Best known as “La Duquesa de Alba” (the Duchess of Alba), Cayetana de Alba is the most titled aristocrat in the world today. She has 7 titles as Duchess, 20 titles as Countess, 19 titles as Marchioness and 1 title as Viscountess. Her full name is astonishing – María del Rosario Cayetana Paloma Alfonsa Victoria Eugenia Fernanda Teresa Francisca de Paula Lourdes Antonia Josefa Fausta Rita Castor Dorotea Santa Esperanza Fitz-James Stuart y de Silva Falcó y Gurtubay. She is related to several European royal families including the Windsors.
As the only child of the former Duke of Alba, her birth was a national event. She was baptized in the royal palace with the king and queen of Spain, Alfonso XIII and Victoria Eugenia, as godparents. Her mother died at a young age and her early education was in the hands of a series of governesses. At the outset of the civil war she was sent to school in Paris and was later exiled in London where her father was ambassador to Britain. As a result of her education and travels Cayetana speaks fluent English, Italian, German and French as well as Spanish. The family’s Madrid palace, El Palacio de Liria, was destroyed during the Civil War, and Cayetana lived through London blitz during the Second World War.
Her first marriage in 1947 in Sevilla Cathedral was a huge society occasion. She had six children and was widowed in 1972. She remarried an ex Jesuit priest in 1978 and was widowed a second time in 2001. Her third marriage to a civil servant 24 years her junior in 2011 created a family conflict which was partly resolved by alterations to her will. She owns huge swathes of land in Andalucia and has come into conflict with agricultural workers unions from time to time.
Cayetana has always been an enthusiastic patron of the arts and moved in elevated cultural circles. She claims to have been asked by Picasso to pose for him in the nude but declined because of her husband’s opposition. Popular legend has it that she has precedence over the Queen of England in protocol, that she is the only Catholic not obliged to kneel before the Pope and that she has the right to enter Sevilla Cathedral on horseback. She is an enthusiast of flamenco, bull-fighting and painting and she and her family are constant subjects of Spanish gossip press. She is probably most famous for her eccentricity and flamboyant behaviour.