Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Royal Spanish Etiquette Traditions

From the birth of a Spanish King until his death, the Spanish Monarch is never free from the bonds of an etiquette which has survived from time immemorial, and, up to date as he is, young Alfonso XIII cannot wholly shake himself free.

The Court of Spain

In almost every court in Europe the strictness of old-fashioned etiquette has of late, been greatly relaxed. The Hapsburgs, however, cling to their ancient customs, and at the Courts of Austria and Spain much of the quaint old ceremonial survives. From the birth of a Spanish King until his death, the Spanish Monarch is never free from the bonds of an etiquette which has survived from time immemorial, and, up to date as he is, young Alfonso XIII cannot wholly shake himself free. 

When a baby Prince is born at the Court of Spain, the Prime Minister must be present, or is hastily sent for; also the Presidents of the Congress and the Senate; the Commander of the Royal Halberdiers, to whom is entrusted the guarding of the Royal family within the Palace. The chief doctor then dresses the baby, and, placing the poor little atom upon an enormous silver salver, bears him in state to the father, who is waiting in the ante-chamber. “Sir, it is an infante (Prince),” he says gravely. The father, with equal gravity, takes the salver, raises it, and shows it to all present, then kisses the baby, and the odd little ceremony is over.


No one beneath the rank of a Noble may personally attend the King of Spain, nor by any means, touch his sacred person. About twelve years ago, little Alfonso, running carelessly downstairs, stumbled, and took a regular dive towards the bottom. A footman, with great presence of mind, opened wide his arms and caught the child unhurt. He had saved the little Prince's bones, but had broken the rules of Court etiquette. Therefore, he lost his place. But it is satisfactory to learn that the Queen-Mother saw that the poor fellow did not suffer. She thanked him, and pensioned him handsomely.

All his life through the King is guarded by a special body of picked men. Tradition requires that these shall be drawn from the town of Espinosa. All night, they patrol the corridor outside his room, and at certain intervals the officer in charge glances through a secret panel to see that his youthful Majesty is well and safe. The men wear full armor, and— curious contrast! —felt slippers.

By right of birth, the King of Spain is a canon of Leon Cathedral, and, by a curious old unwritten law originating no one knows how, each member of the chapter must, on his first visit to the cathedral, jump over a small gate in one of the cloisters. As may be imagined, this was one of the few points of custom which thoroughly appealed to young Alfonso. He carried out the very letter of the law by a really splendid jump, for slight and delicate as he looks, the King is very athletic.


In old days nothing that had appeared on the Royal table was ever seen a second time. From the wax candles to the unopened bottles of wine, all was the perquisite of the underlings. The Queen-Mother has changed all this, and waste is at an end. To such an extreme has economy been carried that during his minority, the young King's allowance was but five pounds a month. A Spanish Coronation is a more simple ceremony than might be imagined. An odd point about it is that just behind the head of the procession, are led twelve riderless horses in full Royal trappings. There is no crown used in Spanish Coronations. The ceremonial attending the funeral of a Spanish King is the strangest of its kind, in existence. 

The Royal tomb is situated in the Escurial— that strange old place which lies some distance, away from Madrid, and fully 8000 feet above sea level. The procession movea on foot out of Madrid, and rests one night upon the way. In the morning, the Lord Chamberlain stands by the coffin and cries, “Is your Majesty pleased to proceed upon your journey?” A short silence, and then they move on. When the casket is at last placed in the vault, its final destination, the same official unlocks it, kneels down, and calls loudly: “Señor! Señor! Señor! ” Again a solemn pause. “His Majesty does not reply,” says the Chamberlain. “Then it is true. The King is dead!” He locks the coffin, breaks his staff of office in pieces, and all is over. – Los Angeles Herald, 1906 

Etiquette Enthusiast, Maura J. Graber, is the Site Editor for the Etiquipedia© Etiquette Encyclopedia


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