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The Role of the Valido

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A letter sent from King Philip IV explains the purpose of the valido to court life, “What he [the principle minister] is ordinarily required to do is to hear ministers and petitioners so that he can tell his chief what they want. He is also to follow up the matters of most importance and see that what has been decided is carried out promptly. That is something necessary at any time, but most of all at present when it is so important that decisions are put into effect without delay. This is something that cannot easily be left for the king to do in person, because it would not be compatible with his dignity to go from house to house to see if ministers and secretaries are carrying out promptly what they have been ordered. But with the information passed on to him by his most trusted ministers and servants he can order what needs to be done and know whether it has been done.” 1 The king’s letter puts the role of the valido in straightforward language. They are to act as an intermediary in the affairs of the court so that the king is not burdened with chores that do not befit his rank.  In a play by Lope de Vega the character of John the Baptist was intended to represent the role of the kings favorite, “I am His Angels, as He calls me in the book of you law, the shadow of His Sun. Although the shadow comes after the light, I am the Shadow that announces that only He is the light and God. It is more important to name Him who comes after me. The King is God, I am a man, and i come here to lodge Him in you.” 2 The Lupe de Vega version of the role of the valido puts the favorite as the conveyor of the will of the king and the second half, albiet lesser half, of the ruler. In religious terms the valido is being put in the place as a saint, a paragon of God’s will and works.

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  1. J.H Elliott and L.W.B. Brockliss, The World of the Favorite (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1999), 16.
  2. Antonio Feros, Kingship and Favoritism in the Spain of Philip III, 1598-1621 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), 104.

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