Portrait of a Spanish noble, The 5th Duke of Alburquerque, Grandee of Spain, at the height of the Spanish Empire, 1560

Spanish nobles are persons who possess a title of nobility confirmed by Spain's Ministry of Justice, as well as those individuals appointed to one of the three highest orders of knighthood of the kingdom, namely the Order of the Golden Fleece, the Order of Charles III and the Order of Isabella the Catholic. Some nobles possess various titles that may be inherited or not, but the creation and recognition of titles is legally the prerogative of the King of Spain.

Many noble titles and families still exist which have transmitted that status since time immemorial. Some aristocratic families use the nobiliary particle de before their family name, although this was more prominent before the 20th century. During the rule of Generalísimo Francisco Franco, some new hereditary titles were conferred on individuals, and the titles granted by the Carlist pretenders were officially recognised.

Despite the accession to the throne of Spain by Juan Carlos I in 1975, the royal court of nobles holding positions and offices attached to the Royal Household was not restored. Noble titleholders are subjected to taxation, whereas under Spain's Ancien Régime (until 1923)[1] they were exempt. King Juan Carlos resumed conferral of titles to recognize those whose public service, artistic endeavour, personal achievement, philanthropy, etc. is deemed to have benefitted the Spanish nation.

Spanish nobility today

Palacio de Liria in Madrid, home of the Dukes of Alba

As of 2023, there are approximately 2,237 titled nobles in Spain, and there are 418 Grandes de España, with 2,825 total titles of Spanish nobility. Some nobles may carry more than one title of nobility. Many are active in the worlds of business, finance, and technology, with some taking on leadership roles in major IBEX 35 companies, some of Spain's largest companies. Examples include the president of FCC, Esther Alcocer Koplowitz, 9th Marchioness of Casa Peñalver, or Alfonso Martínez de Irujo Fitz-James Stuart, Duke of Híjar, president of IE Law School in Madrid.[2][3]

Legal situation

In Spain today, the possession of a title of nobility does not imply any legal or fiscal privilege; the possession of titles of nobility is subject to the payment of a normal level of taxation. It is a distinction of merely honorary and symbolic character, accompanied by the treatment of the most excellent lord for those titles that possess the dignity of grandees of Spain and of illustrious lords for others. The last privilege, suppressed in 1984, was the right to a diplomatic passport by the Grandees of Spain (Grandes de España). This privilege disappeared by Royal Decree 1023/1984. The titles without the rank of grandee of Spain never enjoyed this privilege.

With the establishment of the Second Spanish Republic in 1931, the use of noble titles was abolished by way of Decree of 1 June 1931,[4] ratified by Law of 30 December of the same year.[5] In 1948, legal recognition of the usage of noble titles was provided for by Law of 4 May 1948 restoring the rules as they were before 14 April 1931.[6]

At present, titles of nobility find their legal basis in article 62, section f, of the 1978 constitution, which grants the prerogative of the king to grant honors and distinctions in accordance with the laws.

Spanish legislation recognizes titles of nobility and protects their legal owners against third parties. The Spanish nobility titles are in no case susceptible of purchase or sale, since their succession is strictly reserved for blood relatives of better right of the first holder of the title. The successions are processed by the Ministry of Justice and their use is subject to their respective tax.

The legal status of individual titles can be checked at La Diputación de la Grandeza de España y Títulos del Reino (DGET) and using Guía de Títulos in the Navigation bar.[7]

Classification of Spanish nobles

Spanish nobles are classified as either grandees, as titled nobles, or as untitled nobles.

In the past, grandees were divided into first, second, and third classes, but this division has ceased to be relevant in practice while remaining a titular distinction; legally all grandees enjoy the same privileges in modern times. At one time however, each class held special privileges such as:

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

Additionally, all grandees were addressed by the king as mi Primo (my Cousin), whereas ordinary nobles were only qualified as mi Pariente (my Kinsman).

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. A grandeeship is always attached to the grant of a ducal title. The grant of a grandeeship with any other rank of nobility has always been at the will of the sovereign. Excepting dukes and some very ancient titles of marquesses and counts, most Spanish titles of nobility are not attached to grandeeships.

A grandee of any rank outranks a non-grandee, even if that non-grandee's title is of a higher degree, with the exception of official members of the Spanish royal family who may in fact hold no title at all. Thus, a baron-grandee enjoys higher precedence than a marquess who is not a grandee.

