The State Council of Spain

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  • 0:01 Spain's Council of State
  • 0:37 History
  • 2:05 Duties
  • 3:53 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Christopher Sailus

Chris has an M.A. in history and taught university and high school history.

In this lesson, we explore the State Council of Spain. In existence in some form since the 16th century, this lesson will detail the body's history, composition, and duties.

Spain's Council of State

Every so often, everyone needs a little advice. If you've ever had a child or thought of renting an apartment or buying a home, you've probably asked your parents for advice. Similarly, when thinking about whether or not to attend university or college, you probably asked your teachers or guidance counselors for some help. Indeed, everyone, including the highest of government ministers, needs advice now and again. In Spain, the Council of State exists to give that advice about any issue that appears before it. In this lesson, we'll explore the history, composition, and duties of Spain's Council of State.


Variations of the Council of State have existed since the 16th century, when it was first created by the Spanish King Charles I as a personal advisory board. The Council itself was a rather impromptu organization. There were no necessary qualifications to be picked for it, though it was normally made up of the king's closest friends and trusted advisors. The members of the Council did not have any regular duties. They advised the king on matters of his choosing when he chose to ask for their opinion, and their opinion had no binding effect on the king's decision making - he could either choose to use their advice or ignore it. Not exactly a 'council' as we would think of it, right?

Over time, however, as liberals and other activists achieved a small amount of devolution of power from the monarchy to the legislature in the 19th century, the Council of State took on increased importance. The short-lived 1812 Constitution of Spain, for instance, required the king to ask for the Council of State's advice on all matters of serious importance to the Spanish state. This constitution, however, was overthrown only two years later and the monarchy resumed ruling without any restrictions on its power.

It took over 150 years after the 1812 Constitution for the Council of State to be included as a permanent fixture in the Spanish government, with clearly defined duties and structure. The 1978 Constitution declared Spain a constitutional monarchy and made the Council of State the supreme consultative body of the Spanish government.


The number of councilors at any one time varies because of who is allowed to sit on the council. For example, anyone who has served as the President of the Government is allowed to serve on the Council of State as long as they express their desire to do so. In addition, there are 10 elected directors, each of whom is appointed for a 4-year term, which may not be renewed. However, not anyone like you or me can be appointed to the Council of State! No, in order to be appointed to the Council of State, someone must have served in a high position in either Spanish or European government. Those who can serve include people who have been members of the General Council of the Judiciary, judges of the Constitutional Court, foreign ambassadors, and other important positions.

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