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Spanish nobles are persons who possess the legal status of hereditary nobility according to the laws and traditions of the Spanish monarchy. A system of titles and honours of Spain and of the former kingdoms that constitute it comprise the Spanish nobility. Some nobles possess various titles that may be inherited, but the creation and recognition of titles is legally a prerogative of the King of Spain.
Some noble titles and families still exist which have transmitted that status since time immemorial. Some aristocratic families use the nobiliary particle de before their family name. During the rule of General Francisco Franco, some new hereditary titles were conceded to individuals, and the titles granted by the Carlist pretenders were officially recognized.
Despite accession to Spain's throne of Juan Carlos I in 1975, the court of nobles holding positions and offices attached to the royal household was not restored. Noble titleholders are subjected to taxation, whereas under Spain's ancien régime they were exempt. King Juan Carlos resumed conferral of titles to recognize those whose public service, artistic endeavour, personal achievement, philanthropy, etc. are deemed to have benefitted the Spanish nation.
- 1 Classification of Spanish nobles
- 2 Form of address
- 3 Ranks
- 4 Princes
- 5 Succession
- 6 Titles created during the current reign
- 7 See also
- 8 Notes
- 9 References
Classification of Spanish nobles
Spanish nobles are classified as either Grandee of Spain (Grandes de España), as titled nobles, or as untitled nobles.
In the past, grandees were divided into first, second, and third classes, but this division has ceased to be relevant in practice while remaining a titular distinction; legally all grandees enjoy the same privileges in modern times. At one time however, each class held special privileges such as: (1) those who spoke to the king and received his reply with their heads covered. (2) those who addressed the king uncovered, but put on their hats to hear his answer. (3) those who awaited the permission of the king before covering themselves.
Additionally, all grandees were addressed by the king as mi Primo (my Cousin), whereas ordinary nobles were only qualified as mi Pariente (my Kinsman).
An individual may hold a grandeeship, whether in possession of a title of nobility or not. Normally, however, each grandeeship is attached to a title. A grandeeship is always attached to the grant of a ducal title. The grant of a grandeeship with any other rank of nobility has always been at the will of the sovereign. Excepting dukes and some very ancient titles of marquises and counts, most Spanish titles of nobility are not attached to grandeeships.
A grandee of any rank outranks a non-grandee, even if that non-grandee's title is of a higher degree, with the exception of official members of the Spanish Royal family who may in fact hold no title at all. Thus, a baron-grandee enjoys higher precedence than a marquis who is not a grandee.
Since 1987 the children of an Infante of Spain, traditionally considered part of the royal family, have been entitled to the rank and style of a grandee but do not hold the legal dignity of grandee unless a grandeza is officially conferred by the sovereign; once the dignity has been officially bestowed, it becomes hereditary.
Some notable titles, which are attached to grandeeships, are: Duke of Alba, Duke of Medinaceli, Duke of Osuna, Duke of Infantado, Duke of Albuquerque, Duke of Nájera, Duke of Frías and Duke of Medina Sidonia, Marquis of Aguilar de Campoo, Marquis of Astorga, Marquis of Santillana, Marquis of Los Vélez, Count of Benavente, Count of Lerín, Count of Olivares, Count of Oñate, and Count of Lemos.
Form of address
Dukes and other individuals who are grandees are entitled to the style of Most Excellent Lord/Lady or His/Her Excellency.
Titled nobles (without a grandeeship) who are of the rank of marquis or count use the style Most Illustrious Lord/Lady. Those who hold a title with the rank of viscount, baron or Señor use simply Señor/Señora.
The ordinary Spanish nobility is divided into six ranks. From highest to lowest, these are: Duque (Duke), Marqués (Marquis), Conde (Count), Vizconde (Viscount), Barón (Baron), and Señor (Lord) (as well as the feminine forms of these titles).
Nobility descends from the first man of a family who was raised to the nobility (or recognized as belonging to the hereditary nobility) to all his legitimate descendants, male and female, in the male line. Thus, most persons who are legally noble, hold no noble title. Hereditary titles formerly descended by male-preference primogeniture, a woman being eligible to inherit only if she had no brother or if her brothers also inherited titles. However, by Spanish law, all hereditary titles descend by absolute primogeniture, gender no longer being a criterion for preference in inheritance, since 2005.
