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Grandee of Spain: Wikis


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Grandee is a word used either to render in English the Iberic high aristocratic title Grande, used by the Spanish, Portuguese, and Brazilian peerage, or by analogy to refer to other people of a somewhat comparable, exalted position, roughly synonymous with magnate, and in particular by analogy to a formal upper level of the nobility, such as peerage (especially if granted parliamentary seats). By extension the term can refer informally to any important person of high status, particularly a wealthy, landed long-time resident in an area.


Grandees of Spain

Spanish nobles are classified either as Grandees (also called Grandes de España or Peers) or as Titled Nobles (Títulos del Reino).

The title grande ("great one") apparently was originally assumed by the most important nobles, to distinguish them from the mass of the ricoshombres (rich magnates) among the nobles Hidalgo (Spanish nobility), as great Señor of the realm. It was thus, as Selden points out, not a general term denoting a class, but "an additional individual dignity not only to all dukes, but to some marquesses and condes also." [1] As the titles above Count, and even this one, were seldom given or passed in heredity in Castile or Aragon by those until late in the Middle Ages — in contrast to more developed forms of feudalism in France or Europe — and remained more of as a Royal officer post until the 1300's. It formerly implied certain privileges, notably that of the ancient uses of remaining covered or seated in the company of the royals. Until the time of Ferdinand and Isabella, when the power of the territorial nobles was broken, the later grandees had also certain more important rights, e.g., freedom from taxation, immunity from arrest save at the king's express command as they were the Major Justice Officers in their regions, and even — in certain cases — the right to renounce their allegiance and make war on the king. Their number and privileges were finally first established by King Charles I of Spain (i.e., the Emperor Charles V), who reserved to the crown the right to bestow the title. The grandees of Spain were further divided into three classes:

(1) those who spoke to the king and received his reply with their heads covered;
(2) those who addressed him uncovered, but put on their hats to hear his answer;
(3) those who awaited the permission of the king before covering themselves.

All grandees were addressed by the king as "my cousin " (mi primo), whereas ordinary nobles were only qualified as " my kinsman " (mi pariente).

The title of "grandee," abolished under the Napoleonic King Joseph Bonaparte, was revived in 1834, when by the Estatuto real grandees were given precedence in the Spanish Chamber of Peers.

Nowadays, all Grandees are of the first class and the designation is purely titular, implying neither privilege nor power. An individual is a Grandee if he holds a Grandeeship (Grandeza de España), regardless of possession of a title of nobility. Normally, however, each Grandeza is granted along with a title, though this was not always the case.

Furthermore, a Grandeza de España is normally awarded along with every ducal title. A peer of any rank outranks a non-peer, even if that non-peer is of a higher grade. Thus, a Baron-Peer would outrank a Marquess who is not a peer.

Some of the best-known titles of Grandees of Spain are the Dukes of Alba, Medinaceli, Osuna, Infantado, Alburquerque, Nájera, Frías and Medina-Sidonia; the Marquesses of Aguilar de Campoo, Astorga, Santillana and Los Vélez; the Counts of Benavente, Lerín, Olivares, Orga(z) and Lemos.

Grandees and their consorts are entitled to the style of Most Excellent Lord/Lady or His/Her Excellency and are called "cousin" (primo) by the King.

Formerly there were two ranks of Grandees of Spain, First Class and Second Class, but currently that distinction has been abolished.

Grandees of Portugal and Brazil

Both Portuguese and Brazilian peerages also used the term grandee (Grandeza) to designate a higher rank of noblemen. Viscounts and barons should receive officially this distinction, which allowed them to use a higher rank of crown at their coats of arms – a crown of count for viscounts and a crown of viscount for barons. Counts, dukes and marquis were already considered grandees, as well as generals, bishops, archbishops and cardinals.

Among the advantages of the distinction, there were: to be allowed to keep the head covered in the presence of the king or the emperor, to be arrested only by permission of the monarch and to hang the coat of arms by the front door of one's home, on vehicles or at the grave. The status of grandee was not hereditary. The system was extinguished by the abolition of monarchy in each country.

New Model Army

In the English Civil War, senior officers from the landed gentry in the New Model Army who opposed the Levellers were informally termed the Grandees.[2]

After the defeat of the King Charles I of England in the war, there were a series of debates and confrontations between the Levellers, whose members were known as Agitators, and the Grandees such as Sir Thomas Fairfax, Oliver Cromwell and Henry Ireton, who opposed the Agitators' more radical proposals. The disagreements were aired publicly at the Putney Debates, which started in late October 1647 and lasted for several weeks.[3]

See also


  1. ^ Titles of Honor, ed. 1672, p. 478
  2. ^ The OED first cites this specific usage as "1648-9 C. WALKER Relat. & Observ. 1 The said Leading men or Grandees (for that is now Parliament language) First divided themselves into two factions."
  3. ^ David Plant The Levellers on the website of the British Civil Wars and Commonwealth


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