The most romantic gesture of all

At last, it has been confirmed: the Duquesa de Alba is to marry her boyfriend, at the beginning of October.
This story has intrigued, not to mention tickled, the prensa rosa (gossip mags) for some time now. The Duquesa, an eccentric grey-haired character with bohemian dress taste (floaty dresses and ballet pumps) who is the richest woman in Spain, faced an uphill battle convincing her family (she has six children from her first marriage) that taking a third husband was the right decision for her.
This story has it all - wealth, family, nobility, jealousy, greed, power, tragedy, love. Her five sons and daughter were concerned that her fiance, Alfonso Diez, might try to break up the family estate, which includes palaces, vast tracts of land, and 50,000 artworks by the likes of Goya and Velazquez. They had similar concerns when she wed her second spouse, after the death of their father. However this marriage was a happy one for all, until Cayetana was widowed for a second time.
The only way to convince her children in the end, was for the 85-year-old to give them their inheritance early: a palace each. That way, the Alba estate will remain intact and their new stepfather will have no claim over their family property. As to the priceless art collection, one of the most important in Europe, this will be kept intact after the Duquesa's death (at 26 years her junior, her new husband is likely to outlive her) since it is run as a foundation.
The Duquesa, otherwise known as Cayetana Fitz-James Stuart, is descended from one of King James II of England's illegitimate sons (hence the Fitz), and has more titles than anyone else in the world; she is said to be worth between 600 million and 3.5 billion euros. Diez has also signed a document renouncing any claim to his future wife's wealth (although you can be sure that the Duquesa won't leave him destitute, either).
Her son, Cayetano Martinez de Irujo, has said that he and his siblings will go to the wedding, although they're still not all in favour of it. Apparently it will be a very small ceremony, with only her closest family, and her doctor - not even her friends are invited.
Cayetana and her fiance have been together for about three years - she is said to value his companionship; they have travelled together, including a trip to Egypt. The couple first met 30 years ago, while she was still married to her second husband, and Diez was smitten - a fact which he revealed to her once they had become an item.
The Duquesa is a popular figure in Spain, where interest in the lives of public figures and royalty is intense: TV discussion programmes spend hours debating, picking over and analysing every move made by Spanish celebrities, and the Duquesa has always been one of their favourite topics. In this particular subject - Alfonso Diez v the Alba children - Cayetana's happiness and her desire to be wed against the wishes of her family won the balance of support from the Spanish people. So she's 85 and she wants to get married again? Good for her! So her children don't approve? To hell with 'em! So she lost her two previous husbands to illnesses - doesn't she deserve another shot at happiness? She may be phenomenally wealthy and live in palaces, but she's also human, and wants to be loved (to quote Morrissey). That's why people like her - she's flawed - she doesn't have it all. Rich, yes; a husband to love and grow old with her, no. We won't begrudge her a happy ending.
Blog published on 25 August 2011