Thursday, 30 March 2017

Duchesses of Seville - Duchess of Alba and Duchess of Medinaceli

When one thinks of Seville, one thinks marmalade, tapas, and flamenco.

But one must note that this is also the capital of former formidable Spanish duchesses.
The Late Duchess of Alba and the 18th woman who held the title

The late Duchess of Alba, 
hereby referred to as Cayetana and 
the late Duchess of Medinaceli or Alcala
( there were many to choose from), 
hereby referred to as Mimi.
Duchess of Medinaceli when she was younger as she stayed away from the limelight in her later years

The two were the most titled aristocrats in the world and in that aristo-world outranked the Queen of England who was the Duchess of Alba's playmate as a child. Mimi actually held the title but when she found out she was going to be listed in the Guinness book of world records, she was horrified at the prospect and petitioned the King of Spain and gave away a few of her titles to her son and added that her cousin, Cayetana, would enjoy the limelight.

Spanish duchesses rarely get spoken about at length 
in our Anglo culture and 
gets outshined by the likes of the Mitford sisters 
( which did include an eventual Duchess ) and the Bouvier sisters.
Oddly, real life duchesses especially in the UK rarely get a look in.  
Of course, there was Princess Di whose nickname was "Duch".

As I was in Seville,
I visited the principal homes of the two Spanish duchesses that are very well known in the Spanish speaking world.

The first was Palacio Duenas, the favourite home of Cayetana.

This home was substantial in size with some gardens and was located in the town center so I could see why she would love the peace and the simultaneous bustle.

I fell in love with these jute blinds.

The gardens were pleasant but not forced in design.
I enjoyed strolling through the grounds so much as I have always adored Cayetana.

What makes them also more unique and probably made them strong characters is that they were duchesses in their own right and didn't marry into the title by virtue of being the only female child of each dukedom.

She had several husbands unapologetically and even got remarried at the age of 85 and spontaneously broke out into a small flamenco celebratory jig.
She had the breadth of personal relationships unrestrained by fear of snobbery and was friends with flamenco dancers and fellow supporters of the Seville Betis football club 
and not just couped up in the world of Hola magazine. 
Though of course, she was friends with the likes of Jackie O.

Unlike one of her ancestors who posed for Goya, she turned down the chance to pose for Picasso.
The Black Duchess, painted by Goya and the 13th Duchess of Alba

She was passionate about Seville and the province of Andalusia without being provincial about the matter.
She was a bit of a Renaissance woman interested in so many subjects

These tiled stairs led up to the private family quarters and was not open to the public.

Interestingly, unrestricted by the British system of leaving everything to the eldest son, Cayetana left each of her children a palace and this home went to her eldest son.

It is a fabulous mix of Spanish, Moorish, and British objects that reflect her family history.

Even if you aren't interested in the late Duchess of Alba, this is one of the historic examples of a Sevillan Palace to walk through.

One of the main tourist attractions in Seville on its own architecural right is La Casa de Pilatos, the family seat of the Duchess of Medinaceli mentioned above.

She is a cousin of Cayetana as well and in fact the Palacio Duenas used to belong to her family in the 1500's.

This palace has many more architectural aspects than the home above and was truly spectacular.

So spectacular that I wonder why even a magazine junkie like me only sees this house in Spanish publications.

There were sections of classic Andalucian / Moorish features with the arches and central courtyard with tiled halls.

There was a section for all the Roman artefacts found on the site.

There were areas of respite as this home is also in the center of Seville.

The upstairs of the central palace is still used by the family but is available to view on a tour but no pictures were allowed.

The family has outbuildings off the central building with this garden as their view.
The side buildings on the left 
and on the right below are where the family live and is cordoned off completely.

The inhabitants are still very alive and in the pages of the Spanish version of Hello magazine.

This picture below circulated the gossip pages and Pinterest.
In fact a friend thought this was a staged picture but 
I had to inform him that this was a genuine wedding photo of a groom with his biological mother.
This is the Duchess of Feria, 
Nati Abascal,
 who is the daughter in law of Mimi 
and to no surprise, a former model.
She is firmly 'La Jet' as the Spanish would say.

In fact, Valentino is known to come out of his retirement just to design this dress for Nati.
They make a phenomenally photogenic family.

They could be seen as the Kennedys of Spain as the family has been touched with a bit of tragedy.
All the Spanish people on my tour were talking more about them than the features of the house!

But as you can see, this house stands on its own merits.


  1. Hello CSW, I am not much of a follower of Spanish aristocracy, but I note from your post that their favorite color seems to be purple, and they do live in magnificent dwellings. I recall the marriage stories about the Duchess a few years ago, mostly notable for their weird aspect, but everyone admired her spunk.

    1. The houses alone are great examples of Andalucian palaces in the Mudejar school especially the casa de pilatos. There is no one of note I follow as they don't really seem to make them like Cayetana very often Jim!

  2. What a great post. Oh the traveling you do! You are so lucky. I love that picture of Jackie all done up in the Spanish style. She looks to be enjoying herself immensely. Ya know I can never resist a duchess, especially one who was born to the title, so this is the kind of post for me! xx

    1. I love those Spanish high combed lace things - it is very Seville high holidays. I think it looks fabulous and suits everyone I have seen in it! xx

  3. What a fabulous peek into extraordinary lives. Love the Duchess's wedding dancing. That's the way to live! xo

    1. I know! I loved her curiosity about everything and the Duchess of Alcala did a lot of great charity work xx

  4. I was just thinking how dishy those two Spanish aristos were, then clicked through that link and thought... no thanks!! Wow. What a terrible family history. But I do love the mansions... but even that wouldn't tempt me near two good looking, titled guys with that kind of unpleasant baggage. Plus their mother looks terrifying.
    Back to the palaces. They are magnificent. I love the tiles. Loved the description of these two Duchesses too - I don't know a lot about European titles (mostly because there are so many - English Primogeniture law has at least stopped the titles breeding like rabbits, as they seem to on the continent). I do like that the Duke can leave a daughter with his title, rather than it going sideways to a male relative though. Very progressive as a concept for its era, and the main reason why people aren't so interested in Duchesses in the UK I'd say - they've married into the title, not obtained it by their own birthright. OK, I'll stop there, but I found this post fascinating! x

    1. actually good point about why they don't hold sway here. Also the titled here have their money tied up in family trusts and don't really have any control over it so the charity ball circuit here don't really ask them too much as they always say they are only asset wealthy so that doesn't exactly make great pictures for Hello! Even tho Will and Kate have gotten the rule changed for them in principle everyone else still follows that ancient rule. But especially with that spanish show you love which Seville had a hotel looking so similar and the general vibe, I think Seville is calling your name H xx

  5. I need you with me everytime I go know your shit! So glad you were able to go to Seville and still see me and Em. Yes, we found her blarf/skanket. Can't wait to meet up with you again. Much love.

    1. You mean the - Jack kind? hehe I am so glad we saw what we did on the Monday!!!! please say hi to Em and her skanket for me - come again soon!! xx

  6. Thanks for the tour of Seville, a place I've yet to travel to. The Duchess of Alba was an exotic creature indeed. I do recall seeing that celebratory jig photo published on her death and thinking to myself, "now there's a lady I would have enjoyed meeting".


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