The often overlooked title of Prince (Principe/Princesa) has historically been borne by those who have been granted or have inherited that title. It is often not included in lists of the Spanish nobility because it is rare: princely titles are now reserved for members of the royal family (the heir to the throne or the consort of the Queen regnant). The heir's princely titles derive from the ancient kingdoms which united to form Spain.
Three titles of prince are held by the heir to the Spanish throne.
- Prince of the Asturias as heir apparent to the throne of the Kingdom of Castile and León.
- Prince of Girona as heir apparent to the throne of the Kingdom of Aragon.
- Prince of Viana as heir apparent to the throne of the Kingdom of Navarre.
Other titles of prince were frequently granted by the kings of Spain, but usually in their capacity as Kings of Naples or of Sicily. Such nobles often sojourned at the Spanish court where their titles were acknowledged, but rarely were Spanish nobles the recipients of a title of prince in Spain. The most notable exception was the title "Prince of the Peace" conferred on Manuel Godoy, a favourite of the Spanish king and, especially, of the queen.
Although legislation of the twentieth century ended official recognition of the title of prince outside the royal family, it did allow the holder of a princedom to have the dignity converted to a ducal title of the same name.
All dukedoms are attached to a grandeeship. A partial list includes:
- Duke of Acerenza
- Dukedom of Alba
- Duke of Cádiz
- Duke of Ciudad Rodrigo, bestowed on the 1st Duke of Wellington for his services to the Spanish King
- Duke of Feria
- Duke of Franco
- Duke of Fernández-Miranda
- Duke of Lugo
- Dukedom of Medinaceli
- Duke of Medina Sidonia
- Duke of Moctezuma de Tultengo, held by the descendants of the Aztec Emperor Moctezuma II
- Duke of Mola
- Duke of Najera
- Duke of Primo de Rivera
- Duke of Segovia
- Duke of Seville
- Duke of Sotomayor
- Duke of Tetuan
- Duke of Suárez
- Duke of Palma de Mallorca
- Duke of Victory
- Duke of Veragua held by the descendants of Christopher Columbus
- Marquis of Almazán
- Marquis of Altamira
- Marquis of Aguilar de Campoo
- Marquis of Albudeyte
- Marquis of Arcicóllar
- Marquis of Ardales
- Marquis of Astorga
- Marquis de la Cadena of Nueva Espana/Mexico (extinct).
- Marquis de la Candia
- Marquis of Chinchilla
- Marquis Del Bosque
- Marquis of Figueroa
- Marquis of Frigiliana
- Marquis of Galatone
- Marquis of Iria Flavia
- Marquis of Irujo y los Arcos
- Marquis of Isla de Arousa
- Marquis de los Jardines de Aranjuez
- Marquis of La Algaba
- Marquis of Menendez
- Marquis of Montsalud
- Marquis of Morella
- Marquis of Novaliches
- Marquis of Ría de Ribadeo
- Marquis of Las Salinas
- Marquis of Salobreña
- Marquis of Samaranch
- Marquis of San Saturnino
- Marquis of Santa Maria de Silvela
- Marquis of Santillana
- Marquess of Sierra Nevada
- Marquis of Valdecarzana
- Marquis de Vallado
- Marquis of Vargas Llosa
- Marquis of Villena
- Marquis of Mariño
- Marquis de Sierra de Outes
- County of Barcelona held by Don Juan, heir of Alfonso XIII, father of Juan Carlos I
- County of Castille de Vigo
- County of Candia de Valencia
- County of Cervera
- County of Covadonga
- County of Empúries
- County of Frigiliana
- County of Guaqui
- County of Luchana
- County of Mansilla
- County of Montealegre
- County of Olivito
- County of Ripalda
- County of Roussillon
- County of Salvatierra
- County of Teba
- County of Toreno
- County of Fontao
- County of Urgell
- County of Vigo
- County of Fuensaldaña
- County of Olocau
- Viscountcy of la Alborada
- Viscounty of Altamira
- Viscountcy of Banderas
- Viscountcy of Cabrera
- Viscountcy of la Calzada
- Viscountcy of Quintanilla de Florez
Baronies did not exist in the Kingdom of Castile nor the Kingdom of Navarre, and the subsequent kings of Spain did not confer any baronies attached to Castilian or Navarrese estates. However, they did exist in the Kingdom of Aragon, such as:
The title of Señor is, together with that of Conde, the oldest in seniority of the Spanish realms. Many of these lordships are among the oldest titles of nobility in Spain, and the Señor usually exercised military and administrative powers over the lordship. Although some lordships were created by the kings of Spain, others existed before them and have not been created by any known king. For example, the Señor of Biscay held a great degree of independence from the king of Castile, to whom he could pledge or not pledge feudal allegiance, but of whom he was not automatically a vassal: each new lord of Biscay had to renew his oath to the king. Ultimately however, the kings of Castile inherited the lordship.
