Spain enthralled by wedding of 85-year-old duchess

SEVILLE, Spain Thu Oct 6, 2011 5:21pm EDT

1 of 5. Spain's Duchess of Alba Cayetana Fitz-James Stuart y Silva (L) and her husband Alfonso Diez pose at the entrance of Las Duenas Palace after their wedding in Seville October 5, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Marcelo Del Pozo

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SEVILLE, Spain (Reuters) - One of Europe's wealthiest aristocrats, the 85-year-old Duchess of Alba, wedded a civil servant 24 years her junior in a Seville palace on Wednesday after overcoming opposition from her children and Spain's royal family.

Hundreds of onlookers gathered outside the palace, waving fans against the hot Andalusian sun, to catch a glimpse of the flamboyant duchess whose colorful clothing and cloud of frizzy white hair are a mainstay of Spanish gossip magazines.

Maria del Rosario Cayetana Alfonsa Victoria Eugenia Francisca Fitz-James Stuart y Silva, who has more titles than Britain's Queen Elizabeth II, wore a salmon-colored dress with a moss-green sash by Andalusian designers Victorio & Lucchino.

The twice-widowed duchess, known for her love of flamenco dancing and bull-fighting, ventured outside the palace to greet well-wishers after the ceremony. She threw her bouquet of flowers into the crowd and danced flamenco in front of a forest of TV cameras.

The duchess's six children had been openly opposed to the marriage with 61-year-old Alfonso Diez, with whom she started to step out in 2008, but have softened to the idea following the matriarch's move to divide her fortune between them in July.

The wedding plans even met with disapproval from Spain's royal family although King Juan Carlos has since given his blessing to the couple, the duchess said in a recent interview with news agency EFE.

"I have stood alone with this plan, and everyone was against it until they realized the high caliber he is," the duchess said of her betrothed.

The duchess's fortune includes ancient palaces throughout Spain, paintings by Spanish masters Velazquez and Goya, and huge stretches of land. Her wealth is estimated at between 600 million and 3.5 billion euros ($4.6 billion).

The preparations for the wedding have dominated Spanish newspapers and television. The balcony with the best view of the palace entrance has been rented to a television company for 8,000 euros, El Mundo newspaper reported.

The Duchess of Alba, the third woman to hold the title in her own right, married her first husband in 1947. They were married for 25 years until he died of leukemia.

She walked up the aisle with her second husband, a former Jesuit priest, in 1978. He died after 23 years of marriage.

"I am a practicing Roman Catholic, that's why I'm marrying for a third time, unfortunately my two previous husbands died," she has said.

Alfonso Diez will leave his civil service job following the wedding to live in a 16th century palace in Seville alongside his new wife.

($1 = 0.753 Euros)

(Writing by Sonya Dowsett, editing by Paul Casciato)