Duchess of Alba, the world's most titled aristocrat, dies

Thu Nov 20, 2014 4:50pm EST
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By Sonya Dowsett

MADRID (Reuters) - Spain's 18th Duchess of Alba, who died on Thursday aged 88, was one of Europe's wealthiest and most titled aristocrats, the owner of fabulous palaces and priceless works of art.

She died after a short illness, surrounded by family in the 14th century Palacio de Duenas in Seville, famous for its lemon-tree-filled courtyards and her favorite of her many properties.

Maria del Rosario Cayetana Alfonsa Victoria Eugenia Francisca Fitz-James Stuart y Silva, known to friends as 'Cayetana', was named by Guinness World Records as the world's most titled person.

She was 14 times a Spanish grandee, five times a duchess, once a countess-duchess, 18 times a marchioness, 18 times a countess and once a viscountess, according to the entry.

With her cloud of white hair and face moulded by plastic surgery, she was rarely out of the Spanish gossip magazines, most recently on the arm of her third husband, 24 years her junior.

Head of one of Spain's oldest aristocratic families dating back to the 1400s, and the third woman to hold the title of Duchess of Alba in her own right, her wealth is estimated at between 600 million and 3.5 billion euros.

"I don't like to talk about money. Many people confuse having cash with having assets - we've never had a lot of cash," she wrote in her autobiography.

Many of the palaces, castles and works of art belonging to the House of Alba have restrictions placed on their sale because of their historic importance for Spain.   Continued...

The coffin of Spain's Duchess of Alba Cayetana Fitz-James Stuart y Silva is transported inside a hearse next to the town hall in the Andalusian capital of Seville November 20, 2014. REUTERS/Jon Nazca