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SPAIN: Nobility. Residencia de Estudiantes

Nobility in Europe, and especially in Spain, used to be a very serious thing. Your rank was indicated by such things as what you did with your hat in the presence of the king. When I was young, its prestige was beginning to fade. The Residencia de Estudiantes, where I stayed in Madrid, had several nobles among its sponsors. The most famous of them was the Duque de Alba, about whose family Eduardo Tello has sent the information which I post as a footnote. The Alba family must have felt crushed by all these titles. Note that the family now acts like any other. There were also among the sponsors of the Residencia the Marqués de Palomares and the Marqués de Silvela. They were hangovers from the reign of Alfonso XII, who wanted to transform Spain into a country like England and who held up Oxford as a model of higher education. I first went to Spain in 1931 with an Oxford scholarship named after the Duque de Osma.

The scandals in the British and other royal families (including that of Spain), publicized by the press, have robbed the monarchies of their mystical aura. However, Spain is still a monarchy, and, as Eduardo Tello points out, noble titles are still recognized, as they are in England. Moreover Spanish nobles seem to have kept their estates. There must be a study of the fate of these estates during the Republic and the Civil War In England there is still the House of Lords, which is being transformed into something like the Canadian Senate, but in Spain the nobles play no similar political role. . My guess is that, in most other European countries the nobility is not recognized by the governments and that many nobles do not use their titles, which, however, give them social cachet. This discussion began as a result of an inquiry from the r-short Monterey, California, which is about to celebrate its fourth centennial. Here is the account of the present Alba family sent to me by Eduardo Torres:

"The person you knew of in the 1930's was the 17th duke, Don Jacobo Fitz-James Stuart y Falcó, 1876-1953. (There is a very interesting semblance of him, as well as a wonderful photograph, in Sir Charles Petrie's biography of King Alphonso XIII). Upon the 17th duke's death, on 24 September, 1953, he was succeeded in his many titles and dignities by his only child, [María del Rosario] Cayetana Fitz-James Stuart y de Silva, born on 28 March, 1926. Her mother was Doña María del Rosario de Silva y Fernández de Córdova, (1900-1934) in her own right duchess of Medinaceli, of Denia, of Tarifa, and of Híjar, as well as marchioness of San Vicente del Barco. She was 16 times a grandee of Spain. Doña Cayetana (1926-) was married first to Don Luis Martínez de Irujo (1919-1972) duke of Sotomayor.She was married second (1978) to Jesús Aguirre y Ortiz de Zárate, a noted intellectual and former Jesuit priest, who died on May 11, 2001. Since this last gentleman did not have a title of his own, he received the courtesy title of "Duke of Alba", as consort to the titular duchess, 20 times a grandee of Spain. As duchess of Berwick (she holds over 150 hereditary titles of nobility in her own right), doña Cayetana is a descendant of the British king, James II, through his bastard James Fitz-James, duke of Berwick (1670-1734) born of a relationship with Arabella Churchill, only sister of the great duke of Marlborough. Doña Cayetana is therefore the last of the Stuarts. Or would be. Her oldest son Don Carlos María (1948-), heir to all her dignities, has legally adopted her surname of Fitz-James Stuart. (She has several other male issue who carry the paternal patronimic Martínez de Irujo.) As for her being the "red duchess", whoever said that has confused Doña Cayetana with another many-titled Spanish duchess, doña Luisa Isabel Alvarez de Toledo, duchess of MEDINA SIDONIA, who in the sixties had several radical-chic episodes,much reported in the press. A direct descendant of the admiral of the Spanish Armada, a great land-owner and holder of several historical stately homes, the duchess of MEDINA SIDONIA has lately become a popular historian.As for the duchess of ALBA, she has recently published a Gothic romance. As the house of ALBA also holds the marquisate and countship of MONTERREY—their oldest dignity by far—their family vault is not at Alba de Tormes, but in Avila. In Spain, titles of nobility are recognised at law, and issued and regulated by the King, through the Ministry of Grace and Justice".

Ronald Hilton - 3/2/02