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Duchess of Alba to be laid to rest on Friday in Seville

November 20, 2014
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Spaniards are in mourning for the Duchess of Alba, who has died aged 88. In Seville, where the colourful aristocrat lived out her happiest days, applause rang out as her coffin left on its way to the Town Hall and cries of 'Viva!' meaning 'Long live' were heard. Thousands are expected to pay their respects to Cayetana Fitz-James Stuart, who was the country's richest women but who was regarded by many as down-to-earth, generous and full of joie de vivre.

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Mourners are paying respects to Duchess of Alba in Seville Town Hall

Her death was announced early on Thursday by the city's mayor who said the duchess "always held a place in her heart for Seville and so she will always be remembered in the heart of Seville. "The city had indeed done her proud. A day of mourning has been declared and flags are flying at half mast for Cayetana, who would often kick off her shoes at fiestas and dance with the locals. The last time she was seen doing this was at the wedding to her third husband Alfonso Diez in 2011.

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Duchess of Alba with husband Alfonso Diez

In their darkest hour Alfonso and the aristocrat's six children are being comforted by this show of affection. Her coffin left Las Dueñas, the magnificent Renaissance Palace where she passed away, draped in the flag of the Dukes of Alba.

Cayetana was the 18th holder of the title, as well as being a duchess seven times over, a countess 19 times and a marquesa 23 times. The Duchess of Alba was a descendant of King James II of England, through his illegitimate son James Fitz-James, Duke of Berwick whose mother was Arabella Churchill, the sister of the Duke of Marlborough.

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Her family will be joined by royalty at the funeral

She was born on 28 March, 1926 in her family's lavish home in Madrid, Liria Palace, which housed some 249 paintings by artists including Rembrandt, Goya, Van Dyck and Rubens, as well as the Alba Bible which dates back to 1430. In 1947 the aristocrat married the son of the Duke of Sotomayor in a lavish ceremony in Seville Cathedral that rivalled the Queen's. Their union lasted until his death 25 years later. Cayetana, who was known for her striking bohemian outfits and a riot of curls, would marry two more times. Her second husband was a former priest and intellectual, her third a civil servant 25 years her junior. Before her third wedding she divided up much of her inheritance between her heirs and moved to the palace in Seville.

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In Seville the city she loved flags are flying at half mast

On Friday she will return to the cathedral of the Andalusian city for one last time for her final send off. Mourners at the funeral may well include members of the royal family. King Felipe VI phoned her son Cayetano and husband Alfonso to pass on his condolences. His father King Juan Carlos and mother Queen Sofia have sent a wreath as a sign of respect.

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