Sunday, October 25, 2015

Etiquette Extremes of Spain

"The court etiquette of Spain was elaborate and complex to the extreme."
"It was in Spain that etiquette attained those extremes which are to-day so difficult to understand. Men and women ceased to be human beings with a will: Frederic Marshall says, 'They became machines of reverence, everybody had his place marked out and was kept mercilessly in it. The number of steps and the depths of bows which each person was to make on entering the royal presence, the width of cloaks, the length of ribbons, and perhaps more than all, the elaborate division of offices and functions, we're fixed with a precision of which examples exist nowhere else.'
"Spanish nobles are classified either as Grandes de España (also called in English grandees), or as titled nobles. Formerly, grandees were divided into the first, second and third classes, but now, all grandees enjoy the same privileges. An individual may hold a grandeeship, whether in possession of a title of nobility or not. Normally, however, each grandeeship is attached to a title, though this was not always the case. Furthermore, a grandeeship is always awarded along with every ducal title, just as most dukes in France gradually obtained a peerage under its ancien régime. A grandee of any rank outranks a non-grandee, even if that non-grandee's title is of a higher degree. Thus, a baron-grandee enjoys higher precedence than a marquis who is not a grandee. Except for dukes and some very ancient titles of marquesses and counts, most Spanish titles of nobility are not attached to grandeeships." –From

The people of Spain took up ceremony and reverential courtesy as a duty. Even the beggars asked each morning of their colleague: 'Señor, has your Courtesy taken his chocolate?' As for the grandees, they considered themselves above the universe and all the men within it.
It was Maria Anna of Neuburg, the wife of Charles II of Spain, 1690, who fell off her horse, caught her foot in the stirrup, and was thus indecorously suspended in the presence of forty-three courtiers, who gazed in anguish, but stood still, as it was against etiquette for them to aid in such a case. The grand equerry, whose particular and peculiar privilege it was to unhook the Queen's royal ankle, on such occasion, was absent that day!

The court etiquette of Spain was elaborate and complex to the extreme. It is related that on one occasion the Queen fell from her horse, caught her foot and hung by the stirrup, unable to extricate herself. This happened in the presence of a number of attendants who made no move whatever to assist her. They couldn't, you see, because the grand equerry whose particular and peculiar privilege it was to unhook the royal ankle on such occasion was absent!

A passerby, noticing the Queen's plight, released her. Whereupon he received several doubloons for his service, but was condemned to banishment because of his indiscretion! Such were the extremes etiquette had reached in the Spanish court." –Lillian Eichler 

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

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