Her full name is Maria del Rosario Cayetana Alfonsa Victoria Eugenia Francisca Fitz-James Stuart y de Silva and goes by simply Cayetana.
Known now for her frizzy white hair, squeaky voice and wildly colorful clothes, the duchess is among Spain’s most famous faces.
“I am not a person who allows herself be managed,” she told Hola! “I have my own ideas and I try to convert them into reality.”
Doña María del Rosario Cayetana Fitz-James Stuart y Silva, 18th Duchess of Alba de Tormes, Grandee of Spain was born on March 28, 1926, in Palace of Liria, Madrid. Cayetana 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 II of England, 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 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. Her godmother was Queen Victoria Eugenia of Spain. The matriarch’s supreme title is Duchess of Alba, but she has more than 40 others. According to Guinness World Records, she has more titles recognized by an existing government than any other noble in the world.
On October 12, 1947, the Duchess at 21 married a naval officer, 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 Princess Elizabeth (later Queen Elizabeth II), which was held a month later. The New York Times called it “the most expensive wedding of the world.” All her children were born to her first husband.
After becoming a widow, the Duchess remarried on March 16, 1978 to Jesús Aguirre y Ortiz de Zárate (1937–2001), a Doctor of Theology and a former Jesuit priest. The wedding caused shock; Aguirre was illegitimate, which was scandalous in 1970s Spain. Eleven years younger than the Duchess, he maintained a good relationship with her children. During their marriage he administered, with his stepson Carlos, the Alba estates. Aguirre died in 2001.
‘Every great love story should end in marriage,’ the duchess told Vanity Fair magazine in May as she posed in the garden of one of her palaces, explaining why she wanted to make social security worker Alfonso Diez, 60, her third husband.
Details emerged in 2008 regarding the Duchess‘s intention to marry Alfonso Díez Carabantes, a social security administration employee who also runs a public relations business, 24 years her junior.
The duchess first met Diez 30 years ago through her second husband, the priest, and Diez’s brother. But they only began dating after meeting by chance at a cinema three years ago.
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.
It was reported that there were objections from her children and from King Juan Carlos, and the House of Alba. A statement was issued saying that the relationship “was based on a long friendship and there are no plans to marry”.. As of 2011 the duchess had decided to proceed with the marriage, overcoming her children’s opposition by giving them their inheritance in advance, the duchess’s fortune includes ancient palaces throughout Spain, paintings by Spanish masters Rubens, Velazquez and Goya, a first-edition copy of Cervantes Don Quixote, letters written by Christopher Columbus and huge stretches of land. Her wealth is estimated at $4.6 billion.
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.
Díez has formally renounced any claim to her wealth. They married on October 5, 2011 at the Palacio de las Duenas in Seville.
A fan of flamenco, bullfighting and all traditional Spanish celebrations, the 18th Duchess of Alba holds the world record for the most aristocratic titles, possessing at least 44 noble titles and 150 hereditary ones, that Spaniards joke if she meets up with England‘s Queen Elizabeth, it’s the British queen who should curtsy to the duchess. She is a duchess seven times over.
Titles, Styles and Honors
- 18th Duchess of Alba, Grandee of Spain
- 17th Duchess of Híjar, Grandee of Spain
- 15th Duchess of Aliaga, Grandee of Spain -Ceded to her son Don Alfonso Martínez
- 11th Duchess of Montoro, Grandee of Spain -Ceded to her daughter Doña Eugenia
- 11th Duchess of Berwick, Grandee of Spain (Jacobite Peerage)
- 11th Duchess of Liria and Jérica, Grandee of Spain
- 3rd Duchess of Arjona, Grandee of Spain
- 12th Countess-Duchess of Olivares, Grandee of Spain
- 17th Marchioness of the Carpio, Grandee of Spain
- 10th Marchioness of San Vicente del Barco, Grandee of Spain -Ceded to her son Don Fernando
- 16th Marchioness of La Algaba
- 16th Marchioness of Almenara
- 18th Marchioness of Barcarrota
- 10th Marchioness of Castañeda
- 23rd Marchioness of Coria
- 14th Marchioness of Eliche
- 16th Marchioness of Mirallo
- 20th Marchioness of la Mota
- 20th Marchioness of Moya
- 17th Marchioness of Orani
- 12th Marchioness of Osera
- 14th Marchioness of San Leonardo
- 19th Marchioness of Sarria
- 12th Marchioness of Tarazona
- 15th Marchioness of Valdunquillo
- 18th Marchioness of Villanueva del Fresno
- 17th Marchioness of Villanueva del Río
- 27th Countess of Aranda, Grandee of Spain
- 22nd Countess of Lemos, Grandee of Spain
- 20th Countess of Lerín, Grandee of Spain, Constabless of Navarre
- 20th Countess of Miranda del Castañar, Grandee of Spain
- 16th Countess of Monterrey, Grandee of Spain
- 20th Countess of Osorno, Grandee of Spain
- 18th Countess of Palma del Río, Grandee of Spain
- 12th Countess of Salvatierra, Grandee of Spain -Ceded to her son Don Cayetano
- 22nd Countess of Siruela, Grandee of Spain -Ceded to her son Don Jacobo
- 19th Countess of Andrade
- 14th Countess of Ayala
- 16th Countess of Casarrubios del Monte
- 16th Countess of Fuentes de Valdepero
- 11th Countess of Fuentidueña
- 17th Countess of Galve
- 18th Countess of Gelves
- 16th Countess of Guimerá
- 21st Countess of Modica (Kingdom of Sicily)
- 24th Countess of Ribadeo
- 25th Countess of San Esteban de Gormaz
- 12th Countess of Santa Cruz de la Sierra
- 11th Countess of Tinmouth (Jacobite Peerage)
- 20th Countess of Villalba
- 12th Viscountess of la Calzada
- 11th Baroness of Bosworth (Jacobite Peerage)
- 29th Lady of Moguer
- 28 March 1926 – 11 January 1935: The Most Excellent Doña Mª del Rosario Cayetana Fitz-James Stuart y Silva
- 11 January 1935 – 28 January 1947: The Most Excellent The Marquise of San Vicente del Barco
- 28 January 1947 – 18 February 1955: The Most Excellent The Duchess of Montoro
- 18 February 1955 – present: The Most Excellent The Duchess of Alba de Tormes
- Honorary President of the Spanish Red Cross
- Order of Isabella the Catholic
- Constable of Aragon
- Marshal of Castilla
- Dame of the Royal Arsenal Cavalry of Seville
- Noble Dame of the Order of Queen Maria Luisa
- Member of the Hispanic Society of America, New York
- Honorary President of the Opera Philharmonic
- Member of Merit of the Royal Hispanic-American Academy of Arts, Sciences and Letters of Cadiz
- Honorary Mayor of Liria (Madrid)