Since 1987, the children of Spanish infantes, traditionally considered part of the royal family, have been entitled to the rank and style of a grandee but do not hold the legal dignity of grandee unless a grandeza is officially conferred by the sovereign; once the dignity has been officially bestowed, it becomes hereditary.

Some notable titles, which are attached to grandeeships, are: Duke of Alba, Duke of Medinaceli, Duke of Osuna, Duke of Infantado, Duke of Albuquerque, Duke of Nájera, Duke of Frías and Duke of Medina Sidonia, Marquess of Aguilar de Campoo, Marquess of Astorga, Marquess of Santillana, Marquess of Los Vélez, Count of Benavente, Count of Lerín, Count of Olivares, Count of Oñate, and Count of Lemos.

Form of address

Dukes, Grandees, their spouses and heirs are entitled to the honorific style of The Most Excellent Lord/Lady.

Non-Grandee titled nobles, their spouses and offspring use the style of The Most Illustrious Lord/Lady.


The ordinary Spanish nobility is divided into six ranks. From highest to lowest, these are: Duque (Duke), Marqués (Marquess), Conde (Count), Vizconde (Viscount), Barón (Baron), and Señor (Lord) (as well as the feminine forms of these titles).

Nobility descends from the first man of a family who was raised to the nobility (or recognized as belonging to the hereditary nobility) to all his legitimate descendants, male and female, in the male line. Thus, most persons who are legally noble hold no noble title. Hereditary titles formerly descended by male-preference primogeniture, a woman being eligible to inherit only if she had no brother or if her brothers also inherited titles. However, by Spanish law, all hereditary titles descend by absolute primogeniture, gender no longer being a criterion for preference in inheritance, since 2005.

On October 21, 2022, the Spanish authorities abolished 33 aristocratic titles: In early October, the Senate (upper house of parliament) of Spain approved a bill on historical memory, declaring the dictatorship of Francisco Franco and the judicial decisions made under his regime illegal.


Leonor, Princess of Asturias, heir presumptive to the Spanish throne

The often overlooked title of 'prince' (príncipe/princesa) has historically been borne by those who have been granted or have inherited that title. It is often not included in lists of the Spanish nobility because it is rare. Prince/Princess are English translations of Infante/Infanta, referring to the son or daughter of a king; such titles are reserved for members of the royal family (the heir to the throne or the consort of the Queen regnant). Historically, infante or infanta could refer to offspring, siblings, uncles and aunts of a king. The heir's princely titles derive from the ancient kingdoms which united to form Spain.

Three titles of prince are held by the heir to the Spanish throne.

Other titles of 'prince' were frequently granted by the kings of Spain, but usually in their capacity as kings of Naples or of Sicily. Such nobles often sojourned at the Spanish court where their titles were acknowledged, but rarely were Spanish nobles the recipients of a title of prince in Spain. The most notable exceptions were the title Prince of the Peace conferred in 1795 on Manuel Godoy, a favourite of the Spanish king and the title Prince of Vergara conferred to Baldomero Espartero. And Joseph Bonaparte conferred the title to be hereditary on his grandchildren in both the male and female line, Although legislation of the twentieth century ended official recognition of the title of prince outside the royal bloodline family, it did allow the holder of a princedom to have the dignity converted to a ducal title of the same name. When military dictator Francisco Franco appointed Juan Carlos de Borbón as his heir apparent with the future title of king, he created the new titles of prince of Spain for him. [8]

Duke/Duchess (Duque/Duquesa)

Cristóbal Colón de Carvajal, 18th Duke of Veragua
Leoncio Alonso González de Gregorio, 22nd Duke of Medina Sidonia

Main article: List of dukes in the peerage of Spain

All dukedoms (except Fernandina) are attached to a grandeeship. A partial list includes:

Marquess/Marchioness (Marqués/Marquesa)

Cayetana Álvarez de Toledo, 14th Marchioness of Casa Fuerte

Main article: List of marquesses in the peerage of Spain

Count/Countess (Conde/Condesa)

Viscount/Viscountess (Vizconde/Vizcondesa)

Main article: List of viscounts in the peerage of Spain

Baron/Baroness (Barón/Baronesa)

Main article: List of barons in the peerage of Spain

Baronies did not exist in the Kingdom of Castile nor the Kingdom of Navarre, and the subsequent kings of Spain did not confer any baronies attached to Castilian or Navarrese estates. However, they did exist in the Kingdom of Aragon, such as:

Lord/Lady (Señor/Señora) (Don/Doña)

Main article: List of lords in the peerage of Spain

The title of Señor is, together with that of Conde, the oldest in seniority of the Spanish realms. Many of these lordships are among the oldest titles of nobility in Spain, and the señor usually exercised military and administrative powers over the lordship. Although some lordships were created by the kings of Spain, others existed before them and have not been created by any known king. For example, the lord of Biscay held a great degree of independence from the king of Castile, to whom he could pledge or not pledge feudal allegiance, but of whom he was not automatically a vassal: each new lord of Biscay had to renew his oath to the king. Ultimately, however, the kings of Castile inherited the lordship.

