Spain enthralled as rich duchess, 85, weds younger man

5th October 2011, Comments 0 comments

Spain's fabulously wealthy 85-year-old Duchess of Alba was marrying a civil servant 25 years her junior Wednesday in a story of love and riches that has gripped the nation.

The twice-widowed aristocrat, renowned for her frizzy hair, glamorous social life and colourful dress sense, was tying the knot in the chapel of her 15th century Palacio de las Duenas in Seville.

A red carpet was laid out to welcome the guests of the duchess, reportedly 30-60 people, mostly family members.

Dozens of people gathered outside the entrance to the palace to try to get a glimpse of the festivities.

Many fanned themselves energetically and held up umbrellas to protect themselves against the heat as temperatures soared above 30 degrees Celsius (86 Fahrenheit).

"I like these sort of things and here we love her very much," said Esperanza Azanon, 68, who came to the gates of the palace with two friends.

It is a dramatic change from Maria del Rosario Cayetana Fitz-James-Stuart's first marriage in October 1947, when the 21-year-old bride had 1,000 guests and wore gems reportedly worth 1.5 million dollars even then.

A Seville shop, De Triana, was doing a brisk business selling souvenirs including T-shirts, badges, masks, wigs and dolls of the duchess and her fiancee.

And Spain's media, particularly the lively gossip shows and press, have been devouring every detail, including of the wedding meal which will reportedly include gazpacho soup and rice with spicy lobster.

But it is the story of the love match and the suspicions of the duchess's children that her beloved may be a gold digger that has really fascinated Spaniards.

The duchess, who as head of the house of Alba is said to have the right to enter Seville cathedral on horseback, has said she had to work hard to overcome her offspring's objections to her plans to marry 60-year-old Alfonso Diez.

She showered her five sons and one daughter several months ago with much of her estate -- palaces, mansions and treasures including masterpieces by artists from Goya to Velazquez, Murillo, Rembrandt and Rubens.

But she kept control over the assets, ranging from the palaces to lavish estates reputedly worth between 600 million and 3.5 billion euros ($850 million and $5.0 billion), until her death.

As a strict Roman Catholic, the duchess said in an interview on the eve of the wedding that she had no choice but to marry.

"I am anti-divorce, anti-abortion, anti all those atrocities," she said in an interview with the Spanish news agency EFE.

"I am a Catholic and I practise it. That is why I am marrying for a third time," said the duchess.

"Unfortunately my previous two husbands died."

The duchess, who has more titles than any other noble on Earth according to Guinness World Records, said there had been opposition to the marriage from her children and friends "until they realized the calibre of the man he was, he is".

But according to the Spanish press, the duchess's daughter and one of her sons will not be attending the wedding.

Her daughter Eugenia Martinez de Irujo has come down with chickenpox while the son, Jacobo Fitz-James Stuart, will be on a business trip abroad that he could not postpone, according to the reports.

Adding to the scandal over the family intrigue, Spain's racy magazine Interview this week published a 30-year-old photograph of the duchess as she sunbathed topless in Ibiza.

"We are considering suing for interfering with her rights to privacy," her friend and lawyer Javier Saavedra was quoted as telling show business news site Vanitatis.

© 2011 AFP

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