Italy and Spain loom large in early Gothic stories. The first Gothic novel, “The Castle of Otranto” is set in Italy (although the described setting does not resemble the actual town of Otranto, or it’s real castle). Many other English authors followed suit; both in location, and casual approach to accuracy. Spain, on the other hand, is the setting for Lewis’ “The Monk”, Potocki’s “The Manuscript Found in Saragossa”, and countless tales focused on the supposed horrors of the Catholic Church.
A branch of the House of Bourbon has reigned in Spain since 1700, when the last Habsburg King of Spain (Charles II) died without an heir. The continued existence of the Spanish Inquisition gave 18th century Spain a reputation (in Britain and France at least) for being culturally backward, and out of step with the Enlightenment. The question of Spaniards importing French fashion and culture was a major source of social conflict throughout the 18th century.
Italy was not a unified nation in the period from 1765 to 1820. The Italian Peninsula was occupied instead by a patchwork of rival monarchies and republics. The cultural area that could be considered “Italian” had very fuzzy borders. The republic of Venice extended along the coast of modern Croatia, and the Republic of Ragusa (modern Dubrovnik) had a culture that mixed Croatian and Venetian influences. Nonetheless, it was already common in the 18th century to see the area of the Italian Peninsula marked as “Italy” on maps, and the people who inhabited it were generally considered to be a single ethnicity that spoke different dialects of one language.
Both Spain and the states of Italy were distinguished by the strong political influence of the Catholic Church, so it was perhaps inevitable that writers from Protestant Britain would malign both regions as benighted lands of cruelty, decadence, and supernatural evil!
As with the discussions of French, English, German, and Hungarian nobility, the presentation here is greatly simplified for game purposes.
Random Spanish Aristocrats, in Ascending Precedence (d100)
1 – 25 | Hildalgo or Hildalga (Untitled Aristocracy)
26 – 30 | Infanzon (Untitled Aristocracy)
31– 35 | Escudero (Esquire)
36 – 49 | Caballero (Hereditary Knight)
40 – 41 | Orden de Calatrava (Knight of the Order of Calatrava) [Roll again for additional title]
42 – 43 | Order of Alcántara (Knight of the Order of Alcántara) [Roll again for additional title]
44 – 45 | Orde de Santiago (Knight or Dame of the Order of Santiago) (Male and Female membership) [Roll again for additional title]
46 – 47 | Real y Distinguida Orden Española de Carlos III (Knight of the Royal and Distinguished Spanish Order of Carlos III) [Roll again for additional title]
48 – 49 | Orden del Toisón de Oro (Knight of the Order of the Golden Fleece) (Style: His Excellency) [Roll again for additional title]
50 – 59 | Don or Doña (Lord or Lady) (Style: His Lordship or Her Ladyship)
60 – 67 | Señor or Señora (Lord or Lady) (Style: His Lordship or Her Ladyship)
68 – 69 | Barón or Baronesa (Baron or Baroness) (This title is held only by Catalonian nobles) (Style: His Lordship or Her Ladyship)
70 – 74 | Vizconde or Vizcondesa (Viscount or Viscountess) (Style: His [or Her] Illustriousness)
75 – 84 | Conde or Condesa (Count or Countess) (Style: His [or Her] Illustriousness)
85 – 90 | Marqués or Marquesa (Marquis or Marquise) (Style: His [or Her] Illustriousness)
91 | Barón or Baronesa, Grandee of Spain (Baron or Baroness. Catalan only) (Style: His [or Her] Excellency)
92 | Vizconde or Vizcondesa, Grandee of Spain (Viscount or Viscountess) (Style: His [or Her] Excellency)
93 – 94 | Conde or Condesa, Grandee of Spain (Grand Count or Countess) (Style: His [or Her] Excellency)
95 – 97 | Marqués or Marquesa, Grandee of Spain (Marquis or Marquise) (Style: His [or Her] Excellency)
98 – 100 | Duque or Duquesa (Duke or Duchess) (Style: His [or Her] Excellency)
Notes about Spanish titles:
- A distinction is made between ordinary titled nobility, and the “Grandees of Spain” (who enjoy immunity from taxation and arrest by ordinary authorities, among other privileges). A noble who is a Grandee outranks a noble of any title who is not a Grandee. All Spanish Dukes are also Grandees of Spain
- The distinction between Grandees and other nobility was abolished under King Joseph Bonaparte, but reinstated after the re-ascension of Ferdinand VII.
Spanish Nobility is addressed with “Don” (Lord) or “Doña” (Lady) before their given names.
- Grandees of the 18th century use the Style “His [or Her] Excellency”. For example, “Her Excellency, Doña Maria de Aguanera y de Oscuro, Marquesa of Zondo”.
- The system of Spanish surnames is notoriously tricky for non-Spaniards. A fictional Spanish aristocrat should have two surnames – the first being the first surname of their father, and the second being the first surname of their mother. Often, the two surnames will be distinguished from each other by the conjunction “y”. Aristocratic Spanish ladies do not change their surnames after marriage, but may indicate the first of their husband’s surnames after their own, with the conjunction “de”.
