When you’re 87, a duchess seven times over and Spain’s richest woman, who’s going to stop you marrying your toy boy civil servant and dancing a barefoot jig at the wedding?
Such is María del Rosario Cayetana Alfonsa Victoria Eugenia Francisca Fitz-James Stuart y de Silva’s offbeat appetite for everything from spouses to the surgeon’s scalpel, that her event-filled life has compelled her to pen not one but two autobiographies.
Credited by the Guinness World Records as having more aristocratic titles than anyone else in the world (over 40 noble and 150 hereditary ones), as the head of the House of Alba her portfolio includes castles, palaces, country houses and land across Spain including her birthplace, the Liria Palace in Madrid, along with a priceless collection of 250+ oil paintings by the likes of Rembrandt, Goya, Van Dyck and Rubens.
In her youth Picasso asked the Duchess to pose nude for him but she refused on the basis that she found modelling boring. Instead she spent her formative years rubbing shoulders with the aristocracy’s inner sanctum along with American royalty, namely Jackie Kennedy.
But after her first marriage to the son of the Duke of Sotomayor in 1947, considered the last feudal wedding in Spain and the world’s most expensive at that time, the Duchess went on to snub her resculpted retrousséd nose at the establishment by making an illegitimate defrocked Jesuit priest and her former confessor, husband number two in 1978.
She was at it again in 2011 when she married her third husband, a man 24 years her junior, causing such a ruckus in the family that she divided her $3 billion fortune between her children and grandchildren just to shut them up. The tactic appeared to work with her saying “They’re more or less satisfied … at least they can’t put up any more objections.”
These days the Duchess is better known for her electrocuted shock of fairy floss hair, flamboyant fashion sense, including an extensive array of bikinis she’s taken to sporting on the Riviera and for her relentless pursuit of surgical enhancements.
While there’s not much to love about a life writ large by a self-indulged, self-absorbed existence of entitlement, there is always something to appreciate about the privileged few who do a fine job of hoisting themselves by their own petard. So the fact that the Duchess of Alba’s remodelled face is now reminiscent of one of Picasso’s later, more contorted masterpieces, seems rather fitting. Perhaps it should be renamed Albatross.