Duchess of Alba lies in state in Seville

Her eldest son Carlos is now tasked with preserving family's artistic and historical legacy

Hundreds of people line the streets of Seville as the funeral car of the Duchess of Alba passes.
Hundreds of people line the streets of Seville as the funeral car of the Duchess of Alba passes. Rafa Alcaide / EFE

The body of the Duchess of Alba, who died on Thursday at age 88, is lying in state at Seville City Hall, where hundreds of people have been paying their last respects to Spain’s most singular member of nobility.

Cayetana Fitz-James Stuart y Silva was head of the House of Alba, which dates back to the 15th century, and held the world record for most nobility titles. She was 14 times Grandee of Spain and a distant relative of Queen Elizabeth.

Local officials decreed a day of mourning and opened up City Hall to the public at 2.30pm. A funeral Mass will be held at Seville cathedral on Friday afternoon, after which the duchess’s body will be cremated and her ashes deposited in the altar of a side chapel devoted to the Cristo de los Gitanos, or the Christ of the Gypsies.

Local officials decreed a day of mourning and opened up City Hall to the public at 2.30pm

Seville Mayor Juan Ignacio Zoido said via his Twitter account that the Duchess of Alba “always carried Seville in her heart, and that is why she will forever remain in the heart of Seville.”

Her body was taken to City Hall from Dueñas Palace, her residence, where she died after being brought home from hospital on Wednesday night at her family’s request.

More than 100 people were standing outside the palace gates on Thursday, holding white roses to watch the hearse depart at around 1.15pm.

More than 100 people were standing outside the palace gates, holding white roses to watch the hearse depart

“I like her very much. She is very charismatic and this hurts my soul,” said Amparo, an admirer who continued to speak about the deceased aristocrat in the present tense.

Duquesa, guapa!” cried some of her fans as they threw the roses in the air.

The hearse was followed by several more vehicles taking relatives to City Hall. Inside the second car, her granddaughter Cayetana was seen crying and drying her tears with a handkerchief.

Also on hand at Dueñas Palace were the famous fashion designers known collectively as Victorio y Lucchino, who underscored the aristocrat’s freedom and simplicity.

“She liked us as designers, but above all because we are from Seville. That meant a lot to her,” said José Víctor Rodríguez Caro.

The head of the Brotherhood of Christ of the Gypsies, José Moreno, was almost at a loss for words as he walked into the Alba residence.

“A sister has left us,” he said. “I need to go hug the family.”

With the passing of the duchess, her eldest son Carlos Fitz-James Stuart becomes the new Duke of Alba and the man in charge of preserving the family’s invaluable legacy, including historical properties and priceless works of art. A reserved man, the new duke shies away from the media, unlike his mother, but he is very clear about his mission in life. In her biography, Lo que la vida me ha enseñado (or, What life has taught me), the duchess wrote: “Carlos is conservative, he will protect the title.”

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