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  • El Marqués de Velada y la corte en los reinados de Felipe II y Felipe III: Nobleza cortesana y cultura política en la España del Siglo de Oro
  • Elizabeth R. Wright
Santiago Martínez Hernández, El Marqués de Velada y la corte en los reinados de Felipe II y Felipe III: Nobleza cortesana y cultura política en la España del Siglo de Oro. Salamanca: Junta de Castilla y León, 2004. 650 pp.

This meticulously documented study of the fifty-year court career of the second Marquis of Velada (Gómez Dávila y Toledo) offers a compelling case study of the reorientation of aristocratic culture from its late-medieval emphasis on arms to identities forged through bookish knowledge and courtly social practices. By so doing, it fulfills a desideratum of early modern studies. From the time that Stephen Greenblatt introduced the paradigm of Renaissance self fashioning, prominent literary critics and historians have called for studies that would show how royal power shaped specific individual lives in concrete social contexts. For studies of early modern Spain, this need has been particularly acute, given that the most influential theories of court societies and courtly social practices emerged from research anchored in the English and French courts. This weighty book charts a court career that spanned from 1568 to 1616. Scholars of court culture who devote time to it will glean valuable insights about the changing relationship between reading habits and social practice in the long sixteenth century. Divided into three parts, the study does lend itself well to partial readings. For instance, Part I stands alone as a study of the court of Philip II. Parts II and III chart faction politics in the court of Philip III and his favorite, the Duke of Lerma.

In the Introduction, the author charts the state of the field in a programmatic [End Page 450] manner that attests to the project's origins as a doctoral dissertation. Part I, "Linaje, familia y amistad," provides extensive background information designed to lay the groundwork for the reconstruction of Velada's court career. For his analysis of the aristocrat's thinly documented early years, the author skillfully extrapolates information from treatises, family histories, prescriptive literature and poetry. So doing, the author provides valuable insights about the reorientation of aristocratic culture from arms to letters and from modes of expression rooted in orality to ones grounded in literacy. In common with other noble clans, this family shifted the focus of its educational practices and public actions from the caballería that evolved in the context of medieval Castile's frontier society to the cortesanía that would have a decisive impact on the shape of the Spanish monarchy and European court culture. Martínez, building on important work by Fernando Bouza, explores how this reorientation responded in large measure to pressures from social groups that Spain's aristocrats perceived as inferior. That is, the increasing bureaucracy that took shape as a result of the expansion of the Spanish monarchy provided new and unprecedented opportunities for power and upward mobility to university-educated men of relatively humble origins. Royal secretaries such as Francisco de los Cobos and Gonzalo Pérez exploited their position at the epicenter of the monarchy's expanding communications network to rise to great wealth and prominence. Martínez is particularly strong here as he analyzes concrete social practices that followed from these cultural shifts. He notes, in terms of educational practices, how the ayos who oversaw the physical training designed to inculcate the virtues of caballería in noblemen gave way to preceptors who focused more on reading, writing, and translation.

After an education in Avila, Velada entered the royal court through service in the household of the ill-starred Don Carlos. When this heir died after a tumultuous imprisonment, Velada retreated from court for a decade. Eventually, Philip II called him back to supervise the education of the future Philip III. Martínez offers some of his most compelling insight in this section. Philip II believed that Don Carlos's demise was due in large measure to the harmful influence of sycophantic companions. He thus...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1080-6598
Print ISSN
0026-7910
Pages
pp. 450-453
Launched on MUSE
2007-04-16
Open Access
No
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