- Lord of Balaguer: held by the King of Spain
- Lord of Biscay: since 1378 held by the King of Spain, thus acquiring the hitherto semi-independent lordship of Biscay
- Lord of Molina de Aragón
- Lord of Meiras: Señora de Meiras, Carmen Polo wife of Francisco Franco
- Lord of Salas
- Infante: currently borne by royal princes, other than the heir apparent to the throne, who are sons of a Spanish king.
- Ricohombre (fem. Ricahembra): used during the Reconquista. By the 17th century, it was a synonym of nobleman.
- Condestable: cognate with "constable", it was a hereditary title used in the kingdoms of Castile and León for the official second in authority to the king. It became hereditary in the Velasco family which, however, gradually lost the powers once attributed to the Condestable of Castile.
- Caballero: equivalent to knight, it was very rare in the kingdom of Castile, but common in the kingdom of Aragon, where there were four types of caballeros:
- Golden-spur caballero: borne by those infanzones (descendants of one of the cadet branches of the kings of Aragon which did not inherit the throne) who had been knighted. They were the highest ranking knights.
- Royal-privilege caballero: a personal, non-hereditary title granted by the king to doctors of the law. It was rarely used by its holders, since the doctoral status enjoyed more privileges.
- Caballero Mesnadero: borne by the cadet sons of a Ricohombre. It fell into desuetude during the 18th century, when the Bourbon kings purged the ranks of the nobility.
- Caballero franco: borne by those of hijosdalgo or infanzone status, but who were commoner-born.
- Potestad: borne only in the kingdom of Aragon, the equivalent of the Italian podestà, an administrative title. It disappeared with the Nueva Planta decrees in 1713.
- Doctor: indeed, any holder of a doctorate was recognised as possessing privileges appertaining to the nobility. For example, doctors were exempt from uncovering their heads in the presence of the King, a privilege shared only by the grandees.
Lower nobility held ranks, without individual titles, such as infanzon (in Aragon), hidalgo or escudero. These did not, however, correspond to the status of a baron, a title unknown to Spanish nobility except in Catalonia.
Hidalgo was the most common of these: Originally all the nobles in the Western Peninsular Christian Realms were hidalgos and, as cristianos viejos, held nearly exclusive right to privileged status (although there were some Jews and Muslims recognized as hidalgos, who shared their privilege to bear arms as knights in the mesnada real). The first of the kings of Pamplona and Asturias were originally elected and lifted up on a shield to assume Princeps inter Pares status, by these otherwise untitled nobles. For approximately three hundred years the hidalgos retained this privilege, only a few of them eventually being granted the non-heritable title of Comes#Medieval usages. Unlike Spain's later titled nobles, the early hidalgo did not necessarily possess or receive any fief or land grant. Many were as poor as commoners, although they were tax-exempt and could join the civil service or the army.
During the Middle Ages hidalgo became a title granted by the kings of Castile as a reward for service done to the crown (or, as in Biscay, as a way of recognizing prior rights). In the same way escudero was granted for military achievement when the Reconquista ended. Being the most obvious proof of noble descent, hidalgo came to be the only lesser title to remain among the modern ranks of Spanish nobility. From this ancient estate of the realm emerged Spain's nobility. All titled and untitled nobles are considered hidalgos, but many of the modern titled nobility do not descend from the original hidalguía.
The term Hidalgo de Sangre indicated membership in a family whose noble status was recognized in the earliest records of its existence; thus its immemorial nobility was acknowledged but not created by any monarch.
