Wedding of the Duchess of Alba, 1947

The Wedding of Cayetana Fitz-James Stuart, the Duchess of Montoro, the only daughter and Heir of the 17th Duke of Alba and the 9th Marchioness of San Vicente del Barco (wearing Empress Eugénie’s Pearl Tiara), and Don Luis Martínez de Irujo y Artázcoz, son of the Duke of Sotomayor, at at Seville Cathedral this day in 1947, followed by a Magnificent Reception at the Palacio de las Dueñas. The wedding was considered to be one of the last great weddings of European nobility, with the New York Times calling it “the most expensive wedding of the world.” The couple had six children, including the current Duke of Alba, and were happily married until his death in 1972. The Duchess remarried twice and was famous for being the most titled aristocrat in the world until her death in 2014.

“We got married that same year, on October 12, a day as important as the Hispanidad, and a fantastic date for Seville. Because I managed to get married in Seville, fulfilling another of my dreams, which cost me no small amount of work. Those months, from the announcement of the engagement to the wedding day, I lived in that happiness of all brides, with a lot of excitement.

What was happening around me affected me little, such was the bubble in which I was immersed alongside Luis, also embarking on a meticulous, very detailed preparation, as my father’s custom demanded. For him, the wedding day of his only daughter, the future Duchess of Alba, had to be memorable and, of course, it succeeded.

I wanted to get married at the main altar of the Cathedral of Seville, beautiful, which, for those who don’t know, is the third largest temple in the world. Only Pedro of Orleans and Infanta Esperanza of Borbón, sister of Doña María de las Mercedes, the mother of King Juan Carlos, had managed to get married there. Dad worked a lot with Cardinal Segura to get permission, because he knew how excited I was, and I think he was too. In the end, he managed it.

The dress was made for me by Flora Villarreal. I recently donated it to the Costume Museum in Madrid, and they take it to all the important exhibitions held on wedding dresses. It’s a beautiful dress. Flora, who had her workshop in Madrid, did a magnificent job. I always liked her a lot as a couturier, although she has not obtained the same recognition as Balenciaga, for example.

The dress that Flora made for me was made of natural satin, with 18th century Brussels lace and was inspired by a line that Dior had launched: narrow shoulders, a very narrow waist as well, and a very full skirt. The centre buttoning, in the front, was beautiful and, since I was thin, it fit me like a glove. I was not surprised that, years later, Grace Kelly wore a similar button-down when she married Rainier of Monaco. I wore a five-meter-long tulle veil, held in my hair with a crown of pearls and diamonds (…).

I lack the words to tell how the journey in the carriage was like, pulled by horses harnessed with tassels and with the coachmen’s blankets embroidered with the four letters of the family: ALBA. Although I have a good memory, my assistant, Lola, and I have contrasted all these details with the press clippings from that time. What the newspapers didn’t pick up was my joy, the warmth of the thousands of people who were waiting for me in the streets, praising me with: “Duquesa, iguapa! ¡guapa!”. Years have passed and even today they continue to compliment me affectionately. How can I not love Seville and the Sevillians if they are my home, if as soon as I go out on the street, they do nothing but love me? (…).

The press at that time was more respectful than it is today, although regarding my wedding some foreign newspapers—as was the case with my debutante ball—criticized the supposed money we had spent, undoubtedly without knowing the details of all the money my father had distributed. My father… the most important man in my life, he was there, sitting next to me in the carriage, after everything we had been through together: from Mom’s death to two wars (…).

As I walked arm in arm with my father down the aisle of the Cathedral towards the altar, I remember that I was feeling very moved seeing all the women wearing their mantillas, which were mandatory for the ceremony. How proud I felt then of that decision! I loved the mantillas, I still like it very much today and I regret that they are seen less and less, both at bullfights and in church”.


3 thoughts on “Wedding of the Duchess of Alba, 1947

  1. Personally, I think the song “I did it my way” fits the late Duchess perfectly. She was such an iconoclast! Her wedding tiara is truly spectacular. I think the current Duke still owns it, and if he does, we’ll probably have to wait for one of his sons or maybe his niece Cayetana marries in order to see it again.

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