Spain’s fabulous, flamboyant and well-loved aristocrat the Duchess of Alba, who passed away on Wednesday evening, leaves behind the extensive and ecclectic Alba dynasty.
Her $4.9 billion fortune boasts numerous estates – which are now divided between her six children and eight grandchildren – as well as a wonderful collection of art, and not one but six palaces including the Liria Palace in the Spanish capital where she was born.
The duchess, whose full name wasMaría del Rosario Cayetana Alfonsa Victoria Eugenia Francisca Fitz-James Stuart y de Silva, came into the world in 1926 in her family’s lavish home in Madrid, which housed some 249 paintings by renowned artists including Rembrandt, Goya, Van Dyck and Rubens, as well as the Alba Bible which dates back to 1430.
The neoclassical palace, spread over four floors with spaces such as The Spanish and Flemish Salons, Goya Room, Blue Sitting Room and Green Room, holds an incredible total of 50,000 artworks and an 18,000-volume library which includes the journals of Christopher Columbus and a first edition of Don Quixote.
As one of Spain’s wealthiest and most colourful aristocrats, she was recognised as the world’s most titled noble, a fact that has been recognised by the Guinness Book Of Records who confirmed she was five times a duchess, 18 times a marchioness, 18 times a countess, 14 times a Spanish grandee and once a viscountess.
It is said that the Duchess could walk from the northernmost point of Spain all the way to the south coast without ever stepping out of her own lands – a fact that’s easy to understand once you take into account her Palace of Monterrey, her estate where she enjoyed summers on the Spanish island of Ibiza, and her residence in San Sebastian.
Her favourite though was Las Dueñas in her beloved Seville, where she resided with her third and final husband Alfonso Diez, and where she died aged 88.
The magnificent Dueñas Palace, famous for its lemon-tree-filled courtyards, was built between the late 14th century in the Renaissance style with Gothic and Moorish influences, and comprises 9,542 square metres.
Its entrance has the family crest on the archway and its chapel was the setting of the duchess’ marriage to Alfonso who was 25 years her junior. The union was opposed by her children and she described her husband as "a fantastic person", saying “he has completely changed my life".