The evidence supporting one's claim to a title may be reviewed by the Deputation of Grandees and Titled Nobles of the Kingdom (Diputación de Grandes y Títulos del Reino). The body includes eight grandees, eight nobles who are not grandees, and a president who must hold both a grandeeship and a hereditary title unattached to a grandeeship.
Succession to Spanish noble titles is hereditary, but not automatic. The original letters patent which created the title determine the order of succession. Payment of substantial fees is required whenever a title is inherited.
While noble titles historically have followed the rule of male-preference primogeniture, a Spanish law came into effect on October 30, 2006, after approval by both houses of the Cortes, establishing the inheritance of hereditary noble titles by the firstborn regardless of gender. The law is retroactive to July 27, 2005.
Following the death of a noble, the senior heir may petition the sovereign through the Spanish Ministry of Justice for permission to use the title. If the senior heir does not make a petition within two years, then other potential heirs may do so on their own behalf. There is a limit of forty years from the vacancy by death or relinquishment of a title within which that title may be claimed and revived by an heir.
The petitioner must demonstrate that he or she is a child, grandchild or direct male line descendant of a noble (whether a grandee or not), or that he or she belongs to certain bodies or orders of chivalry deemed noble, or that the father's family is recognized as noble (if succeeding to a grandeeship, the mother's family also). The amount of fees due depend on whether the title is attached to a grandeeship or not, and on whether the heir is a direct descendant or a collateral kinsman of the previous holder. The petition is normally granted, except if the petitioner is a criminal.
Titles may also be ceded to heirs other than the senior heir, during the lifetime of the main titleholder. Normally, this process is used to allow younger children to succeed to lesser titles, while the highest or principal title goes to the senior heir. Only subsidiary titles may be ceded; the principal title must be reserved for the senior heir. The cession of titles may only be done with the approval of the monarch.
Titles created during the current reign
Since the beginning of his reign in 1975, King Juan Carlos has created new titles for about 51 people (as of April 2011), among others recognizing the merits of politicians and artists. Some of these dignities have been hereditary. Examples include
- Camilo José Cela, author and Nobel laureate, created 1st Marquis of Iria Flavia in 1996
- Vicente del Bosque, football manager, created 1st Marquis of Del Bosque in 2011
- Salvador Dalí, surrealist painter, created 1st Marquis of Dalí de Púbol in 1982
- Carmen Franco y Polo, daughter of dictator Francisco Franco, created 1st Duchess of Franco and Grandee of Spain in 1975
- Joaquín Rodrigo, composer and pianist, created 1st Marquis de los Jardines de Aranjuez in 1991
- Margarita Salas, scientist, created 1st Marquise of Canero in 2008
- Juan Antonio Samaranch, President of the International Olympic Committee, created 1st Marquis of Samaranch and Grandee of Spain in 1991
- José Ángel Sánchez Asiaín, an international banker, created 1st Marquis of Asiaín in 2010
- Andrés Segovia, classical guitarist, created 1st Marquis of Salobreña in 1981
- Adolfo Suárez, Prime Minister, created 1st Duke of Suárez and Grandee of Spain in 1981
- Antoni Tàpies, painter, created 1st Marquis of Tàpies in 2010
- Mario Vargas Llosa, author and Nobel laureate, created 1st Marquis of Vargas Llosa in 2011.
King Juan Carlos also exceptionally confirmed the title of Count of Barcelona, a title historically attached to the Crown, but used as a title of pretence by his father Juan de Borbón during the dynasty's 20th century exile and the subsequent reign of his son.
- “Nobiliario Español” : Titles and Grandeeships conferred by Juan Carlos I., with actual holders.
- Atienza, Julio de. Nobiliario Español: Diccionario Heráldico de Apellidos Españoles y de Títulos Nobiliarios. Madrid: Aguilar, 1948.
- Figueroa y Melgar, Alfonso de. Estudio Histórico Sobre Algunas Familias Españolas. 6v. in 12 parts. Madrid: Editions Dawson & Fry, 1965.
- Noble Titles in Spain and Spanish Grandees
- Nobility & Grandee Titles in Spain (Ministry of Justice)