SEVILLE – The city of Seville on Friday bid farewell to the Duchess of Alba with a funeral in its cathedral attended by Spanish authorities, while thousands lined the streets in a show of affection for the woman they considered one of their own despite being the holder of most noble titles in the World.
Although she was born 88 years ago in Madrid, Cayetana Fitz-James Stuart had a special liking for Seville, where she died at her palace of las Dueñas on Thursday after a short illness, surrounded by her six children and her third husband.
Over the past 24 hours about 80,000 people paid their respects to the Duchess at the city hall, where she lay in state in a coffin draped in the flags of the House of Alba and of Spain.
The crowd broke into applause and clapped their palms marking the rhythm of “Sevillanas,” the Duchess’s favorite Andalusian folk dance, as the funeral procession headed from the City Hall to the cathedral, where some 4,000 people attended the mass officiated by The Archbishop of Seville, Cardinal Carlos Amigo.
Among them were the sister of King Felipe VI, Infanta Elena, Defense Minister Pedro Morenes and local authorities.
After the ceremony, the remains of the Duchess were taken to a Seville cemetery where they were incinerated in a private ceremony.
Part of her ashes will remain in Seville, in the church dedicated to the Cristo de los Gitanos (Gypsy Christ) of whom she was a fervent devotee, while the rest will lie in the family vault at a convent in Loeches, near Madrid, where her two late husbands and her ancestors are buried.
A Grandee of Spain with 46 noble titles and ties to the Scottish and English monarchies, the unconventional Duchess was known for her eccentric ways and for speaking out her mind.
In 2011 she braved her six children to marry civil servant Alfonso Diez, 24 years her junior, who became her third husband, and finally decided to give them their inheritance to quell their fears over the wedding.
Her image dancing in the street in the light pink dress she wore at her wedding was on the front page of newspapers and celebrity magazines.
In her memoirs, she described dancing, flamenco and Seville as “the melting pot” of her spirit and said the strum of a guitar had saved her from sadness many times in her life.
A woman with a passion for the arts and culture, she surprised everyone just a few years ago when she flipped the bird at journalists who were harassing her with questions about her private life.
One of the wealthiest women in Spain, she owned several palaces, properties and masterpieces including works by Francisco de Goya, Velazquez, El Greco, Jose de Ribera, Titian and Chagall, only to mention a few.
She became the 18th Duchess of Alba and the third woman to inherit the title in 500 years in 1953, upon the death of her father.
One of her titles was that of Duchess of Berwick, as a direct descendant of King James II of England and VII of Scotland.
Her eldest son, Carlos Fitz-James Stuart y Martinez de Irujo, the Duke of Huescar, is now the 19th Duke of Alba.