AskDefine | Define grandee

Dictionary Definition

grandee n : a nobleman of highest rank in Spain or Portugal

User Contributed Dictionary





  1. a person of high rank
  2. a high ranking nobleman in Spain or Portugal
  3. the title for a high ranking nobleman in Spain or Portugal

Extensive Definition

Grandee is a word either to render in English the Iberic high aristocratic title 'Grande', used by the Spanish, Portuguese and Brazilian peerage, or by analogy to refer to other people of a somewhat comparable, exalted position, roughly synonymous with magnate, and in particular by analogy to a formal upper level of the nobility, such as a peerage (especially if granted parliamentary seats). By extension the term can refer informally to any important person of high status, particularly a wealthy, landed long-time resident in an area.

Grandees of Spain

Spanish nobles are classified either as Grandees (also called Grandes de España or Peers) or as Titled Nobles (Títulos del Reino). The title grande apparently was originally assumed by the most important nobles to distinguish them from the mass of the ricoshombres, or great barons of the realm. It was thus, as Selden points out, not a general term denoting a class, but "an additional dignity not only to all dukes, but to some marquesses and condes also" (Titles of Honor, ed. 1672, p. 478). It formerly implied certain privileges, notably that of sitting covered in the royal presence. Until the time of Ferdinand and Isabella, when the power of the territorial nobles was broken, the grandees had also certain more important rights, e.g. freedom from taxation, immunity from arrest save at the king's express command, and even — in certain cases — the right to renounce their allegiance and make war on the king. Their number and privileges were further restricted by King Charles I of Spain (i.e. the emperor Charles V), who reserved to the crown the right to bestow the title. The grandees of Spain were further divided into three classes: (1) those who spoke to the king and received his reply with their heads covered; (2) those who addressed him uncovered, but put on their hats to hear his answer; (3) those who awaited the permission of the king before covering themselves. All grandees were addressed by the king as "my cousin " (mi primo), whereas ordinary nobles were only qualified as " my kinsman " (mi pariente). The title of "grandee," abolished under the Napoleonic King Joseph Bonaparte, was revived in 1834, when by the Estatuto real grandees were given precedence in the Spanish Chamber of Peers. Nowadays, all Grandees are of the first class and the designation is purely titular, implying neither privilege nor power. An individual is a Grandee if he holds a Grandeeship (Grandeza de España), regardless of possession of a title of nobility. Normally, however, each Grandeza is granted along with a title, though this was not always the case.
Furthermore, a Grandeza de España is normally awarded along with every ducal title. A peer of any rank outranks a non-peer, even if that non-peer is of a higher grade. Thus, a Baron-Peer would outrank a Marquess who is not a peer.
Some of the best-known titles of Grandees of Spain are the Dukes of Alba, Medinaceli, Osuna, Infantado, Albuquerque, Nájera, Frías and Medina-Sidonia; the Marquesses of Aguilar de Campoo, Astorga, Santillana and Los Vélez; the Counts of Benavente, Lerín, Olivares, Orga(z) and Lemos
Grandees and their consorts are entitled to the style of Most Excellent Lord/Lady or His/Her Excellency and are called "cousin" (primo) by the King.
Formerly there were two ranks of Grandees of Spain, First Class and Second Class, but currently that distinction has been abolished.

Grandees of Portugal and Brazil

Both Portuguese and Brazilian peerages also used the term grandee (Grandeza) to designate a higher rank of noblemen. Viscounts and barons should receive officially this distinction, which allowed them to use a higher rank of crown at their coats of arms – a crown of count for viscounts and a crown of viscount for barons. Counts, dukes and marquis were already considered grandees, as well as generals, bishops, archbishops and cardinals.
Among the advantages of the distinction, there were: be allowed to keep the head covered at the presence of the king or the emperor, be arrested only by permission of the monarch and hang the coat of arms by the front door of ones home, at the vehicles or at the grave. The grandeenes was not hereditary. The system was extinct by the abolition of monarchy at each country.

New Model Army

In the English Civil War, senior officers from the landed gentry in the New Model Army who opposed the Levellers were informally termed the Grandees.
After the defeat of the King Charles I of England in the war, there were a series of debates and confrontations between the Levellers, whose members were known as Agitators, and the Grandees such as Sir Thomas Fairfax, Oliver Cromwell and Henry Ireton, who opposed the Agitators' more radical proposals. The disagreements were aired publicly at the Putney Debates, which started in late October 1647 and lasted for a couple of weeks.



grandee in Catalan: Grandesa d'Espanya
grandee in German: Granden
grandee in Spanish: Grandeza de España
grandee in Finnish: Espanjan grande
grandee in French: Grand d'Espagne
grandee in Korean: 그란데스 데 에스파냐
grandee in Polish: Grand (tytuł)
grandee in Portuguese: Grandeza
grandee in Romanian: Grande (titlu)

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

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