So, here is some of the information which informed my desire for a Carta Ejecutoria de Hidalguia.  At the core, what enchants me is the idea that these documents, and the lawsuits that they recorded, were about acknowledging nobility, not granting it for new deeds. This resonated with me, as the line I’ve heard repeatedly over the last 28 yrs is that the Crown doesn’t MAKE peers, it only recognizes them.

My understanding of how the process worked is that the person/family instigated the process, usually because the local authorities were trying to charge them taxes. There were specific rules about how the testimony process went – some came from other people who were already acknowledged as noble, and some from commoners. There were traditional ways to present the testimony – the boilerplate language. My understanding is the person/family would state their ancestry, and that their ancestors were noble.  Then the person giving testimony identified themselves and their rank, how they knew the person they were testifying about, and then described proof of their nobility. Repeat for all the testimony. The clerk/officials of the town/region would describe how the person/family was mentioned in the official documents. I’m not sure if the lawyer then summed it up with a request to the Chancilleria to issue a Carta Ejecutoria.  People signed – lots of them. They signed that they were witnesses, or notaries, or judges, etc. The submitted request was a pruebas de hidalguia.

The Chancilleria at Valladolid or Granada, (who had been designated by the crown via law & custom to handle this type of issue) would then review the submitted material. They might call for more documentation, or reinterview some of the people.  Then they would issue a decree in the name of the crown(s) stating the person was noble.

The general form of the beginning of the document was “Don Carlos (Lord King & Queen name), by the grace of god king of Spain, and Aragon, and Castille, and Leon, (they got down to naming the overseas colonies). From there, I have trouble – because many of the online images of Cartas only include the pretty decorated pages. I don’t actually know what else the standard decree said, other than including the name.  I’m assuming it would also restate the various privileges, and give some sort of warning about ignoring this decree, and that the document would be signed and sealed. All the testimony would be attached. Signatures were very flourishy. A few blank leaves at the end was fairly common.

From there, the decree went to the professional scribes, so the family to have a copy. The quality of the documents, made by artists at the request of the family who wanted them for their records, depended on the price they were willing to pay.

Many times, there is a full page illumination with a religious icon (Mary, cross, etc) and the petitioner and his family in the foreground. This is very much like how many books of hours begin. Then the next page would have the beginning of the royal decree, and might have some type of image of nobility – often a man on horseback in battle, and/or some heraldry. These were often each half of the page, with some of the words of the decree slipped in. Occasionally, there would be a historiated initial – either of the king/queen, or the person in question. Another style had lots of penwork squiggles – this is what I like the most.

Many texts were written in Gothic Rotunda, with Roman Capitals for the names and other headings. The decree portion was nicer, and had more decorated initials. When the scribes got to the portion of copying testimony, they still, in general, used Roman Capitals for names, but the overall quality of the writing was less, as this was just copying of legal testimony.

It would appear that the vellum sheets on which the Cartas were copied were like medieval legal pads. They seem to be very uniform, with each sheet generally about 21-22 cm wide (range 19 – 25) and 31-33 cm tall  (range 27-35). They were pre-ruled with a single column, with double lines forming the left & right margins (with a lot of white space for the margin), and often a double line for the top. The pages had 25-40 lines per page.These pre-ruled lines could be in red, green, blue, purple, or black. Above the copied text, some type of pen flourish would be added, to prevent illicit additions of testimony. The usual form was 3 single or double slanted lines, with occasional variations. At the end of the page, there would be pen flourishes to prevent changes as well. Writing went from margin to margin, and words were split up as necessary.

Illuminations or decorated initials would be added over the pre-ruled lines. Pen flourishes in Red and Blue (sometimes purple) could decorate initial letters or just fill in around the text block. There is gold illumination in some, again, it depended upon what the family was willing to pay.

Rarely, when you search for Cartas Ejecutorias, you will find a wall mount type copy, with just the royal decree. These seem to be mostly actual grants of nobility for services rendered, usually in the new world. There are several examples of this type of document where one of the conquistadors is ennobled.

But the usual form was a multi-page document. Many of them had limp vellum bindings, with a multicolord cord (fingerlooped) stitching the leaves together, and the lead seal was attached to that. A fair number of these documents now have a gilt leather binding, but this is usually a later binding. There is at least one example of a decorated box, that the document and seal fit inside.

It was important for the family to keep these documents. In a number of them, you will find additional notes added on the blank leaves, which recorded further legal issues where the document was useful.

As you can tell, while I understand the basic form of the Cartas Ejecutoria de Hidalguia, there are a lot of details about the actual verbiage I don’t know.

How I thought this could play out in SCA terms:
Ancestry is stating the nobility of the SCA family – Alan, Susannah, Eadward, etc, and the Crowns that recognized them.
Testimony from the clerk of the precedence about what awards are recorded for me, and the Crowns that gave them.
Instead of Spain, list Calontir, and the baronies, and all the groups.
Have testimony from Alan and others about my noble qualities.
The freedom from taxation by local officials should be included, and the right to choose beheading instead of hanging for treason just has to be in there.

If there is time for some court shtick, we could have Alan and possibly a lawyer type present a preliminary Preubas de Hidalguia at Spring Fling or Horse & Falcon. (Horse & Falcon would be better, IMHO, because it would be closer to Lilies.) Alan could mention there were certain legal questions that needed to be cleared up in regard to taxes or a civil suit.  Then at the opening court, Alan (& lawyer) could be called back, and the Crown could suggest that while the papers seem to be in order, additional testimony would be accepted during the vigil that night.

