Spain’s Duchess of Alba Dies at 88

Society » OBITUARIES | November 20, 2014, Thursday // 15:48| Views: | Comments: 0
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Bulgaria: Spain’s Duchess of Alba Dies at 88 A file picture dated 15 December 2009 shows Cayetana Fitz-James Stuart, 18th Duchess of Alba, attending the Jubilo Award 2009 ceremony to deliver an award to the designers of `Victorio & Lucchino`, at the Circulo de Bellas Artes in Madrid, Spain. Photo by

The most colorful aristocrat of Spain and one of the wealthiest and most titled nobles in the world, the 18th Duchess of Alba, known colloquially as Cayetana, died at the age of 88, after suffering a short illness.

She passed away on Thursday morning after a short bout of pneumonia, surrounded by her relatives, at the Palacio de las Duenas in Seville, a palace renowned for the lemon gardens in its yards and thought to have been Cayetana's favourite among the vast number of her estates, according to reports of

Cayetana was at the head of the oldest aristocratic family in Spain since 1955, being the third Duchess in the history of the House of Alba.

According to The Guinness Book of Records, she held more titles recognized by an existing government than any other noble in the world.

Her short name was Mar?a del Rosario Cayetana Alfonsa Victoria Eugenia Francisca Fitz-James Stuart y de Silva, while her full name included 46 titles – being a duchess seven times, a countess 22 times and a marquesa 24.

Born in Madrid in 1926, Caeytana spent a considerable part of her childhood in London, where her father had been an ambassador and it often happened that she would dine with Winston Churchill or play with Princess Margaret, the late sister of Queen Elizabeth II.

The wedding to her first husband Luis Mart?nez de Irujo in 1947 was so opulent that it rivaled that of Queen Elizabeth II a few months later, featuring celebrities such as Audrey Hepburn, Jackie Kennedy and Yves Saint Laurent.

One of her predecessors, the 13th Duchess of Alba had served as a muse to painter Francisco Goya, and it is often thought that she had been the model for his masterpiece The Nude Maja.

Cayetana revealed that she had been asked by painter Pablo Picasso to recreate the posture and the painting of Goya, but her conservative family refused.

Cayetana renounced all claims to her wealth in 2011, granting it to her children in order to marry her third husband Alfonso Diez, a civil servant in the social security department.

The Duchess of Alba did not like to talk about money, stating in her autobiography that her family never had a lot of cash, and that people often confuse money with assets.

Concrete estimates on her wealth are lacking, but they fluctuate between EUR 600 million and 3.8 billion.

Many of the palaces, estates and works of art of her family, which traces back its origins to the 15th century, are prohibited from sale as they belong to the historical heritage of the country.

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