August 9, 2011 / 6:14 PM / 8 years ago

Spanish duchess gives up billions to marry for love

MADRID (Reuters Life!) - Spain’s fabulously rich Duchess of Alba has signed away her enormous wealth, string of palaces, priceless works of art and vast swathes of Spanish real estate to marry for love at 85, Spanish media has reported.

U.S. actors Tom Cruise (R) and Cameron Diaz (L) pose with Spain's Duchess of Alba during the world premiere of their film "Knight & Day" in Seville in this June 16, 2010 file photo. REUTERS/Juan Medina/Files

Cayetana Fitz-James Stuart, a regular subject of gossip in Spain’s glossy magazines and said by Guinness World Records to have more titles than any other royal on the planet, wants to marry a humble civil servant 25 years her junior.

The duchess has divided her fortune between her six children to convince them that her suitor is besotted with her rather than her money and the kinds of possessions that are considered national treasures, reports said.

“Every great love story should end in marriage,” the duchess told Vanity Fair magazine in May as she posed in the garden of one of her palaces, explaining why she wanted to make social security worker Alfonso Diez, 60, her third husband.

All her children were born to her first husband, engineer Luis Martinez de Irujo, son of the Duke of Sotomayor. She shocked many in Spain after his death by marrying former Jesuit priest Jesus Aguirre in 1978.

But her recent match has divided the House of Alba. Her son Cayetano Martinez de Irujo, the Duke of Salvatierra, said just a few weeks ago he had only met his mother’s suitor three times and she shouldn’t marry because of her historic responsibility.

It looked as if the duchess had caved in to pressure from her children and a rumored request from Spain’s King Juan Carlos not to formalize her relationship.

“I still don’t know why my children are causing problems,” the duchess complained to Spanish radio station La Cope in February.

“We aren’t hurting anyone. If only things could be fixed... Alfonso doesn’t want anything, he’s renounced everything. He doesn’t want anything but me.”

The duchess, who appears to struggle to speak and often needs support to walk, allayed her children’s worries by dividing up her fortune in early July, reported media, including Spanish celebrity magazine Hola!

The duchess’s fortune includes palaces and mansions throughout Spain, paintings by the likes of Velazquez, Goya and Rubens and huge stretches of land.

Her wealth is estimated at between 600 million and 3.5 billion euros ($4.9 billion).

“If in the end my mother decides to marry, we shall go, although we still don’t agree,” son Cayetano told Spanish daily newspaper El Mundo in a recent interview.

A fan of flamenco, bullfighting and all traditional Spanish celebrations, the Duchess of Alba has 46 titles — so many duchess, countess and marquesa titles that Spaniards joke if she meets up with England’s Queen Elizabeth, it’s the British queen who should curtsy to the duchess.

Writing by Sarah Morris, editing by Paul Casciato

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