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A History of Spain by Charles E. Chapman

Under the protection of the grandees


social class in Castile, sharing

this honor with the higher officials of the church. Much of the former economic preponderance of the nobles was gone, due to the development of personalty as a form of wealth as distinguished from land, the fruit of the commerce and industry of the Jews, Mud?jares, and middle classes. They suffered still further through Isabella's revocation of the land grants they had received at times of civil war and internal weakness in former reigns, especially in that of Henry IV. Few nobles or great churchmen, for the decree applied equally to the latter, escaped without loss of at least a portion of their rents, and some forfeited all they had. Naturally, the measure caused not a little discontent, but it was executed without any noteworthy resistance. On the other hand, through the continuance of the institution of primogeniture and through new acquisitions of land in return for services in the war against Granada, the greater nobles still possessed immense wealth. The Duke of Medina Sidonia, for example, offered Philip the Handsome two thousand _caballeros_ and 50,000 ducats ($750,000) if he would disembark in Andalusia. Not only in political authority but also in prestige the nobles were lowered by the measures of the Catholic Kings. Such practices as the use of a royal crown on their shields and the employment of royal insignia or ceremonial in any form were forbidden. On the other hand, the ancient privileges of the nobility, both high and low, were confirmed to them,--such, for example,
as exemption from taxation and from the application in certain cases of the penalties of the law. At the same time, the Catholic Kings offered a new kind of dignity, depending for its lustre on the favor of the crown. Nobles were encouraged to appear at court and strive for the purely ornamental honors of palace officialdom. Many came, for those who remained on their estates consigned themselves to obscurity, being without power to improve their fortunes by a revolt as their ancestors had done. In Aragon and Catalonia they still displayed tendencies to engage in private war and banditry, a condition of affairs which endured throughout this period and into the next, though it was by no means so serious a problem as it had been in earlier times.

[Sidenote: Grades of nobility.]

The grades of nobility remained much as before, but with a change in nomenclature. The old term of _ricoshombres_ for the great nobles disappeared (though not until 1520 officially), and was substituted by that of _grandes_, or grandees. Among the grandees the title of duke (_duque_) and marquis (_marqu?s_) now became of more frequent usage than the formerly more general count (_conde_). In the epoch of the Catholic Kings there were fifteen grandees in Castile, but eight of them had been created, with the title of duke, by Isabella. For the nobility of the second grade, the terms _hijosdalgo_ (modern _hidalgo_) and _caballero_, used in a generic sense to denote noble lineage, were employed indiscriminately. Nobles without fortune lived, as formerly, under the protection of the grandees, or took service in the military orders or even in the new royal army.


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