The Madrilenian society from the 18th
century is a stated society, with juridical rules similar to those of the
previous century. The nobility and the clergy continue with most of their
privileges, although they diminished numerically. Their power and their wealth
Neither all the nobility nor the whole
clergy had the same category. Among the nobles, there were some vastly rich,
with big territorial properties, who lived in Madrid although their birthplace
has been another.
On the other side there were the illustrious
come to less, some of which hardly had to eat. Something similar happened with
Although the political importance of the
nobility continued being important it was smaller than during the 17th century.
Now, the king directed the politics personally, taking decisions although he
consulted surrounded of people that he considered opportune, not always
belonging to the high nobility, there being a clear ascent of the illustrious
with university education.
The critic against the hereditary nobility
was more and more abundant, because difficultly could be justified its privilege
situation and permanent idleness.
Cadalso, in the 13th of his "Marruecas
Letters" defined it in this way "...
Hereditary nobility is the vanity that I am founded in that, eight hundred years
before my birth, somebody that called as myself died and although he was a
profit man, I am useless for everything."
This is not the only testimony that runs off
against this social group who not only didn't create any wealth but also who
consumed great quantity of goods.
But, the Bourbons Court was very different
from that of the Austrias. Those splendid parties that called the foreign
travellers attention finished.
Now, the etiquette is more rigid, the work
more frequent and abundant and the parties were reduced in number and duration.
The hunting was the only taste that, above all, both Charles maintained.
The noblemen, occupied the different
employments in charge of the king's direct service and were four the fundamental
positions who were in charge of these tasks: the Charitable Chief, the Steward
Chief, the Stableman Chief and the Sumillers.
The first one, used to be a cardinal or
bishop. On him depended the palace chapel and he was at the same time the Army's
General Vicar, being helped by different chaplains, preachers, singers, and so
The second one, was responsible for the
Royal House. He belonged to the highest nobility and he was the most important
official in palace. He supervised all relative to the life inside the Court,
included the administration.
The Stableman Chief prepared and controlled
the king's activities outdoors: displacements, hunting, etc.
Lastly, the Sumillers were in charge of the
good operation of the Royal Camera and the whole personnel of service: from the
doctors to the washerwomen depended on him.
The low nobility was very numerous. Some
authors affirm that twenty five per cent of the Madrilenian homes belonged to
the illustrious. Most of the components of this group had the pride to reject
the manual work. They preferred living with shortage to work with their hands.
In 1783 and against this situation, it was
approved a decree which allowed to gain admittance to the nobility to whom
demonstrates that, along three generations carried out a mercantile or
industrial activity of public utility.
The clergy, was diminishing numerically
along the century, spending of the population's four per cent by the middle of
century to almost two per cent at the end of it.
Madrid was not a very excellent city from
the point of view of the religious organization. It belonged to Toledo diocese,
and the cardinal-archbishop of that city was the one that nominated the
ecclesiastical post and gave instructions.
In spite of it, the Madrilenian clergy
continued having great influence in the city. They controlled a great part of
the urban surface and the parishes, from the medieval time, configured the
administrative structure of the city.
Around the parishes a numerous group of
people were living beside the clergymen, vergers, acolytes, bellringers,
gravediggers and several more people. Most of the churches had some interesting
sums received, coming from their properties and the payment for the religious
services that they render.
Most of the religious orders had their
convents in Madrid. Frequently, it was the most important of all those of that
religious order in Spain. On monks and nuns' hands were hospitals and charity
institutions, as well as most of the educational and cultural centers.
These Madrilenians religious orders - monks
and nuns - distributed some 30.000 portions of soup daily between the poor
people of the city.
The Jesuits' expulsion not only from Madrid
but from Spain was an extraordinary event. They had been also expelled from
Portugal and France. Their power and influence was enormous. They controlled the
education and great part of the culture. Among this, they were the confessors of
almost all the nobility and they were devoted to the business, loans, etc.
Probably, one of the factors that more
influenced on it was their participation in revolts against Esquilache. In 1767,
on the 1st of April, the monks abandoned, before many Madrilenians's incredulous
eyes, the six big buildings they had in the city.
Copyright © 1999 by JLL
All rights reserved