(Almost) royal wedding in Seville

(Almost) royal wedding in Seville

She may not be royal, but the Duquesa de Alba's blood runs blue through her veins. Descended from King James II of England (James VI of Scotland), Cayetana Fitz-James Stuart has more titles than anyone else in the world. She also has the most important private art collection in Europe. But in spite of her enormous wealth and privilege - she owns countless magnificent palaces and houses throughout Spain - she is much beloved by the Spanish people.

This partly because of her tragic personal history: in Spain someone who loses their partner acquires a special status, and keeps it even after gross misjudgements (see Isabel Pantoja and Jose Ortega Cano). The Duchess has been twice widowed, which is bound to endear her to the heart-on-sleeve Spanish.

The other reason is because she is anything but your average stuck-up royal. She shocked stiff aristocratic society by learning flamenco as a passionate young woman; she has her own distinctive dress style, which is not fitted suits like most royal ladies, but floaty hippie dresses with ankle bracelets and flowers in her hair. She does her own thing, refusing to adhere to convention.

On this occasion, her wedding to Alfonso Diez yesterday, she had a battle on her hands to convince her six children that it was an advisable match. In the end, the Duquesa had to buy them off - sorry, but that's what it boils down to - by giving them each a palace (though her Seville residence, Palacio de las Dueñas went to her eldest grandson). Apparently some were still not keen to attend the service.

So Alfonso is now the Duque de Alba, and she has a husband to keep her company as she motors on through her eighties.

It was a major media event, with reporters, cameramen and photographers crammed into a pen and squished into the crowd with the rest of us, a heaving mass in the space outside the gate of her palace. The press adores her, especially the prensa rosa (gossip rags) as she's always providing them with prime juicy cuts of material, ill-advised off-the-cuff remarks, and great photo opps. And she knows how to play them too - last night's flamenco performance in front of the press pack went down a storm. She's 85, and on her wedding day she comes out to greet her public by dancing for us. Wow.

But most importantly, it was a popular event, with fans young and old out in force to show their support for this enormously charismatic woman. They've always been behind her decision to marry Alfonso, and when waiting for the Duquesa to make her scheduled appearance after the ceremony, one of the chants that went up was "DU-QUE-SA!" It could have been a football match. Except that on this occasion, there were no losers.

crowd at gate behind red
Blog published on 6 October 2011