Meet the 87-Year-Old Duchess Who Was Married 3 Times, Said “No” to Picasso, and Is More Badass Than You

by Tess Duncan

You wish you were as badass as the Duchess of Alba. As the richest woman in Spain, she’s racked up three marriages, lived through two major wars, and holds more recognized titles than any other noble in the world. Plus she’s got a name that feels like an entire conversation: María del Rosario Cayetana Alfonsa Victoria Eugenia Francisca Fitz-James Stuart y de Silva.


The Duchess is a relative of Winston Churchill, Princess Diana, and King James II of England, and her godmother was Queen Victoria Eugenia of Spain. Now let’s talk titles. Her supreme title is the Duchess of Alba, but she has 150 hereditary titles and over 44 noble ones. In fact she’s not only a duchess, but a countess and a marquesa! 

The 18th Duchess is the head of the House of Alba and owns castles, country houses, palaces, and land all across her home country of Spain. She was born in Liria Palace in Madrid, which contains 249 oil paintings by artists such as Rubens, Goya, Rembrandt, and Van Dyck.

The Duchess has been married three times, including her first wedding to Don Pedro Luis Martinez de Irujo y Artacoz in 1947, which was described as “the most expensive wedding of the world” by the New York Times. This extravagant affair was said to have distracted interest in the wedding between Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip a month later. She wore an elegant, lace-sleeved wedding dress that closely resembled the Alexander McQueen gown worn by the Duchess of Cambridge in 2011. The Duchess had six children with Artacoz before he died in 1972.

Her second wedding caused quite an controversy, as the Duchess married an illegitimate defrocked Jesuit priest, her former confessor, Jesús Aguirre y Ortiz de Zárate.

Her most recent union was to Alfonso Díez in 2011, a civil servant who is 24 years younger than the 87-year-old. In order to marry Díez, the Duchess had a valve implanted into her brain in order to halt her progressing cognitive decline. Díez has signed documents any claim to the Duchess’ wealth and her title will go to her oldest son, Carlos, when she passes away. Her inheritance of an estimated £524 million to £3billion will be divvied up between her six children and eight grandchildren.

Despite her immense wealth, the Duchess has experienced difficult times in her life. She lived through World War II and the Spanish Civil War. The Duchess deems her “most difficult task” to be reconstructing her family palace in Madrid after it was almost completely destroyed during the Civil War.

Known for her stunning looks in her youth, Pablo Picasso asked the Duchess to be his muse, but she declined. She describes modeling as boring and “horrible,” and, she adds, “I think [Picasso] would have worn me out.” Many have claimed the Duchess has had plastic surgery, but she has never commented on this matter.

But the craziest duchess around won’t be letting age stop her from living. “Although,” she admits, “it’s only so I can enjoy the expression on people’s faces when I point at them and say, ‘I’m going to bury you all.’” Punk rock.

Source: the Daily Mail

Photos via the Daily Mail

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