The billionaire bride is an 85-year-old eccentric with more titles than Queen Elizabeth II. The groom was a civil servant young enough to be her son.
Her son Cayetano Martinez de Irujo, the Duke of Salvatierra, said he had only met his mother’s suitor three times and she shouldn’t marry because of her historic responsibility.
Despite the objections of her six children, plenty of public controversy and from King Juan Carlos, Spain’s colorful Duchess of Alba wed Alfonso Diez, 60, at her 15th century palace in Seville yesterday.
The famously flamboyant Cayetana Fitz-James Stuart wore a delicate pale pink gown designed by Victorio y Lucchino for her third marriage, which took place in front of 38 guests.
Well-wishers donned fancy dress and wigs in an attempt to copy her quirky style as they celebrated in the city’s streets.
The twice-widowed Duchess’s children feared Diez was a gold-digger – so he has relinquished his rights to her $4.6 billion fortune in an effort to appease them.
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 $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.
A crowd of several hundred clapped and roared its approval as the Duchess waved and danced on a red carpet following her wedding to Diez at Palacio de las Duenas, her opulent 15th-century residence in the cobble-stoned old quarter of Seville.
The duchess, who is a distant relative of Winston Churchill, Queen Elizabeth and Princess Diana, went ahead with the marriage despite her children’s qualms.
‘I still don’t know why my children are causing problems,’ the duchess complained to Spanish radio station La Cope in February.
‘We aren’t hurting anyone. If only things could be fixed… Alfonso doesn’t want anything, he’s renounced everything. He doesn’t want anything but me.’
It emerged in August that she has divided her fortune between her six children to convince them that her suitor is besotted with her rather than her money.
“I made the shareout because I wanted to. Nobody pressured me,” she told Hola! magazine. “Anyway, as long as I am alive everything remains in my hands.”
The duchess’s fortune includes huge stretches of land, palaces and mansions throughout Spain, paintings by the likes of Velazquez, Goya, Rubens, 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.
Two of the children did not attend the wedding.
Her only daughter, Eugenia, was reported to be in hospital 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 travelling outside Spain.
Rumors that some of her offspring felt shortchanged were confirmed by the duchess’s outburst on TV, in which she laid into her offspring.
Jacobo called his mother’s words “unfortunate”, adding: “We were the first people to be surprised by them.”
Now, the Duchess of Alba has had to apologize after phoning a live TV program in order to call her daughter-in-law “lying, wicked and covetous”.
The duchess, who appears to struggle to speak and often needs support to walk, certainly seemed like a young girl in love, celebrating after the ceremony dancing a bit of flamenco.
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.
While hundreds of well-wishers and press gathered outside the gates only a few dozen family members and close friends were invited to the ceremony.
Known now for her frizzy white hair, squeaky voice and wildly colourful clothes, the Duchess is among Spain’s most famous faces.
And scandal threatened to overshadow the day when earlier this week the Spanish magazine Interviu published a 30-year-old photograph of the duchess sunbathing topless in Ibiza.
He lawyer Javier Saavedra said: ‘We are considering suing for interfering with her rights to privacy.’
The duchess first met Diez 30 years ago through her second husband, who was a former priest. But they only began dating after meeting by chance at a cinema three years ago.
They bumped into each other about three years ago outside a cinema in Madrid and eventually started dating.
“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.
RELATED TOPIC: Meet Cayetana Fitz-James Stuart, 18th Duchess of Alba