Royal Favourites in Spain

Douglas Hilt describes how Privados - favoured courtiers in early modern Spain - often became figures of strength for the monarch and agents of stability in the peninsula.

A constant factor among nations is that when they begin to regard a favourite unkindly, they never manage to contain gossip within the limits of truth. Not only do they grossly exaggerate his vices, but also invent those that he does not have and remain silent regarding his virtues.

The impossibility of venting their anger with their hands causes their tongues to spew forth as much poison as their imagination can possibly conceive. That is why, generally speaking, I think that to reach a prudent judgement on favourites one ought at least to discount half of the wicked things said about them.

Fray Benito Feijóo (1676-1764), Teatro crítico

Who were these favourites? What was their origin? A privado - also contemptuously dubbed a valido by those passed over for promotion - was often a commoner or hidalgo (minor noble) who fortuitously had caught the eye of the King or Queen.

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