Besides those held by the King, in Spain remain seven lordships that maintain the official consideration of Titles of the Kingdom according to the Official Guide of the Titles and Grandees of the Kingdom published by the Ministry of Justice: the Lordship of Solar de Tejada, the Lordship of Solar de Mandayona y Villaseca, the Lordship of Alconchel, the Lordship of Lazcano (with Grandee of Spain), the Lordship of Rubianes (with Grandee of Spain), the Lordship of Higuera de Vargas (with Grandee of Spain), the Lordship of Meirás (with Grandee of Spain) and the Lordship of Sonseca. Other lordships that were considered as Titles of the Kingdom in the past, have not been rehabilitated.

Other titles

Infanta Elena, Duchess of Lugo, daughter of King Juan Carlos I

Lower nobility

Lower nobility held ranks, without individual titles, such as infanzón (in Aragon, e.g. Latas Family), hidalgo or escudero. These did not, however, correspond to the status of a barón, a title unknown to Spanish nobility except in Catalonia.

Hidalgo was the most common of these: Originally all the nobles in the Western Peninsular Christian Realms were hidalgos and, as cristianos viejos ("old Christians"), held nearly exclusive right to privileged status (although there were some Jews and Muslims recognized as hidalgos, who shared their privilege to bear arms as knights in the mesnada real). The first of the kings of Pamplona and Asturias were originally elected and lifted up on a shield to assume Princeps inter Pares status, by these otherwise untitled nobles. For approximately three hundred years the hidalgos retained this privilege, only a few of them eventually being granted the non-heritable title of comes. Unlike Spain's later titled nobles, the early hidalgo did not necessarily possess or receive any fief or land grant. Many were as poor as commoners, although they were tax-exempt and could join the civil service or the army.

During the Middle Ages hidalgo became a title granted by the kings of Castile as a reward for service done to the crown (or, as in Biscay, as a way of recognizing prior rights). In the same way escudero was granted for military achievement when the Reconquista ended. Being the most obvious proof of noble descent, hidalgo came to be the only lesser title to remain among the modern ranks of Spanish nobility. From this ancient estate of the realm emerged Spain's nobility. All titled and untitled nobles are considered hidalgos, but many of the modern titled nobility do not descend from the original hidalguía.

The term Hidalgo de Sangre indicated membership in a family whose noble status was recognized in the earliest records of its existence; thus its immemorial nobility was acknowledged but not created by any monarch.


Cayetana Fitz-James Stuart, 18th Duchess of Alba (1926–2014), was the woman with the most titles of nobility in the world[11]

The evidence supporting one's claim to a title may be reviewed by the Council of Grandees and Titled Nobles of the Kingdom (Diputación de Grandes y Títulos del Reino). The body includes eight grandees, eight nobles who are not grandees, and a president who must hold both a grandeeship and a hereditary title unattached to a grandeeship.

Succession to Spanish noble titles is hereditary, but not automatic. The original letters patent which created the title determine the order of succession. Payment of substantial fees is required whenever a title is inherited.

While noble titles historically have followed the rule of male-preference primogeniture, a Spanish law came into effect on 30 October 2006, after approval by both houses of the Cortes, establishing the inheritance of hereditary noble titles by the firstborn regardless of gender. The law is retroactive to 27 July 2005.[12]

Following the death of a noble, the senior heir may petition the sovereign through the Spanish Ministry of Justice for permission to use the title. If the senior heir does not make a petition within two years, then other potential heirs may do so on their own behalf. There is a limit of forty years from the vacancy by death or relinquishment of a title within which that title may be claimed and revived by an heir.

The petitioner must demonstrate that he or she is a child, grandchild or direct male line descendant of a noble (whether a grandee or not), or that he or she belongs to certain bodies or orders of chivalry deemed noble, or that the father's family is recognized as noble. The amount of fees due depend on whether the title is attached to a grandeeship or not, and on whether the heir is a direct descendant or a collateral kinsman of the previous holder. The petition is normally granted, except if the petitioner is a criminal.

