Spain’s richest woman, the duchess of Alba, has died at the age of 88 in Seville.
Maria del Rosario Cayetana Fitz-James Stuart had more titles than any other aristocrat in the world. Her parents gave her several names, but she preferred Cayetana.
“The frizzy-haired eccentric aristocrat was one of Spain’s most-loved figures whose antics filled the nation’s gossip magazines and gripped the audiences of TV chat shows even during the final months of her long life.
“Described as the ‘rebel noble,’ she spurned convention to forge her own path in life, following her passion for flamenco and, as a patron of the arts, amassing a private collection of masterpieces said to rival any in Europe.
“Her exuberant character, complete with squeaky voice and flamboyant dress-sense, enraptured Spaniards who followed the vicissitudes of her 88 years.
“Once a famed beauty who turned down a request to be Picasso’s muse, she shocked the establishment when she married her confessor, a defrocked Jesuit priest, in 1978, six years after the death of her first husband with whom she had six children.
“But it was her third marriage to a civil servant 25 years her junior in 2011 that provoked an even bigger scandal, a union that was opposed by her children as well as King Juan Carlos of Spain, but that was welcomed by Spaniards as a colourful drama.”
The duchess was 14 times a Spanish grandee, five times a duchess, once a countess-duchess, 18 times a marchioness, 18 times a countess and once a viscountess.
“This is due to the complicated combinations of nationalities and marriages intertwined within her ancestry,” Guinness World Records says.
Bloomberg reports that her family’s inheritance included vast properties and paintings by Goya, El Greco and Ruebens. The family’s wealth was estimated in 2013 to be nearly $4 billion.