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Duchess gives up fortune to marry

world Updated: Aug 09, 2011 02:15 IST

She is one of the richest women in Spain, owns a dozen castles whose walls are hung with works by Goya, Velázquez and Titian and is a distant relative of King James II, Winston Churchill and Diana, Princess of Wales.

Now, however, the 18th Duchess of Alba is giving away her immense personal fortune in order to be free to marry a civil servant.

According to Guinness World Records, Maria del Rosario Cayetana Alfonsa Victoria Eugenia Francisca Fitz-James Stuart y de Silva, born in Madrid's Palacio de Lira, has more titles than any noble on earth, being a duchess seven times over, a countess 22 times and a marquesa 24.

As head of the 539-year-old House of Alba, her privileges include not having to kneel before the pope and the right to ride on horseback into Seville cathedral.

But the children of the duchess, 85, have until now blocked her plans to marry Alfonso Díez, 24 years her junior. The duchess and Díez, a civil servant in the department of social security who also runs a PR business, have been close friends for a number of years.

The duchess's personal wealth is estimated at between euro 600 million and euro 3.5 billion.