She has so many noble titles that some queens have been known to curtsey upon meeting her. She owns so much land that she could walk from the north of Spain to the south without leaving her own property. Museums around the globe would like to lay their hands on the priceless works of art that hang from her palatial residences. But, since the 85-year-old was widowed for a second time, Cayetana Fitz-James Stuart, the Duchess of Alba, had a dream that was made reality today - to become Mrs Alfonso Díez.
After three years of a relationship marked by family disputes over the duchess' inheritance, the knot was tied at the chapel of the Dueñas Palace in Seville with around 30 guests. Notably absent were the duchess' third son, Jacobo Siruela, and his wife, Inka Martí, who decided to go to France rather than witness the marriage between one of Spain's richest women and the commoner Díez, a humble civil servant and 24 years younger than his aristocratic wife. Fitz-James Stuart had previously called her daughter-in-law "jealous and wicked." Also absent was the duchess' youngest daughter, who is in hospital in Madrid.
Carlos, the Duke of Huéscar, led his mother up the aisle as he had done on her previous marriage to Jesús Aguirre. Neither then, nor on this occasion, did Carlos think the duchess' decision to remarry wise. Cayetano Martínez de Irujo, another of Cayetana's sons, made his stance plain on that day in 1978: "We do not agree, but we will be with her." Today he was more diplomatic. "We are happy for her."
To smooth the divisive union, the duchess divided up the inheritance of her children in advance. Díez, meanwhile, has formally renounced any claim to Fitz-James Stuart's wealth.