Who Is The Duchess Of Alba? Spain's Hippest Aristocrat Hits Hollywood!

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Dec. 14 2011, Published 5:00 a.m. ET

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By Debbie Emery - Radar Reporter

From rubbing shoulders with the royals in Europe, to standing side-by-side on the red carpet with Tom Cruise, the eccentric Duchess of Alba sure is one busy 85-year-old.

While she has been rocketed into the celebrity spotlight since her relationship to ‘boy toy’ civil servant Alfonso Díez, 61, hit the headlines, the Duchess has been a well-known figure in social circles across the continent for decades, and has the low down on the roving royal.

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Born at Spain's Liria Palace in March 1926, Maria del Rosario Cayetana Alfonso Victoria Eugenia Francisca Fitz-James Stuart y Silva, is the only child of the 17th Duke of Alba and the goddaughter to the Queen of Spain.

Now head of the House of Alba, she has over 40 titles - more than anyone else in the world, according to the Guinness Book Of Records.

The Duchess' first high-profile marriage came in 1947 to Don Pedro Luis Martínez de Irujo y Artázcoz and was considered to the last great feudal wedding in Spain after being dubbed by the New York Times, "the most expensive wedding of the world."

The couple welcomed six children during their 25-year marriage, many of which hit the headlines in their own right, including a son who was a riding champion and a daughter who married a bull-fighter.

After her husband's death, the widow wed a former Jesuit priest, Jesús Aguirre y Ortiz de Zárate, in a union that shocked both her nation and the church, because of his religious ties, illegitimacy, and being 11 years her junior.

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Finding herself a widow for the second time in 2001, the youthful looking royal embarked on her most scandalous relationship yet when she began dating Díez, who is 24 years younger than her and ran a public relations firm.

The billionaire bride-to-be was determined to prove the sincerity of the relationship to her doubting children, who disapproved of the union, so she pledged to give their inheritance to them before she walked down the aisle.

In a wedding that was comparable to William and Kate's royal nuptials, the couple tied the knot in October at the Duchess' opulent 15th-century residence, the Palacio de las Duenas in the cobble-stoned old quarter of Seville.

Having once been criticized by Spain's citizens for being old school aristocracy and the biggest landowner in the nation (she even sparked riots when voted the Most Illustrious Daughter of Andalusia), the Duchess is now beloved by her nation and has become a celebrity darling.

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Throughout it all she has never lost her famous whimsical ways and outlandish, hippy style that has spanned from belly-baring tops in the 70s, to garish prints in the 80s, to colorful coats and patterned tights today.

As previously reported, just like many Hollywood stars, the elderly woman faced a sex scandal earlier this year when a 30-year-old photograph of the duchess as she sunbathed topless in Ibiza was splashed on the cover of the racy Spanish magazine Interviu.

Now a bona fide celeb in her own right, the Duchess fit right in on the red carpet on Monday night with Cruise at the Spanish premiere of the mega star's latest action movie, Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol in Madrid.


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