Fidalgo, which in Portuguese comes from the expression filho de algo is a term that means “son of something or someone” and used to be a noble title brought to Portuguese society in the 15th century. Until then the same title was infanção or homem-livre (free man) and it used to describe juridically all of those who had lineage and social status but could or not be (more the later one) the direct successors on heritage of property.
Having the name it's origins in Castille it doesn't necessarily means the same in Spanish. In fact the spanish term Hidalgo, although with the same etymological origin, means only a lower noble while in Portugal they where part of the higher nobility, even in some cases be part of the King's Council.
The Fidalguia was a social class on its' own and every king since the 15th century classified them differently. But one thing that they all had in common was the fact that these fidalgos where men and women (Fidalgas = filhas de algo, “daughters of something”) of importance specially in rural Portugal and people to turn to, just like in a classical feudalistic society, whenever there would be issues or disputes to be resolved. A person which such a title would always have his or her opinion taken in account and would be respected members of society.
Having said that, it is necessary to understand this in the light of the early 19th century where the Fidalgo could assume different categories.
There would be the Fidalgo, just like the ones from the 15th century, that had that title given to them by lineage, inherited by the father's or mother's side. On the other hand there were the Fidalgos that where given this title, even being common people, for exemplar services recognized by the Crown. For these to be recognized as Lineage Nobility they had to proof that the same title was given 4 successors back (Fidalgo de solar conhecido).
There would be Fidalgos that would take part of the King's Council, as said before, chosen by the ruler himself to be advisors on political matters and State Affairs..A close group of men with enormous influence and who's rank would be coveted by many, since to them would be given the same privileges as Earls. Every Fidalgo chosen to be part of this restricted “club” would see automatically the title being inherited by their descendants and , thus, being part of Portuguese nobility.
All of this changed when King João the 6th returned from his self imposed exile in Brazil in 1821 and the King's Council was remodeled to State Council after the Constitutional Assemblies of 1820.
Now, the fun part! There's also a recipe called Fidalguinhos (little Fidalgos). Pictures of this and more you can find it under:
Fidalguinhos de Braga:
- 300g of flour
- 100g of sugar
- 50g of butter
- 2 whole eggs
- 2 egg iogs
- 1 tea spoon of cinnamon
- Lemon zest
Mix everything together and let the doe rest for 1 hour. Then you make little thin roles with the doe that you curve in the middle. Take them into a preheated oven, in medium temperature, for a few minutes until they are golden.