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A History of Spain by Charles E. Chapman

Representing the medieval ricoshombres


[Sidenote:

Gradual approximation of the nobility to present-day society.]

By a process of natural evolution from the practices current in the reign of the Catholic Kings the nobles came to exhibit characteristics very similar to those of present-day society. They now went to court if they could, or else to the nearest large city, where they became a bourgeois nobility. Those who remained on their estates were soon forgotten. Through social prestige the nobles were still able to procure not only the honorary palace posts but also the majority of the greater political and military commands. Now and then, an untitled _letrado_ would attain to a viceroyalty or other high position, but these cases were the exception. In this way, the great body of the nobles were able to counteract the economic losses of their class occasioned by the new importance of mercantile and industrial wealth. Nevertheless, the wealthiest men of the times were nobles, with whom the richest of middle-class merchants could hardly compare in material possessions. The more extraordinary accumulations of wealth, based on vast lands and the institution of primogeniture, were confined to a few of the greatest nobles of the land, however. The vast horde of the _segundones_ and others of the lesser nobility found service as before at court, or in the train of some great noble, in the army, and in the church. The nobles retained most of the privileges they had previously enjoyed, but except in

Aragon proper lost much of the political jurisdiction they had formerly exercised over their own lands. The sentiment in favor of the royal authority was now so strong that any limitation on the power of the sovereign was viewed with disapproval. The jurisdiction which the lords retained was limited by many royal rights of intervention, such as the superior authority of the king's law, or the royal institution of the _pesquisa_. Some remnants of the lords' former political and social power over their vassals existed, but in general the relation was the purely civil one of landlord and tenant. In Aragon, despite attempts to effect reforms, the lords still possessed seigniorial authority, accompanied by the irksome incidents of serfdom; required personal services of their vassals; collected tributes of a medieval character; exercised a paternal authority (such as that of permitting or refusing their vassals a right to marry); and had the power of life and death.

[Sidenote: Hierarchy of the nobility.]

[Sidenote: Social vanity.]

[Sidenote: Survivals of medievalism among the nobles.]

The hierarchy of the nobility was definitely established in this period. At the top, representing the medieval _ricoshombres_, were the grandees (_Grandes_) and the "titles" (_T?tulos_). The principal difference between the two was that the former were privileged to remain covered in the presence of the king and to be called "cousins" of the


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