- Eighteenth century Spanish nobility will occasionally (but not consistently) use “de” as an ennobling particle before their surnames.
Random Italian Aristocrats, in Ascending Precedence (d100)
1 – 15 | Patrizio or Patrizia (Patrician) (Otherwise untitled urban aristocracy)
16 – 20 | Cavaliere or Dama (Hereditary Knight or Dame)
21 | Knight of the Order of the Blood of Jesus Christ (Conferred by the House of Gonzaga) [Roll again for additional title]
22 – 23 | Sacro Militare Ordine di Santo Stefano Papa e Martire (Knight of the Order of Saint Stephan Pope and Martyr) (Conferred by the Duke of Tuscany) [Roll again for additional title]
24 – 25 | Ordine Supremo della Santissima Annunziata (Knight of the Supreme Order of the Most Holy Annunciation) (Conferrred by the King of Sardinia) [Roll again for additional title]
26 – 27 | Insigne Reale Ordine di San Gennaro (Knight of the Illustrious Royal Order of Saint Januarius) (Conferred by the King of Naples and Sicily; King of the Two Sicilies after 1816) [Roll again for [Roll again for additional title]
28 – 29 | Sacro militare ordine costantiniano di San Giorgio (Knight of the Sacred Military Constantinian Order of Saint George) (Conferred by the King of Naples and Sicily; King of the Two Sicilies after 1816) [Roll again for additional title]
30 – 31 | Ordine dei Santi Maurizio e Lazzaro (Knight of the Order of Saints Maurice and Lazarus) (Conferrred by the King of Sardinia) [Roll again for additional title]
32 – 33 | Ordo Equestris Sancti Sepulcri Hierosolymitani (Knight of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem) (Conferred by the Pope) [Roll again for additional title]
34 – 35 | Knight of Malta (The Order of Malta is a sovereign entity) [Roll again for additional title]
36– 39 | Ordine dello Speron d’Oro (Order of the Golden Spur) (Conferred by the Pope)
40 – 43 | Signore or Signora (Lord or Lady) (Minor landed aristocracy)
44 – 49 | Nobile (Untitled son or daughter of a titled nobleman. Can also be a title unto itself.)
50 – 59 | Barone or Baronessa (Baron or Baroness)
60 – 69 | Visconte or Viscontessa (Viscount or Viscountess)
70 – 79 | Conte or Contessa (Count or Countess)
80 – 89 | Marchese or Marchesa (Marquis or Marquise)
90 – 95 | Duca or Duchessa (Duke or Duchess)
96 – 100 | Princepe or Princepessa (Prince or Princess)
Notes about Italian titles:
- Unlike French and British titles, Italian titles do not always carry a geographical signifier. One can be a Conte, for example, without being Conte of any place in particular.
- Italian nobles are addressed with the honorific “Don” (Lord) or “Donna” (Lady) before the name.
- Sovereign nobility (those who rule a state) also use their Style “Altezza” (Highness) before the name.
- The titles “Princepe” and “Princepessa” are more common in Italy than elsewhere, and do not necessarily indicate familial relation to a King or Queen.
- Italian nobles often (but not consistently) use the particles “de” (of) or “di” (from) before their surname, although neither automatically indicates aristocratic status.
- Italian titles can originate in grants from The Pope (who reigned as King of the central Italian Papal State), the Holy Roman Empire (of which most of Northern Italy was nominally a part), and Spain (which controlled the larger part of Italy from the 16th to 18th centuries), as well as from native secular authority. Additionally, Italians who supported Napoleon may possess Napoleonic titles of nobility.
- Napoleon was not ethnically French, but Italian. He was born “Napoleone Buonaparte” in Corsica, and his family were aristocrats of Florentine origin. Before declaring himself Emperor of the French, he bore the Italian title “Nobile”.
The Gothic Trope of the “Wicked Italian”
Italy was the required destination for affluent young Englishmen undertaking their “Grand Tour”, and the peninsula acquired a strikingly dual reputation in the British imagination. On one hand it was “Sunny Italy”, where the weather was warm and the living was (supposedly) easy. On the other hand, it was considered a decadent and haunted land thick with ghosts and banditti, where the ruins of an ancient past were always visible. To the Englishman of the late Georgian and Regency eras, it was Italy, not Transylvania, that was home to the world’s evil. For example, the high degree of sexual liberation enjoyed by wealthy wives in much of Italy was often remarked upon by English travelers, usually to demonstrate the place’s immorality relative to England. Lady Jersey may have had done the horizontal fandango with half of London, but in Italy there was a whole class of handsome young men who made their livings as live-in cicisbeos and cavalier serventes to upper class ladies. The dark reputation of the Italian aristocracy (and clergy) was not confined to England either. No less a person than the Marquis de Sade purported to be shocked by the immorality he witnessed in Italy! Furthermore, the complicated political situation of the Italian states (and the many possible sources of titles) made fraudulently claiming to be an Italian noblemen (or noblewoman) a relatively easy scam to perpetrate. The wicked Italian of dubious morality therefore became a stock character of Gothic novels, much as the Transylvanian nobleman would become after the publication of “Dracula”.