Come fall, 85-year-old Cayetana Fitz-James Stuart, the Duchess of Alba and possessor of more aristocratic titles than anyone else in the world, will marry Alfonso Diez, making the commoner the Duke of Alba.
Doña María del Rosario Cayetana Fitz-James Stuart y Silva, 18th Duchess of Alba de Tormes, Grandee of Spain, is the current head of the House of Alba and the third woman to carry the title in her own right.
The Duchess is a descendant of King James VII of Scotland, through his illegitimate son James Fitz-James, Duke of Berwick (1670–1734), born of a relationship with Arabella Churchill, only sister of the great Duke of Marlborough, making her a distant relative of both Sir Winston Churchill and Diana, Princess of Wales, descendants of Arabella’s daughter Henrietta Fitz-James. She entered Vanity Fair’s International Best-Dressed List in 2009.
The Spanish aristocrat has 46 titles, according to Reuters, as she is a duchess, a countess and a marquesa several times over. Spanish Vanity Fair reports that her wealth is valued at an estimated at nearly $4.9 billion and when combined, her property is 170 times the size of Monaco.
She has lots of privileges: for example, the Duchess has the right to enter the Cathedral in Seville riding a horse and she has the right not to bow her knee to the Pope.
But having so many titles and so much money she is still limited in her actions: the Duchess cannot marry anyone she chooses. At first she needs to receive the approval of her six children, all of whom, as the Duchess likes to point out, are divorced.
On October 12, 1947, the Duchess married Don Pedro Luis Martinez de Irujo y Artacoz (1919–1972), son of the Duke of Sotomayor. The wedding was considered to be the last great feudal wedding in Spain and attracted the attention of the international media, even overshadowing interest shown in the wedding of The Princess Elizabeth of the United Kingdom (later Queen Elizabeth II), which was held a month later.
The French newspaper Libération called it “the most expensive wedding of the world”; rumour has it that 20 million pesetas were spent at that time. Six children were born of this marriage, all of whom have received titles of nobility with that of Grandee of Spain from their mother.
After losing her first husband Luis Martinez de Irujo in 1972, the Duchess spent time with a variety of eligible male matadors and flamenco dancers and eventually tied the knot with the much-younger Jesus Aguirre, an ex-priest, reported People back in the Seventies.
At that time the press named this union “the marriage that astounded Spain.”
Now Cayetana has made headlines yet again for a third marriage, this time to Diez. The 61-year-old civil servant is 25 years younger than his well-heeled fiance, reports Reuters. He does not possess any noble titles.
The couple at first expressed the desire to get married in 2008. But then King Juan Carlos called the Duchess to talk her out of such a “discrediting” marriage.
Beyond the couple’s age gap, the controversy over their proposed union centers on Cayetana’s children’s disapproval. Reuters reports that the Duchess’ son Cayetano Martinez de Irujo, the Duke of Salvatierra, expressed displeasure at having only met Diez three times, especially because he will become the Duke of Alba.
The Duchess told in her interview with Hola!: “The tough part was that my children didn’t understand and they got quite angry with me.”
But the magazine reports that to allay her family’s fear, she spent the summer dividing up her wealth, including palaces and artwork by masters like Goya and Velazquez, between her six children.
By giving up her wealth in advance, she seems to have her children’s support in time for her nuptials, planned for late September or early October, according to Hello!. [via Huff Post]