Many Americans, such as myself, are just fascinated by royalty. We don’t have kings, queens, princes, or princesses in the USA–I only heard about these people in fairy tales and then later on in history class in school.  I honestly think people like myself are intrigued by royal families simply because it’s such a foreign concept for us. I was very young when Princess Diana died but I remember the media coverage surrounding her tragic death. I think interest in the royals this year has grown due to the media hype that surrounded Prince William and Kate Middleton’s wedding back in April.

Spain has its own royal family and they are quite popular here. King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia seem to be well liked by the Spanish and you often see them on the news in Spain.

However there is another member of the nobility in Spain who is just as beloved as the royal family. She is virtually unknown outside of Spain but here she is a superstar. The Spanish media is absolutely obsessed with her. Her full name is Doña María del Rosario Cayetana Fitz-James Stuart y Silva, 18th Duchess of Alba de Tormes, Grandee of Spain. However the Spanish media simply refers to her as “Cayetana” or as “la Duquesa de Alba.”

Cayetana has many titles, so many that the Guinness Book of World Records has stated she has the most titles  to be recognized formally by an existing government than any other noble in the world.

Cayetana is the 18th person to carry the title of of Duchess of Alba. The first title was bestowed by the king back in 1472–most of the people who carried the title were men. She is only the 3rd woman in her long lineage to carry it.

Cayetana was the only daughter of the 17th Duke of Alba. She lost her mother at a young age due to tuberculosis. During the Spanish Civil War, her father took her to London. The Liria Palace she was born in Madrid was destroyed in a bunch of plane bombings.

The Duquesa de Alba and her mother at a young age

When she returned to Spain, Cayetana married Luis Martinez de Irujo in Sevilla, an industrial engineer, in 1947 and had six children with him. The New York Times dubbed the wedding “the most expensive wedding in the world.”  According to Wikipedia, it seems the marriage was arranged but it seems to have been a happy one. Unfortunately, Luis died in 1972 in Houston, Texas where he had been seeking treatment for leukemia.

The Duquesa de Alba and her first husband Luis Martinez at their wedding

In 1978, Cayetana remarried Jesus Aguirre, an intellectual with a Doctorate in Theology and a former priest who was also the son of a single mother. Jesus’s origins caused a scandal in 197os Spain, which was still ruled by the dictator Francisco Franco at the time. Jesus was also 11 years younger than Cayetana. It is reported Jesus got along well with the Duchess’s children from her first marriage. He died in 2001 after battling laryngeal cancer.

Duquesa de Alba and her second husband Jesus Aguirre at their wedding

Duquesa de Alba and Jesus Aguirre on their way to an official function

Duquesa de Alba and Jesus Aguirre on their way to an official function

However it seems that the Duquesa de Alba’s most recent marriage to civil servant Alfonso Diez is the most shocking. The pair had known each other a long time since Alfonso had been a friend of the Duchess’s second husband. After three years of dating, the two got married in Sevilla this past October in an intimate ceremony in which only the Duchess’s closest friends and family members were invited. Alfonso is also 24 years younger than Cayetana (she is currently 85 and he is 61). I didn’t follow the news all that closely but the Spanish media went crazy with the wedding coverage.

Duquesa de Alba rocking a bikini in her 80s and third husband Alfonso Diez

Duquesa de Alba and third husband Alfonso Diez on their way to their wedding

After the ceremony, the Duquesa shows off some of her flamenco dancing

It seems not all of the Duchess’s six children were enthusiastic about their mother getting married a third time–something to do with the age gap and maybe something to do with inheritance issues. So to shut them up, she gave her children their share of their inheritance in advance. Her third husband has stated himself he wants nothing to do with his wife’s money.

Cayetana is incredibly rich and she possesses numerous priceless artifacts such as paintings by Velazquez and Goya, a first edition copy of Cervantes’s Don Quixote, and letters written by Christopher Columbus. She also owns several palaces throughout Spain. Her fortune is somewhere between 300 million and 6.5 billion euros.

But seriously, I think this woman is so bad ass. She wears the most ridiculously colorful clothing, is married to a man much younger than her, and she even took her husband to the premiere of the latest Mission Impossible movie and rubbed shoulders with Tom Cruise. And the best part is, she seems to seriously not care what people think of her, least of all her children (who seem to be spoiled brats if you ask me and who have become regular tabloid fodder with their bad behavior).

The one thing I do have to comment on though: the Duquesa de Alba never should have had plastic surgery. I can’t find any official confirmation but it is pretty obvious she either had one or numerous procedures that did not go well. She should have left her face alone, she was so pretty before she decided to mess with it.

Random side note: When I was studying abroad in Malaga in 2008, I visited a small town called Ronda in Andalusia during its festival season. I was with the other Americans in my group standing around outside the Plaza de Toros (the bullfight ring) watching the procession of bullfighters entering the ring on horse-drawn carriages. All of a sudden this black limo appeared and made its way slowly through the crowd. Immediately, the Spaniards around us went nuts, rushing to press up against the limo, shouting and screaming. A few Spaniards around us explained to us “Es la Duquesa de Alba!!!!!” We had no idea who she was at the time so this meant very little to us. However as I spent more time in Spain, I realized just how famous she was here and now if I were to see her limo again, I probably would get just as psyched as the Spaniards.