Today we take a break from Danish Tiara November in honor of the Duchess of Alba who passed away early Thursday morning at the age of 88.The stalwart of Spanish aristocrats, Cayetana Fitz-James Stuart holds 46 other recognized titles on top of being the Duchess of Alba and is descended from royalty. The matriarch of one of the richest aristocratic families in the world died at home at la Casa de las Dueñas in Seville, surrounded by her 3rd husband and her six children. The funeral will take place tomorrow and Infanta Elena will attend in King Felipe’s stead. Spain is in a national state of mourning with all the flags at half-mast.
The Duchess was also the owner of an impressive wedding tiara, now fittingly known as the Alba Wedding Tiara.
This enormous diamond and pearl affair was once owned by Empress Eugenia de Montijo, wife of Napoleon III, from whom the Duchess of Alba is a descendant. Seven inverted poiré pearls top seven diamond loops fashioned in the shape of laurels, these alternate with detailed floral spikes, each culminating in a huge twinkling diamond. The base is a chain of lover’s knots and forget-me-nots. Since the frame is made of platinum, not a popular medium during the French Empire, it was most likely reset over the years.
Cayetana wore the tiara for her first marriage in 1947 to Luís Martínez de Irujo y Artacoz, the society event of the year. The entire affair was outlandishly luxurious and cost a fortune, especially for a post-war wedding. Leaving all preferences and prejudices aside, the Alba wedding was more talked about and eclipsed Elizabeth II’s wedding that took place one month later. [Since this was more than 30 years before your Blog Hostess was incarnated in this life, we’ll have to take the Internet’s word for it.]
Her dress, though simple in design like most 1940s dresses, was made of white satin and Brussels lace by Flora Villareal. If that means nothing to us in the 21st Century, allow me to translate: cha-ching! Spain has its own lace, let’s put it that way. Ostentatious, shall we? [Then again, so is having 46 titles.]
She didn’t only wear it for her wedding. Check out the Duke & Duchess at the Imperial Ball, strangely held in New York. [Makes one wonder if it was mislabeled.]
The Duchess’ daughter, Eugenia, Duchess of Montojo by courtesy of her mom, also wore the historic tiara for her wedding in 1998.
It is one of three tiaras we know to be owned by the House of Alba but only a daughter of the house may wear it. When her sons married, then new daughters-in-law wore the “Russian tiara,” as they call it in Spanish. [I’m sure there’s another nickname for it in English.]