,152,155,168,182,183,188