Mayordomo mayor

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Court dress of the "Mayordomo mayor" in 1900

The Mayordomo mayor (High Steward) was the Officer of the Royal Household and Heritage of the Crown of Spain in charge of the person and rooms of the King of Spain. The Office of “Mayordomo mayor” was suppressed after the proclamation of the Second Spanish Republic in 1931 and never re-created after the restoration of the Monarchy in 1975, but it can be said that it is the historical precedent of the modern Head of the Royal Household of Spain.

Historical precedents[edit]

Being a historical precedent the Office of “Mayordomo” of the Kingdom of Castile, the “Mayordomo mayor” of the King of Spain was in charge of the entire organization of the Royal Palace and of its government, having civil and even criminal jurisdiction within its walls through the so-called “Bureo” tribunal.

Regime during the 19th and 20th centuries[edit]

Diverse dispositions regulated in the 19th and 20th centuries his functions, but they must be outlined the Royal decrees of October 28 of 1847 and September 4 of 1885.

During the reigns of the last three Kings before the Second Spanish Republic, Isabel II, Alfonso XII and Alfonso XIII, the “Mayordomo mayor” coordinated the whole palatial organization being, from 1840, the highest Office of the Royal Court and such denominated “Jefe Superior de Palacio” (High Chief of the Palace). Only a peer that had the rank of Grandee of Spain could be nominated for this Office.

Also, traditionally, the “Mayordomo mayor” was higher hierarchically than the “Sumiller de Corps”. During the reign of Alfonso XII and part of the reign of Alfonso XIII (until 1907) this latter Office was suppressed.

The “Mayordomo mayor” was equally the holder of the privy seal, or “Guardasellos” as he was called. In that position he assured the signature of all sort of documents by the King and the link between him and the Government.

He did not have jurisdiction as in former times but the Prosecution Law required his official permission for every police inspection within the walls of all the Royal palaces.

In that which concerned to his role in the activities of official nature, the “Mayordomo” intervened, between others:

  • In royal births and baptisms where the invitations were dispatched by him, occupying the immediate site behind the Monarch.
  • In Public Chapels where he delivered the prayer-book to the King and was placed, also, immediately behind.
  • In the Lavatory of Poor, during Easter, in which he helped the Monarch to serve the plates in the later lunch that was offered.
  • In the ceremony of the Coverage of the Grandees where he dispatched the invitations on behalf of the King and fixed the order.
  • In official banquets in which he occupied one of the head-boards of the table.
  • In official audiences in which he fixed the day and hour.
  • In public ceremonies, in which he was placed in the first position close to the Caballerizo mayor.

Under the “Mayordomo” they were the King of Arms, as charged with the heraldry, the processes of titles of nobility and the management of the dignities. The dean of this class in 1931 was Don Jose de Rújula and Ochotorena, Marquess of Ciadoncha. The Office of King of Arms was suppressed after the proclamation of the Second Spanish Republic in 1931 and never re-created after the restoration of the Monarchy in 1975. He was, at the same time, the high chief of the Court honorary servants called “Gentilhombres Grandes de España con ejercicio y servidumbre” (Gentlemen of the bedchamber Grandees of Spain), of the “Mayordomos de semana” (Weeckly stewards literally) and of those called “Gentilhombres de camara con ejercicio” (Gentlemen of the bedchamber), both (but especially the first and second ones) with certain duties attached to the person of the King.

Also the Physicians of Chamber were under his dependence with a salary of 10.000 pesetas per year each one, accompanying the King in trips, hunts etc. Traditionally the Physician of Chamber who assisted to royal births was awarded with the peerage as it was the case of the first Marquess of San Gregorio and the first Count of San Diego. In 1931 the Physicians of the Chamber were Don Jacobo Lopez Elizagaray and Don Fernando Enríquez of Salamanca.

Also, this Office of Physician was suppressed after the proclamation of the Second Spanish Republic in 1931 and never re-created after the restoration of the Monarchy in 1975.

The Private Secretary to the King was also under the “Mayordomo”. He was in charge of the ordinary matters of the Monarch and was his more faithful assistant. During almost the whole reign of Alfonso XIII, and in the moment of his exile, this Office was held by Don Emilio de Torres y Gonzalez-Arnáu, first Marquess of Torres de Mendoza.

The last office under the “Mayordomo” was the General Inspector of the Royal Palaces, the former "Aposentador" (Office that the painter Diego Velázquez had occupied in the 17th century), with an annual wage of 12.500 pesetas. The General Inspector was the real steward and butler to the King. At the fall of the monarchy, this office was occupied by Don Luis de Asúa y Campos. He had his own office in all the Royal residences and was the chief of the watchmen, the doormen, the footmen and the personnel of the so-called "Ramillete", who were the servants and footmen who served at the royal table and the craftsmen of the different workshops (watchmakers, cabinet-makers, cooks, janitors, etc.). All of these offices were equally suppressed in 1931 and no longer exist.

In the reign of Alfonso XIII the wages of the “Mayordomo” were 15.000 pesetas per year and had his own office and quarter at the Royal Palace of Madrid. Likewise, he was always awarded with the highest distinctions of the Kingdom, the neck chain of the Order of the Golden Fleece and the grand cross of the Order of Charles III.

The uniform of the “Mayordomo” was “casacón” (frock coat) with embroidery in all the seams.

He was styled “Excelentísimo señor Mayordomo mayor de Su Majestad” as well as “Sumiller de Corps” and “Guardasellos” (when he held the privy seal).

List of "Mayordomos mayores" (High Stewards) to the King of Spain between 1516 and 1931[edit]

“Mayordomos mayores” to Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, 1516–1556[edit]

“Mayordomos mayores” to King Philip II, 1556–1598[edit]

“Mayordomos mayores” to King Philip III, 1598–1621[edit]

“Mayordomos mayores” to King Philip IV, 1621–1665[edit]

“Mayordomos mayores” to King Charles II, 1665–1701[edit]

“Mayordomos mayores” to King Philip V, 1701–1724[edit]

“Mayordomo mayor” to King Louis I, 1724[edit]

“Mayordomos mayores” to King Philip V, 1724–1746[edit]

“Mayordomos mayores” to King Ferdinand VI, 1746–1759[edit]

“Mayordomos mayores” to King Charles III, 1759–1788[edit]

“Mayordomos mayores” to King Charles IV, 1788–1808[edit]

“Mayordomos mayores” to King Ferdinand VII, 1808 and 1814–1833[edit]

“Mayordomos mayores” to Queen Isabella II, 1833–1868[edit]

“Mayordomos mayores” to King Amadeo I, 1871–1873[edit]

“Mayordomo mayor” to King Alfonso XII, 1875–1885[edit]

“Mayordomos mayores” to King Alfonso XIII, 1885–1931[edit]

(1) Mayordomo mayor in exile at Valençay

See also[edit]


  • Enciclopedia universal ilustrada europeo-americana. Volume 49. Hijos de J. Espasa, Editores.1923
  • Martínez Millán José. Universidad Autónoma de Madrid. Departamento de Historia Moderna. La Corte de Carlos V. 2000
  • Martinéz Millán (dir). José. La Corte de Felipe II. Madrid. Alianza 1994
  • Martínez Millán, José y Visceglia, Maria Antonietta (Dirs.). La Monarquía de Felipe III. Madrid, Fundación Mapfre, 2008/2009
  • Archivo General de Palacio (AGP) [1]. Patrimonio Nacional. Sección Personal