Royal Titles and Honors of the Aristocracy in Spanish
Spanish royal titles in Spain are given to people who have the legal status of nobility—using a system of honors and titles of Spain from former kingdoms. Some Spanish nobles have several titles they’ve inherited, but the creation of Spanish titles of nobility is at the grace of the King of Spain. When General Francisco Franco ruled, new hereditary titles were given to individuals.
In 1975, King Juan Carlos rose to Spain’s throne, the nobles attached to the royal household weren’t restored. Those with noble titleholders are subjected to pay taxes for the titles since they had been exempted in the ancient regime. New titles were created to merit artists and politicians, as well.
Keep reading to learn the nine títulos nobiliarios en España (royal titles in Spain) and explore the fascinating Spanish aristocracy.
What’s the Spanish Aristocracy?
Spanish nobility ranks are divided into grandees, titled nobles, or untitled nobles. Here’s La Grandeza de España (The Grandee of Spain) explained in Spanish.
In the nobility in Spain, grandees were divided into first, second, and third classes in the past, but now all grandees have the same privileges.
An individual may obtain and hold a grandeeship with or without a title of nobility, but normally a grandeeship is attached to a title. A grandeeship is commonly attached to a ducal title.
With the exception of dukes and some ancient titles of counts and marquesses and counts, most Spanish royal titles aren’t attached to grandeeships.
Since 1987, royal infantes (infants) in Spain are considered a part of the royal family and are entitled to the style and rank of any grandee. And once the dignity is bestowed upon any grandee, that family is royal and can inherit royal titles.
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How Succession Works
In Spain, there’s a male-preference cognatic primogeniture when it comes to Spanish nobles’ titles. If dynasts marry against the monarch and the Courts, they and all their descendants would be excluded from the succession.
In succeeding to the throne, monarchs are required to take an oath before the Cortes Generales (General Court). The letters patent that created the titles decides the course of succession. Succession is hereditary, but it’s not always automatic; it’s a process.
The title for King of Spain is has always been followed by male-preference cognatic primogeniture, but a new law came into effect in October 2006 that said that the inheritance of hereditary noble titles will be for firstborns regardless of their sex.
When there’s a death of a noble, the eldest in the family requests a petition from the king for permission to use the title. If the heir doesn’t make a petition within two years, the other heirs may do it for themselves.
Family titles can also be ceded to heirs other than the senior and become titleholders. Usually, the process helps younger kids succeed to royal titles so that it doesn’t just go to the senior heir. The principal title should be reserved for the senior heir, and only subsidiary titles are ceded to younger heirs.
See also: 12 Breathtaking Castles in Spain
9 Ranks of the Spanish Nobility
Now let’s learn the Spanish royal titles and honors in Spanish! Here are the nobility titles in order.
No one is as powerful or important as Spanish kings and queens when it comes to titles and honors or the royal family. Ferdinand II of Aragon was the first King of Spain, and the Spanish nobility has only continued to grow and expand.
The rest of the noble titles hierarchy is divided into the following nine groups.
1. Princes and Princesses (Príncipes y Princesas)
Princes’ and princesses’ nobility ranks are inherited. Many don’t include them on lists of Spanish nobility because they’re rare.
These princes and princesses are the sons and daughters of a king, and they are specifically reserved for the royal family. Female nobility titles weren’t as important as male roles, but that is slowly changing in Spanish nobility.
Historically, individuals have also been referred to as infante or infanta in Spanish (see #8), which also means offspring, siblings, uncles, and aunts of a king, but they’re not technically princes or princesses, just part of the royal family.
2. Duke and Duchess (Duque y Duquesa)
In the ranks of nobility, Spanish dukes and duchesses have precedence over other ranks or Spanish royal titles.
All holding the court rank of Grande de España (Grandee of the Realm in Spain) are usually dukes or duchesses.
See also: A Brief, Intriguing History of the Spanish Royal Family
3. Marquess and Marchioness (Marqués y Marquesa)
The ranks of marqués y marquesa (marquess and marchioness) still exist today, and all 142 of them are Spanish grandees. A marquess is usually considered a Ilustrísimo Señor (Most Illustrious Lord).
Examples include the Grandee of Spain and the Marquess of Carpio. Currently, there are 1,370 official marquees in Spain.
4. Count and Countess (Conde y Condesa)
A count or countess is another Spanish Royal title of nobility. It’s considered a middle rank in the Spanish hierarchy of nobility and counts condes and condesas denoted the land owned by a count.
Currently there are 946 counts in Spain, and 106 of them are Spanish grandees.
5. Viscount and Viscountess (Vizconde y Vizcondesa)
Viscounts were created in Catalonia in the 8th century when the title had spread and the kind introduced the system of vizcondados previos which were regulations in the 1600s where no one could proceed the conde (count) rank or marqués (marquess) unless they had previously been vizconde (viscount.)
Currently, there are 140 viscounts with only two who are Spanish grandees.
6. Baron and Baroness (Barón y Baronesa)
Being a baron was considered the senior nobility but then, under the Castilian influence, it was used to refer to rich men. The female equivalent is the baroness.
Many considered a baron or baroness a magnate without any noble significance. In the Middle ages, the title received a distinct status.
Currently there are 169 barons, and two of them are Spanish grandees.
7. Lordships in Spain (Señoríos en España)
There are other Spanish royal titles such as lordships in Spain, with three of them being Spanish grandees. El de la Casa de Lazcano, el de Alconchel, el de la Higuera de Vargas, el de la Casa de Rubianes, and el de Sonseca y el de Meirás are the main lordships in Spain, but many don’t consider them to be a royal title anymore.
8. Infant (Infante)
There’s also an infante who is currently borne to royal princes, which is a title used until they come of age and become princes or princesses.
9. Knights (Caballeros)
There are caballeros (knights) in Spain of the Order of Charles III, where the bestowal of the highest order of knighthood took place.
They have personal nobility and some heraldic privileges like a golden heraldic mantle that the King of Spain continues to bestow.
Famous Nobles in Spanish History
Currently, there are approximately 2,237 nobles in Spain, and 400 are Spanish Grandees. Some nobles have more than one title of nobility, and many of them are active in finance, business, technology, and other fields.
- the 9th Marchioness of Casa Peñalver
- President of the FCC, Esther Alcocer Koplowitz
- Count of Aranda, Alfonso Martínez de Irujo Fitz-James Stuart
- and the president of IE Law School in Madrid
Many Spanish surnames were influenced by nobility and give us the chance to learn about the fascinating history in Spain. It’s not only fascinating to take a closer look at royalty but also to understand how it all began.
Travel to Spain and Experience Royalty
Spanish royal titles and honors of the aristocracy are a major part of Spanish culture. After this lesson, are you inspired to travel to Spain and experience the unique culture and aristocracy for yourself?
Spanish continues to grow immensely in the U.S. By learning Spanish, you gain the ability to teach your children Spanish or set a family goal to become fluent together. What’s more, learning a language helps you improve your cognition and decision-making abilities. It’s educational, beneficial, and fun!
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