SEVILLE – The Duchess of Alba, the aristocrat with most titles in the world and one of Spain’s biggest fortunes, died on Thursday in Seville at age 88 following a short illness, said the city’s mayor, Juan Ignacio Zoido.
Cayetana Fitz-James Stuart was hospitalized last Sunday with stomach flu, pneumonia and an irregular heartbeat, and was later moved to her palace of Las Dueñas, where she died surrounded by her six children and her husband, Alfonso Diez.
“Doña Cayetana always had Seville in her heart and will remain forever in the heart of Seville,” Zoido said in his Twitter account.
The 18th Duchess of Alba, a Grandee of Spain with 46 aristocratic titles, was one of the country’s wealthiest women and owned palaces, extensive properties and a huge art collection, including paintings by Francisco de Goya, Diego Velazquez, El Greco and Van Dyck, among others.
An unconventional aristocrat, she was a favorite of celebrity magazines and a great patroness of the arts, with a known soft spot for flamenco music and bullfighting.
She last made international headlines in 2011 when she married her third husband, civil servant Alfonso Diez, 24 years her junior, and gave her children their inheritance in advance to quell their fears over the wedding.
She became the 18th Duchess of Alba and the third woman to inherit the title in 500 years in 1953, upon the death of her father.
One of her titles was that of Duchess of Berwick, as a direct descendant of King James II of England and VII of Scotland.
She is survived by five sons and a daughter from her first marriage and by her third husband, Alfonso Diez.
Her eldest son, Carlos Fitz-James Stuart y Martinez de Irujo, the Duke of Huescar, will become the 19th Duke of Alba.