Spanish duchess says no-one forced her to surrender wealth

1st September 2011, Comments 0 comments

Spain's 85-year-old Duchess of Alba says no-one pressured her to lavish her fabulous fortune on her children to persuade them to accept her marriage to a civil servant 24 years her junior.

In her first interview since the October marriage plans with Alfonso Diez were announced, the twice-widowed aristocrat said she had to work hard to overcome her offspring's objections.

The duchess showered her five sons and one daughter last month 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 until her death.

"I made the sharing-out because I wanted to. Nobody presured me. Moreover, as long as I live, it all remains in my hands," the duchess, Maria del Rosario Cayetana Fitz-James-Stuart, told Hola! magazine.

"I am not a person who lets herself be managed. I have my own ideas and I try to make them a reality," she said in the interview, accompanied by photos of her luxuriating in her residence on the island resort of Ibiza.

The Spanish noble, renowned for her frizzy hair and colourful dress sense, said her betrothed, who works for the Labour Ministry, had transformed her life but she admitted he had a quick temper.

"He is a marvellous person and he is the person who has totally changed my life, she said.

But asked if he had any faults she admitted: "He has a quick temper. But I do too. But we both get over it quickly."

The duchess said her betrothed would ask for a leave of absence from the Labour Ministry for the marriage and may seek work in Seville. "As we have many friends there I don't think it will be hard to find," she added.

The duchess bequeathed to her children much of her fortune, estimated in the Spanish press at between 600 million and 3.5 billion euros ($850 million and $5.0 billion).

Among the riches are the Liria Palace in Madrid filled with masterpiece paintings, country estates, mansions and the Monterrey Palace and El Tejado castle in Salamanca.

The Duchess of Alba said it was not wealth that drew her beloved.

"Alfonso has given up many things," she said.

"Since the beginning he has said that he is not in love with the titles but with the woman who holds them."

Asked if the marriage decision was difficult, she replied: "It was hard to achieve but not to make the decision: I was very clear about the decision and it was already taken."

According to the Guinness World Records, the duchess has more titles than any noble on earth.

© 2011 AFP

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