The Carrillo de Albornoz family is among the oldest in Spain and its history can be traced back to the twelfth century. Belonging to the monarchy’s high aristocracy, the Carrillo de Albornoz family was deeply involved in governmental administration. However, they did not rise to the high nobility until de seventeenth century. In 1694, Pedro Antonio Carrillo de Albornoz y Esquivel de Guzmán became the first count of Montemar by the grace of Charles II who rewarded him for his commendable military service. After dying without succession, the title went to his brother Francisco, who passed it on to his son José Carrillo de Albornoz y Montiel. José became a war hero and was rewarded with the viceroyalty of Sicily, among other appointments. For his services, Phillip V granted him the Duchy of Montemar and the title of Grande de España (the highest nobility title in Spain) in 1735. After his death, the Grandeza de España and the dukedom were transferred to his only daughter Maria Magdalena Carrillo de Albornoz y Antich, but the earldom and its corresponding estate were transferred to his first male cousin, Diego Miguel Carrillo de Albornoz y de la Presa (IV count of Montemar). Diego Miguel was born in Lima in 1695 to Diego Bernardo Carrillo de Albornoz y Esquivel de Guzmán, born in Seville and with a brilliant military career, and Rosa María de Santo Domingo de la Presa y Manrique de Lara, born in Lima and descendant of prominent officials of the crown. This branch of the Carrillo de Albornoz family had arrived to Peru in the late seventeenth century, and all of them had occupied governmental positions. In 1723, Diego Miguel married Mariana Bravo de Lagunas y Villela, Lady of the Mirabel Castle, and they had eleven children: Rosa María, Diego José, Fernando, Juan Bautista, Clara María, Pedro José, Lucía, José, Juan Antonio, Manuel, and Isabel.
Most of the letters of the collection were written by Diego José Carrillo de Albornoz y Bravo de Lagunas and his brother Pedro. Diego became the fifth count of Montemar when his father Diego Miguel passed away in 1750. As first son, Diego José inherited the mayorazgo (i.e. the family’s estate inherited through primogeniture) from his father. A mayorazgo was a legal mechanism –sanctioned by royal decree- that prevented heirs from selling or distributing property in order to pass down the estate from generation to generation. This mechanism allowed the estate, and its economic and social capital, to remain unbroken within the family. The mayorazgo could also carry public appointments, which in Diego José's case meant an appointment as councilman of both Panamá and Lima, and also the ownership of the notary of Mar del Sur.
Diego José’s brother Fernando, who succeeded him as VI count of Montemar, was Alcalde de la Santa Hermandad (member of the Holy Brotherhood of Lima), councilman and, more importantly, judge auctioneer of the Ramo de Temporalidades, a coveted position in the viceroyalty. As judge auctioner, Fernando was guaranteed first-hand access to the Society of Jesus’ (i.e. the Jesuits’) properties, which were confiscated by the crown in 1767 when the order was expelled from Spanish America. Likewise, Fernando was an important landowner with properties that included the haciendas San Regis, San José, Hoja Redonda, and La Playa, most of them in Chincha (south of Lima). His marriage to Rosa de Salazar y Gabiño who became the countess of Monteblanco was an economic success because she brought to the marriage several properties from her dowry. Together, Fernando and Rosa owned more than a thousand slaves.
The Montemar collection also holds several letters written by Pedro Carrillo de Albornoz y Bravo de Lagunas, Diego José's brother. Pedro was colonel of the militias of Chancay (north of Lima) and the heir of his aunt Isabel de la Presa's properties in Lima. Among the internal family conflicts covered in the letters is a dispute between him and Diego over their Aunt's will that lasted for about a decade. Pedro married Josefa de Salazar y Gabiño, the second daughter of the count of Monteblanco and sister to Fernando´s wife. Through marriage he acquired the hacienda San Ildefonso de Guaito, where he produced sugar cane and held around six-hundred slaves. He also owned Quinta de la Presa in Lima, and a gunpowder mill.
Although the Carrillo de Albornoz family belonged to the nobility in Lima, they were active business people producing sugarcane and wine, and imported wheat from Chile. Fernando also imported mules from Tucumán in Río de la Plata and owned a bakery and a large warehouse in Bellavista, between Lima and the port of Callao. They also actively sought to acquire corregimientos, crown jurisdictions of ca. eight to fifteen parishes that provided a guaranteed source of income for the appointee. They were at different moments holding positions as corregidores of Aimaraes, Huanta, Huamanga, and Sica Sica, and the family also held a hereditary seat on the town council of Lima.
The letters from the Montemar collection offer a unique opportunity to access the world of noble families in Spanish America. The Carrillo de Albornoz family was well connected both by blood and by marriage with most of the prominent noble families in the viceroyalty and the peninsula. Moreover, through these connections they were also linked to crown officials both in Lima and in Madrid. As the letters show, Diego José was a regular at Madrid’s royal court. There he nurtured friendly relations with several prominent members of the council of Castile and the council of the Indies, including Pedro Rodríguez de Campomanes, Eugenio Salcedo, and Pedro Pablo Abarca de Bolea, count of Aranda among others. Diego José also nurtured friendly relations, and often visited other Limeño families, including the Valdelirios, who lived in Madrid at the time.