Page 342. " true nobility consists in virtue "

   A sentiment expressed several times throughout the novel, but totally at odds with a fundamental precept of early-modern Spanish society.  After the culmination of the Reconquista with the mass-expulsion of Muslims and Jews, Spain was united as a Christian kingdom, those of other faiths forced to either relocate or convert.  A movement gathered momentum from the fifteenth-century onwards to exclude from positions of power or authority anyone who could not prove they were descended of pure, Old Christian lineage.  This insistence on 'limpeza de sangue' made nobility a matter of blood rather than bearing, prejudice upheld by royal decree and enforced by the Inquisition.  In the course of Don Quixote we not only meet characters from various walks of life whose behaviour disparages such hard and fast distinctions of class, but even one or two who do the same for race (See note to page 853).