Spanish Court Etiquette

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Oct 4, 2012
South Africa
Hi, everyone.

Not sure this is the best place to post this question, but maybe you can point me in the right direction.

I'm working on a production of Calderon's The Mayor of Zalamea and desperately trying to find out more information about etiquette in Spain during the time of the play (written in 1636). I'm specifically trying to find out how men and women (of all ranks) would behave towards the King. In the last scene of the play, the King comes to visit the town of Zalamea (I believe the King at that time was Philip IV of the House of Habsburg) and we need to find out how people would bow, for instance. For some reason it's really hard to find out how women would curtsey.

Would you be able to help me out? Anything would be really appreciated, even if you have some vague idea of a book I could go in search for.

Thanks very much!

Here's a series of articles about the Spanish court etiquette at the court of Vienna.

From the second article: The emperor "was due the tiefe Reverentz or ‘Spanish reverence’: as a symbol of submission before His Imperial Majesty, courtiers made a deep bow on bended knee."

In the article on
the author explains, similarily to what is explained on the other website, that there never was a fixed manual of court etiqutte but that there were experts who were trained for years in understanding the sense and function the etiquette had and to work out a ceremonial form for certain events.

Only after 1650 these ceremonial structures were written down into protocolls which were used by the experts then as a help to create a new ceremonial event.

This is a very interesting point as it shows the etiquette never was meant to be static, but to be adapted to changing situations.

So maybe you should go into more research how the author meant the situation to be for the king and then think up your own ceremony in order to convey what the author meant.
Dear Kataryn,

Thank you so much for your reply and for your help. You've given me some great leads as to the direction in which I should take the work. Very much appreciated!

When King Philip V of Spain's first wife, Queen Marie Louise was dying, the doctors filed past her and examined her from a distance. Court and royal etiquette forbade them to touch the Queen.
In The Habsburgs, Martyn Rady declared:
The formal adoption of Burgundian court practices in Spain took place in 1548 and was preceded by several weeks of retraining for household staff.
I have a question that falls more under the category of language than protocol, but it seems appropriate to ask it in this forum.

When addressing the King of Spain or a member of the Spanish Royal Family, should I use second-person plural verb forms and pronouns, or should I address them as Vuestra Majestad/ Vuestra Alteza Real followed by third-person singular verb forms and pronouns?

I noticed that King Felipe VI addressed his father and also Queen Elizabeth II (when he was speaking in Spanish at the 2017 state visit banquet) using 2nd person plural verb forms and pronouns, i.e. as if he was addressing them by Vosotros, which would be normal for example in modern French, but is a more archaic form of address, I think, in modern Spanish (at least when addressing a single person). I wonder if using 3rd person address, as is more usual in modern Spanish, would be acceptable for royalty.
I think it depends on how close a person is to the King and Queen of Spain or another member of the royal family.
For an ordinary person who is not close to the royal family should address the King and Queen as "Your Majesty", for the sake of politeness.
To address the Princess of Asturias or an Infanta of Spain, you must address "Highness". I've seen journalists when they ask the Infantas questions call them Highness, so they follow protocol.
But ordinary citizens sometimes address members of the royal family simply by name when they are called, but often also use "Majestad" and "Alteza".
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