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A History of Spain by Charles E. Chapman

Sidenote Simplicity of domestic life


[Sidenote:

Monotony of the life at court and among the nobles.]

The kings themselves helped to make this monotonous type of life fashionable. Philip V was domestically inclined, retiring, and melancholy, and from the time of his marriage with Isabel Farnesio was nearly always at the side of his wife, who even accompanied him when he received his ministers before he had arisen from bed. His daily life was passed in pious exercises and in hunting, with music to vary the monotony. Ferdinand VI, also domestic, retiring, and God-fearing, was very fond of music, with the result that the court was brightened by frequent concerts, operas, and theatrical representations, on which vast sums of money were expended. Charles III was a man of very simple tastes, an enemy of the theatre and of music, but passionately devoted to hunting. He was so methodical that every moment of the day within the palace was regulated by royal ordinances, and the annual journeys and changes of residence of the royal family took place each year on the same day. In monotonous regularity of life Charles IV resembled his illustrious predecessor, but passion for hunting amounted in his case almost to a disease; after having breakfast and hearing mass he would hunt until one o'clock, and would return to that sport after having partaken of dinner. The sameness of court life in this period was broken by various receptions and royal feast days, but even these were cold and formal, following prescribed

courses, although celebrated with great pomp. In 1804 there were eight greater gala days and seventeen lesser ones, besides those arising from unforeseen events, such as the reception of a foreign ambassador. Furthermore, royal journeys necessarily involved festivities and heavy expense. Balls, banquets, and other diversions found no place at court, and the accession of Charles III put an end to concerts and plays. The ordinary life of the nobles followed that of the kings. Comparing it with that of France, a French duke who came to Spain in the reign of Philip V said that it was tiresome, almost unsociable, and lacking in comforts, despite the fact that great sums of money were often spent for entertainments of a formal nature. Toward the close of the century the more genial practices of other European countries began to percolate into Spain. Godoy was one who took pleasure in giving balls. Others followed his example, and the austere simplicity of Spanish life began to yield to comforts, diversions, and dissipation. Nevertheless, the old conventions still ruled, especially in the country districts, where the poorer nobility resided, occupying themselves in hunting and in local politics and intrigues. The penurious nobles of the _hidalgo_ class continued to be found at the capital in the train of the greater representatives of the titled element.

[Sidenote: Simplicity of domestic life.]

Some clue to the modesty of life in general may be obtained from the cheapness of rents and the scantiness of furniture in the houses of the capital. The average annual rental was 1504 _reales_ ($94), and there were many houses of an inferior type to be had for 45 _reales_ ($2.81) a month, although, of course, money values were much greater then than now. House decorations and furniture were poor to the point of shabbiness. Walls did not begin to be papered until the close of the eighteenth century. Usually they were white-washed and hung with a few pictures of a religious character or with brass candlesticks. The floor was of unpolished wood, covered over in winter with mats, and there was a like simplicity in chairs. Writing-desks were often present, but were opened only when visitors were being received. Candles were employed for lighting, and the odorous, scantly warming brazier was the principal resource against cold. The same sobriety manifested itself as regards the table. The _puchero_, or _cocido_, made up primarily of chickpeas (_garbanzos_), was the basis of the meal, and usually was the only element. Inns were equally uninviting, and it was not until the close of the era that the example of foreign countries prevailed upon the Spaniards to introduce somewhat more comfortable hostelries.[61]


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