The 18th Duchess of Alba was Spain's richest woman and known for an exuberant lifestyle. But her lineage also passed to her the right to ride a horse into Seville cathedral, and an exemption from having to kneel before the Pope.
- The Telegraph
Born March 28 1926, died November 19 2014
She was a regular fixture in Hola magazine and other gossip publications on account of her forthright character and colourful private life.
In later life, with her flamboyant manner and shock of frizzy hair (sometimes dyed a whimsical red, at other times a snowy white), the thrice-married Cayetana Fitz-James Stuart fascinated and appalled in almost equal measure.
Known for her piping, querulous voice and often outrageous clothes, she was frequently photographed at society weddings and at bullfights. Her passions were flamenco, horses and painting; she became the subject of a television series and a flamenco show based around her life.
Then, of course, there was her status as an exemplar of the plastic surgeon's art. She always denied needing any assistance to enhance her features; and any suggestion to the contrary was considered an intrusion too far by most of the Spanish press. None the less, a website specialising in such matters claimed to have discovered evidence of a facelift, brow lift, rhinoplasties, lip injections, fat injections to the face and multiple injections of Botox. "She overdid it, obviously," a family friend was quoted as saying.
The Spanish media estimated the duchess' wealth at between £600 million and £3.5 billion; her landholdings were said to be so vast that she would have been able to cross Spain from north to south without setting foot on anyone else's property.
According to the Guinness Book of Records, she had more titles than any other person on the planet, being a duchess seven times over, a countess 22 times and a marquesa 24 times. Yet the Duchess always insisted she was not rich: "I have a lot of artworks, but I can't eat them, can I?" she once said.
Apart from thousands of paintings by Goya, Velazquez, Titian and others lining the walls of her numerous palaces, her collection included a first edition of Don Quixote, Columbus's first map of America and the last will and testament of Ferdinand the Catholic, the father of Catherine of Aragon.
As head of the five centuries-old House of Alba, the Duchess' privileges included not having to kneel before the Pope and the right to ride a horse into Seville cathedral.
The Duchess of Alba obituary (The Guardian)
Duchess of Alba remarries at 85 (ABC/YouTube)