Farewell to the Duchess of Alba, Spain's Beloved 88-Year-Old Eccentric

Spain’s Duchess of Alba, Maria del Rosario Cayetana Alfonsa Victoria Eugenia Francisca Fitz-James Stuart y de Silva—a.k.a. Cayetana—has died at 88. You might remember her as the zero-fucks-given eccentric who famously caused a ruckus in 2011, when she decided to marry a man 25 years her junior. (He was her third husband.)

A few fun facts about the late duchess, whose title dated from the 1400s: According to her Guardian obituary, she owned property all over Spain and was possibly the country’s largest landowner. Her family’s art collection includes Goyas, El Grecos, Rembrants—you know, the usual musty shit knocking around one’s attic. She had 46 titles (more than anyone else, according to the Guinness Book of World Records), which meant that, among other things, protocol said she didn’t have to kneel before the pope.

Being an aristocrat seems fun, huh?

Here she is as a deb, circa 1947. She spent many early years in London, where her father was an ambassador:

According to her autobiography (via the Daily Mail) she was once asked to sit for Picasso but turned him down because modeling is so very DULL, darling. (Plus, the politics of Franco-era Spain would’ve made it… awkward.) She palled around with Jackie O; here’s the pair at a 1966 bullfight:

She danced a mean flamenco:

And by God the woman could rock a bouffant:

She was also pretty much a fucking snob. She wasn’t particularly friendly to the common man or anyone else with the bad taste to be born anywhere other than an ancient ancestral palace, as this 2006 scuffle between Cayetana and the SOC (a farmworkers union) makes clear. From her Guardian obit:

The union organised a mass demonstration in Seville to protest against the Andalusian government’s award to the duchess of the title Hija Predilecta (favoured daughter). The SOC argued that it was a disgrace to honour a landowner who received €2m a year in EU subsidies for the 84,000 acres she owned. The demonstration was dispersed by a police baton charge, leaving 14 injured. The duchess added insult to these injuries, saying on TV, “I couldn’t care less about a few madmen” and “All those demonstrating are delinquents.”

But her flamboyance and wacky brand of glamour made her a fairly beloved figure in Spain, the BBC notes. (Aristocrats = pet dinosaurs kept at great expense for their sheer entertainment value.) Forget your Kardashians and your “just like us” A-listers and your bargain-basement reality TV stars. This woman is why gossip magazines were invented.

Photo via Getty.

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