Titles may also be ceded to heirs other than the senior heir, during the lifetime of the main titleholder. Normally, this process is used to allow younger children to succeed to lesser titles, while the highest or principal title goes to the senior heir. Only subsidiary titles may be ceded; the principal title must be reserved for the senior heir. The cession of titles may only be done with the approval of the monarch.

The late Cayetana Fitz-James Stuart, 18th Duchess of Alba (1926–2014) holds the Guinness World Record for number of titles with over 50 titles. Before her death, she ceded some of her titles to each of her six children; otherwise, all but the eldest would have been excluded from succession.

Alternative nobility

The pretender Carlist branch of the Bourbons created its own titles for its supporters, unrecognized by the ruling Christinos branch. When General Francisco Franco became head of state with the support of, among others, Carlist troops, Carlist titles became officially recognized.

Titles created during the reign of King Juan Carlos

Salvador Dalí, 1st Marquess of Dalí de Púbol

From the beginning of his reign in November 1975, King Juan Carlos created new titles for about 51 people (as of April 2011),[13] among others recognizing the merits of politicians and artists. Some of these dignities have been hereditary. Examples include:

King Juan Carlos also exceptionally confirmed the title of Count of Barcelona, a title historically attached to the Crown, but used as a title of pretence by his father, Infante Juan, during the dynasty's 20th century exile and the subsequent reign of his son.

Titles created during the reign of King Felipe VI

King Felipe VI has not yet created any new titles of nobility. He has, however, revived the dukedom of Fernandina,[14] the marquisate of Murillo[citation needed], and the county of Torre Alegre[citation needed]; and has reverted to the crown the dukedom of Palma Mallorca, formerly belonging to his elder sister, Infanta Cristina of Spain, over a corruption enquiry.[15]


See also


  1. ^ The Agony of Spanish Liberalism: From Revolution to Dictatorship 1913–23. Francisco J. Romero Romero Salvadó, A. Smith. 26 May 2010. ISBN 9780230274648. Retrieved 24 November 2016. ISBN 978-1-349-36383-4.
  2. ^ Carrizosa, Susana (21 September 2019). "La aristocracia se sienta junto a su despacho aunque quizá no lo sepa". El País – via elpais.com.
  3. ^ "Los títulos nobiliarios en España: ¿qué tipos hay y cómo se conceden?". www.20minutos.es – Últimas Noticias. 23 November 2014.
  4. ^ "Ministerio de Estado" (PDF). www.boe.es. Retrieved 5 June 2021.
  5. ^ "Administración Central" (PDF). www.boe.es. Retrieved 5 June 2021.
  6. ^ "BOE.es – BOE-A-1948-3512 Ley de 4 de mayo de 1948 por la que se restablece la legalidad vigente con anterioridad al 14 de abril de 1931 en las Grandezas y Títulos del Reino". www.boe.es.
  7. ^ La Diputación de la Grandeza de España y Títulos del Reino (DGET)
  8. ^ Franco, Francisco (23 July 1969). "Ley 62/1969, de 22 de julio, por la que se provee lo concerniente a la sucesión en la Jefatura del Estado" (in European Spanish): 11607–11608. Retrieved 19 April 2022. Artículo tercero. Prestado el juramento, el Príncipe Don Juan Corlas [sic!] de Borbón y Borbón ostentará el título de Príncipe de España, con tratamiento de Alteza Real, y asumirá los derechos y deberes inherentes a su alta condición. ((cite journal)): Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  9. ^ Iafolla 2021, p. 129.
  10. ^ Iafolla 2021, p. 201.
  11. ^ Peinado, Mari Luz (20 November 2014). "Did the Queen of England really have to bow before the Duchess of Alba?". El País.
  12. ^ "Ley 33/2006, de 30 de octubre, sobre igualdad del hombre y la mujer en el orden de sucesión de los títulos nobiliarios" (in Spanish). Boletin Oficial del Estado. pp. 37742–37743. Retrieved 10 January 2016.
  13. ^ "Nobiliario Español" : Titles and Grandeeships conferred by Juan Carlos I, with actual holders.
  14. ^ "Real Decreto 683/2020, de 27 de julio, por el que se rehabilita, sin perjuicio de tercero de mejor derecho el título de Duque de Fernandina, a favor de don Alonso-Enrique González de Gregorio Viñamata". www.boe.es. Retrieved 28 July 2020.
  15. ^ (in Spanish) "The King revokes the title of Duchess of Palma used by his sister doña Cristina". Europapress (15-06-11). (Accessed on 12 June 2015).