Here is another weird one. Despite being as ugly as sin, the Duchess of Alba (who doubles as the wealthiest woman in Spain), has successfully made her way through three marriages, with her current husband over 20 years younger than her (but its women that are gold diggers of course!) Strange thing is, the lady was quite a beauty in her youth but i guess she went under a surgeon’s knife to improve what she already has (when will people learn?) and ended up looking the way she does now.
- Duchess of Alba is Spain’s richest woman and has more than 40 titles
- 87-year-old wed her third husband, a toyboy civil servant, in 2011
- New facts revealed in autobiography In What Life has Taught Me
She has turned down the chance to pose for Picasso, holds more titles than The Queen, and may have even inspired the Duchess of Cambridge‘s wedding dress.
But despite her high profile in her native Spain, little is known about the Duchess of Alba on these shores, with the focus more often falling on her wild hair, flamboyant fashion sense and toyboy husband.
Now the 87-year-old billionaire has shed a little more light on her event-filled life with the publication of her second autobiography – just two years after her first.
Entitled life: The Duchess of Alba, pictured on her wedding day in 1947, left, and in 2011, right, has opened up about her unique life in a new autobiography
In What Life Has Taught Me is the follow up to Yo Cayetana, and the Duchess writes that despite her wealth all she wants is her health, and that she is eager to ‘keep on living’.
The Duchess, or María del Rosario Cayetana Alfonsa Victoria Eugenia Francisca Fitz-James Stuart y de Silva, to give her the full name, is Spain’s richest woman, has more recognised titles than any other noble in the world and is a distant relative of both Winston Churchill and Princess Diana.
As the head of the House of Alba, and the 18th Duchess, her property portfolio includes castles, palaces, country houses and land across Spain – with the most famous being the Liria Palace in Madrid, where she was born.
As well as the eccentric Duchess, the palace is also thought to be home to 249 oil paintings by artists including Rembrandt, Goya, Van Dyck and Rubens, as well as the Alba Bible which dates back to 1430.
The Duchess is a descendant of King James II of England, through his illegitimate son James Fitz-James, Duke of Berwick whose mother was Arabella Churchill, the sister of the Duke of Marlborough.
She is therefore distantly related to Sir Winston Churchill and Diana, Princess of Wales, who were descendants of Arabella‘s daughter Henrietta Fitz-James.
Her godmother was Queen Victoria Eugenia of Spain and although her supreme title is Duchess of Alba, she has more than 44 other noble titles, and 150 hereditary ones.
She is a duchess seven times over, a countess 19 times and a marquesa 23 times.
Despite her privileged past, in her latest tome the Duchess said that her life ‘had not been easy’.
She has lived through both World War II, and the Spanish Civil War, which broke out 1936, when she was just 10-years-old to 1939.
However, the Duchess has said that her ‘most difficult task’ was the reconstruction of the family palace in Madrid after it was almost completely razed to the ground during the Civil War.
Today the Duchess is often written about for her appearance, and her apparent surgical enhancements, although she has never commented on this. In her youth however the Duchess was a striking beauty, and was even asked by the world-famous painter Pablo Picasso to become his muse – although she flatly refused this request.
‘I think he would have worn me out,’ she said in 2009, according to Spain’s English language news website The Local.
‘I never actually met Picasso. The message came to me via the bullfighter Dominguín.’
The Duchess has said that she never regretted her decision, adding that she found being a model very dull and ‘horrible’.
The Duchess has been known for her colourful love life, which has taken in three marriages, including her latest to civil servant Alfonso Díez, 24 years her junior, who she wed in October 2011 when she was 85.
The marriage was partly made possible after a valve was inserted into the Duchess’s brain to stop the cognitive decline she had begun to suffer.
The Duchess’s first marriage, to naval officer Don Pedro Luis Martinez de Irujo y Artacoz, son of the Duke of Sotomayor, was a far more lavish affair and even said to have overshadowed interest in the wedding of Queen Elizabeth II to Prince Philip, which took place a month later.
The New York Times called it ‘the most expensive wedding of the world’, and the couple, who wed when the Duchess was 21-years-old went on to have six children together before his death in 1972.
On her wedding day October 12, 1947, the Duchess walked down the aisle in an opulent dress which, which its lace sleeves, full skirt and train bore a striking resemblance to the Alexander McQueen design worn by the Duchess of Cambridge in 2011.
In 1978 the Duchess caused a scandal in Spain by marrying an illegitimate defrocked Jesuit priest, her former confessor, Jesús Aguirre y Ortiz de Zárate, who died in 2001.
‘I confess I am thinking of keeping on living,’ said the Duchess recently, ‘although it’s only so I can enjoy the expression on people’s faces when I point at them and say “I’m going to bury you all”.’
The Duchess met third husband Díez 30 years ago, through her second husband, although they only started dating after a chance meeting in a cinema.
He has reportedly signed a document renouncing any claim to the House of Alba wealth and the noble title will pass on to the Duchess’s eldest son, Carlos, when she dies.
She overcame opposition to the match by dividing up her wealth – thought to be between £524m and £3bn – between her six children and eight grandchildren to allay their fears over inheritance issues.
Last month, while she was enjoying a romantic holiday with her latest husband in Rome, the Duchess broke her femur in a fall and had to undergo surgery.
The couple had chosen the Italian capital as it was where they had spent their first holiday together, although they were only friends at that time.