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Thursday, October 6, 2011

Spanish duchess (the world’s most title- laden noble) weds for third time at age 85

SEVILLE, Spain (AP) — A wealthy, 85-year-old
Spanish duchess considered the world’s
most title-laden noble married a civil servant
25 years her junior on Wednesday,
shrugging off her children’s qualms and
celebrating by kicking off her shoes and
dancing flamenco.

A crowd of several hundred clapped and
roared its approval as the Duchess of Alba
waved, smiled and danced on a red carpet
after her wedding to Alfonso Diez at Palacio
de las Duenas, her 15th-century residence in
the cobblestoned old quarter of Seville.
Diez stood close by in a dark suit, smiling
and holding an outstretched arm at the
ready, as if to catch his bride if she
stumbled. The duchess hiked up her dress
as she performed a few whirling steps of
Spain’s quintessential art form in the city
perhaps best known for it.

With her frizzy white hair, squeaky voice
and wildly colorful clothes, the duchess is
among Spain’s most famous people. Only a
few dozen family members and close
friends were invited to the ceremony.

The twice-widowed duchess wore a salmon,
shin-length dress by Spanish designers
Victorio y Lucchino on Tuesday.
Her full name — take a deep breath — is
Maria del Rosario Cayetana Alfonsa Victoria
Eugenia Francisca Fitz-James Stuart y de
Silva. She goes by simply Cayetana, and is a
distant relative of Queen Elizabeth and
Winston Churchill.

She and Diez, a social security
administration employee, are old
acquaintances through her second
husband, who was a former Jesuit priest,
and Diez’s brother, an antiques dealer. They
bumped into each other about three years
ago outside a movie theater in Madrid and
eventually started dating.

Her six children, all from her first marriage,
reportedly balked when the idea of
marriage emerged. In July of this year the
duchess assigned them and her
grandchildren juicy chunks of her vast
estate, like mansions and palaces, in an
effort to appease them and clear her way to
the altar.

“I have been alone in this project, and got
nothing but negative opinions until they
realized what kind of man he is,” the
duchess told the Spanish news agency Efe
this week in a rare interview.

Estimates of her wealth range from
euro600 million ($800 million) to euro3.5
billion ($4.7 billion). Besides fabulous and
historic real estate sprinkled around Spain,
the family treasure boasts paintings by
Goya and Velazquez, a first-edition copy of
Cervantes “El Quixote”, and letters written
by Christopher Columbus.
However, although owned by the 500-year-
old House of Alba, the artwork and some
other property is classified as part of
Spain’s national heritage and cannot be sold
without government permission.

Diez will be entering a new world, although
he has reportedly signed a document
renouncing any claim to the House of Alba
wealth. As a civil servant in Madrid he
earned euro1,500 ($2,000) a month. Now he
will live in splendor as a duke, reportedly
with plans to take a leave of absence from
his day job, although the noble title will pass
on to the duchess’s eldest son, Carlos, when
she dies.

Two of the children did not attend the
wedding. Her only daughter, Eugenia, was
reported to hospitalized in Madrid with
chicken pox, while one of her sons, named
Jacobo and reportedly unhappy with his
slice of the family fortune — was said to be
traveling outside Spain.

The matriarch’s supreme title is Duchess of
Alba, but she has more than 40 others — in
fact, more than anyone else in the world,
according to Guinness World Records.

MORENATTI – Associated Press | AP

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