Uji (a lawyer and herald/bard) is willing to help people compose testimony during the vigil, and I just need to recruit some scribes to help record it. If people didn’t have any specific thing they wanted to say, they could just state their name and identify themselves, and that they support this request for a decree.

Having the vigil book combined with the greater document would make it even cooler. I’d also like the written portions of the elevation ceremony added into the document as well.

I realize that adding stuff to court can make it longer, but it can also make it more interesting. I have faith that Alan/lawyer & the Crown could come up with something short but amusing.

I didn’t want to call for scribes to help during the vigil until I know if this type of scenario is acceptable to all the pertinent parties. So I need a clear yes or no. I have faith that scribes can be acquired.

HL Aline (a lawyer) had agreed to help with legal research about the actual language used in the Cartas and the testimony. Uji & Rhodri volunteered to help write text as well. I haven’t asked Fernando & Lyriel to help as of yet, but they would be a great option, with both Spanish language and legal skill in the same household.  HL Kate Deveraux of York is willing to bind the document.

I’m not sure that Aline wants to do the C&I, but I haven’t gone looking for other scribal types yet. I consider Mistress Fionnualla a friend, but I realize she may have other responsibilities with their Highnesses household. Mistress Jehanne, from here in Lonely Tower, and Mistress Suzanne de la Ferte, both have done late period work as well, and are friends. The most tedious job would be ruling all the pages.

I really am not that interested in a full page illumination. Perhaps a historiated initial (w/ Martino & Ariel) or maybe a half page illumination. I fully understand the desire to model a scroll after the historic examples.

But what I really love is the fancy penwork. Something like this:

The earlier documents are more about the penwork, while later into the 16th C, the illumination starts to control the design of the documents.

I have additional resources pinned
I’m working on a more comprehensive analysis of the format of the Cartas I can find. But while my analysis is by no means complete, I’m confident in the size of the sheets and the ruling style. I’m putting the analysis here from time to time:

In Service,
Eleanor Deyeson

Additional Resources
(includes background of the process – in Spanish)
A fairly choppy translation with google translate:
Perhaps the oldest standard is Law XVIII Of Title V of Book I of the Charter Viejo de Castilla, which reads:”This is Law of Castilla, that if some ome that is not contradicted Hidalgo, and this contradicts dijer who it is, Debese facer Hidalgo five witnesses, three nobles, and the two farmers, or two and three laborers Fifalgos without swearing. And this said, those say, Belo hear the Prosecutor, which is given to love the parties, the parties love being in front. Email this should turn the faithful witness said the Mayor, who judges the lawsuit, and for nine days this term an “Also:
The process established to prove the possession and ownership of the nobility will continue, preventing the possession of the nobility without sufficient reasons are presuming. (Act IV. Don Fernando and Dona Isabel in Cordoba pragmatics of May 30, 1492), in which the mode of procedure and test of nobility in lawsuits possession and ownership of it is set. This is of enormous importance Pragmatics in the area of the proofs of nobility. It states, inter alia, that:
“Command and order that henceforth each and quando that anyone who dixere hijodalgo, plead, seyendo any actor or criminal, on his nobility to the Mayors and Notary Hijosdalgo Province Or before the Judges in the degree that might know, and proves entirely if seyendo married, or living on whether, and his father and grandfather in the way that the laws of our kingdoms and pragmatic hold it; This may be pronounced, and been given by hidalgo in possession and property. ”

Standards take   testimony of witnesses with safeguards to avoid falsehoods, in order to avoid false testimony caused by fear. (Act XI. Don Carlos and Dona Juana Toledo to December 4, 1528)

This letter is the final judgment of Charles I on the case put forward by Francisco de Santillana, attorney of Gonzalo de la Torre, regarding Gonzalo’s nobility and ownership of his family’s land in the town of Buitrago.

Recoge las declaraciones de los testigos que afirman que dicho vecino es hijosdalgo y no pechero y descendiente de casa solariega

Collects the statements of witnesses who claim that the neighbor is not a commoner, but noble descendant of an ancestral house.

Hidalgos de sangre (by virtue of lineage) are “those for whom there is no memory of its origin and there is no knowledge of any document mentioning a royal grant, which obscurity is universally praised even more than those noblemen who know otherwise their origin”. When challenged, an hidalgo de sangre may obtain a judicial sentence validating his nobility from the Royal Chancillería of Valladolid or Granada, if he can prove that it has been accepted local society and custom.

Letters patent of nobility, or Carta executoria, both established noble lineage and served as tangible evidence of nobility, which had tremendously practical implications beyond social standing. During the early modern period in Spain the nobility and the clergy formed an estate far removed from the rest of the population. The property of the nobility was exempt from taxation and protected from civil suits. Nobles could not be imprisoned for indebtedness, or tortured (except for treason), and if sentenced to execution had the option of decapitation rather than hanging. The proportion of the population which could make a claim to nobility varied by geography – in the north as much as fifty percent of the inhabitants could claim noble blood, whereas in the recently conquered south, the nobility was no more than a thin one percent of the population.

Traslado de una ejecuttoría Ganada en la Real Chançillería de Granada a Pedimento de Andres Blazquez sobre el Prebilejío de hidalguia.\\"\\nAndrés Blasquez wishes to have his claim to nobility (i.e., his hidalguía) confirmed and here presents his substantiating case to the authorities in the audiencia of Granada.