Hidalgo (Spanish nobility)

Hidalgo (Spanish nobility)

A hidalgo or fidalgo was a member of the Spanish and Portuguese nobility. Hidalgos were exempt from paying taxes, but did not necessarily own real property.

Since the 7th century, the words "fijodalgo" and "fidalgo" were used in Spain, especially Castile, to refer to low-ranking landed gentry. Both were corruptions of the term "hijo de algo" (son of something). In the Middle Ages pronunciation changed to "hijodalgo" and "hidalgo". According to another theory, "hidalgo" in fact means literally "a son of a Visigoth" ("hijo del Godo").

To qualify as an "hidalgo solariego" ("ancestral hidalgo"), one had to prove that all four of one's grandparents were hidalgos. One could also receive the title as a reward for meritorious acts, or by joining a fraternitydn.The natives of Biscay were all born hidalgos, giving them access to military and administrative careers.Unlike other hidalgos who refused manual work as contrary to their honour (as seen in "Lazarillo de Tormes"), Biscayne universal gentry extended to the lowliest native worker."Hidalgos de bragueta" [ [http://buscon.rae.es/draeI/SrvltGUIBusUsual?LEMA=hidalgo&TIPO_HTML=2&FORMATO=ampliado hidalgo] at the "Diccionario de la Real Academia Española".] ("fly hidalgoes") obtained tax exemption for having seven sons in legal matrimony.

In Asturias, Cantabria and other regions of Spain every seven years the King ordered the creation of "Padrones" where the population was classified either as Hidalgos Nobles (exempt, tax free) or "estado llano" ("Pecheros" no exempt). Those "Padrones" constitute nowadays a rich source of information about population genealogy and distribution as well as proof of nobility in certain cases. Of all those who held the title, "hidalgos solariegos" were regarded as the most noble and treated with the most respect.

Over the years the title lost its significance, especially in Spain. Kings routinely awarded the title in exchange for personal favors. By the time of the reign of the House of Bourbon, over half a million people enjoyed tax exemptions, putting tremendous strain on the state. Attempts were made to reform the title and by the early 19th century it had entirely disappeared, along with the social class it had originally signified.

In Portugal the title was lost after the overthrow of the Monarchy in 1910.

The prototypical hidalgo is the fictional Don Quixote, who is sometimes known as "The Hidalgo".His possessions allowed to him a meager life devoted to his reading obsession, and his concept of honour led him to emulate errant knights.

ee also

*Hidalgo (disambiguation)


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