Thursday 30 March 2017

Love triumphs for duchess, 85

Harriet Alexander

HER first wedding was the most expensive the world had ever seen -- a marriage so spectacular there were fears it could overshadow the nuptials a month later of Princess Elizabeth of England. Her third wedding may pale in comparison, but it is still one of the most sought-after invitations in Europe.

The 85-year-old duchess of Alba, a Spanish aristocrat famed for her eccentric fashion sense and €3.5bn fortune, is to walk down the aisle this week, to marry a civil servant 24 years her junior.

She has overcome objections from her six children, concerned about their inheritance, and even the king of Spain, who had his doubts about the suitability of Alfonso Diez. But Cayetana Fitz-James Stuart, descended from Churchill and King James II, is nothing if not single-minded.

"I'm a very determined person," she said. "I've got my own ideas about things and I try to make them reality."

On Wednesday at 1pm, the duchess will marry at the chapel in the grounds of the Palacio de las Duenas, a 16th-century estate where she lived with her two previous husbands and raised her children.

The king and queen of Spain, who are close family friends, will not be present, owing to protocol which states the royal family only attend first marriages.

But last week the duchess introduced Mr Diez to the king at his Madrid palace -- a necessary act of ceremony for the woman who, it is said, could walk from the northern tip of Spain to the farthest southern point without leaving her ancestral lands.

The twice-widowed duchess is a relative of Queen Elizabeth, but, it is claimed, is more 'noble'. She holds the world record for the most aristocratic titles, being a duchess seven times over, a countess 19 times and a marquesa 23 times. Her full name is Maria del Rosario Cayetana Alfonsa Victoria Eugenia Francisca Fitz-James Stuart y de Silva.

"It's true that I planned to marry," she said. "We were both full of enthusiasm for the idea. I took a step back for my children. I saw that everything was going to be very complicated." But eventually she found a way. Earlier this summer, she divided up her wealth -- thought to between €610m and €3.5bn -- between them. Mr Diez has signed away any rights to the fortune.

The inheritance includes vast properties in Madrid, Marbella, Ibiza and Seville, her main residence. Among the treasures is a collection of historical documents that include Columbus's first map of the Americas, as well as a library valued at €20.5m that includes a first edition of Don Quixote from 1605, and a Bible from 1429.

© Telegraph

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