Luisa Isabel Alvarez de Toledo, 21st Duchess of Medina Sidonia

Luisa Isabel Alvarez de Toledo, 21st Duchess of Medina Sidonia

Doña Luisa Isabel Alvarez de Toledo y Maura, 21st Duchess of Medina-Sidonia (baptized Luisa Isabel María del Carmen Cristina Rosalía Joaquina) (August 21, 1936 - March 7, 2008), was the holder of the ducal title Medina-Sidonia in Spain. Known as the "Red Duchess".

She was the 21st Duchess of the ducal family of Medina-Sidonia, one of the most prestigious noble families and Grandees of Spain. She was also the 15th Duchess of Fernandina and Princess of Montalbán, 17th Marchioness of Villafranca del Bierzo, 18th Marchioness of los Vélez, 25th Countess of Niebla, and three times a Grandee of Spain.

Life and Family

Luisa Isabel was born in Estoril, Portugal, the only child and daughter of Joaquín Alvarez de Toledo y Caro, the 20th Duke of Medina-Sidonia, and of María del Carmen Maura y Herrera, daughter of Gabriel Maura y Gamazo, the 1st Duke of Maura, and wife Cuban Julia de Herrera y Herrera, 5th Countess of la Mortera. Her great-grandfather was Antonio Maura, who had been Prime Minister of Spain. Her third cousin is actress Carmen Maura.

On 16 July 1955, in Mortera, Cantabria, she married José Leoncio González de Gregorio y Martí (29 October 1930 in Madrid – 23 February 2008), son of Leoncio González de Gregorio y Arribas, Martínez de Azagra y Turull, and wife Leticia Martí y Rodríguez de Castro, with whom she had three children.

Her first son, Leoncio Alonso González de Gregorio y Alvarez de Toledo, was born on 3 January 1956, and was the hereditary Duke of Niebla until the death of his mother. He married María Montserrat Viñamata y Marotell (born 15 January 1962, Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain), the daughter of the 23rd Countess of Alba de Liste, on 12 December 1983, and has two children.

Her daughter, María del Pilar Leticia González de Gregorio y Alvarez de Toledo, was born on 10 January 1957 and is the 16th Duchess of Fernandina. Her first marriage was to Rafael Márquez y Osorio (born 4 January 1949, Madrid, Spain), 7th Count of the Torres de Alcorin, on 16 September 1977, and has two children with him. Her second marriage is to Tomás de Terry y Merello (born 30 August 1936, Puerto de Santa María, Cádiz, España) on 25 June 1990. She has two more children by this marriage.

The third child of Luisa Isabel is Gabriel Ernesto González de Gregorio y Alvarez de Toledo, born in 1958.

On her deathbed, March 7, 2008, Luisa Isabel married Liliana Maria Dahlmann in a civil ceremony. [Keeley, Graham. [ "Red Duchess wed lesbian lover to snub children"] , "The Daily Telegraph", 2008-03-16. Retrieved on 2008-03-16.]


Luisa Isabel Alvarez de Toledo was the head of the House of Medina-Sidonia, the most important ducal house of Spain, with its status as a hereditary title having been granted in 1445. The principal residence of the dukes was the Palace of Medina-Sidonia, located in Sanlúcar de Barrameda, Cádiz. This Palace houses one of the most important private archives in Europe.

An atypical and controversial aristocrat, she was an historian, the guardian of the ducal archives and the author of numerous works. At the age of 18, she was presented to society in Estoril, Portugal, along with the Infanta Pilar de Borbón. Yet, despite her noble heritage and upbringing, she held strong Republican ideals throughout her life.

Her anti-Francoist activities brought about her encarceration in the prison of Alcalá de Henares when she was in her 60's. It was from this time that she became popularly known as the "Red Duchess." Until her death, she was an active member of the foundation that manages the major part of the patrimony of the House of Medina-Sidonia, and she continued her work as an historian and author.

Luisa Isabel Alvarez de Toledo died on 7 March 2008, at the age of 72, in Sanlúcar de Barrameda, Spain. cite news |first=|last=|title=Adiós a la 'Duquesa Roja'
url= |work= El País |publisher=|date=2008-03-07 |accessdate=2008-03-08

Noble Titles

*Noble titles recognized by the Spanish Ministry of Justice:
**Duchess of Medina-Sidonia, Grandee of Spain (1957)
**Marchioness of Villafranca del Bierzo, Grandee of Spain (1957).
**Marchioness of Los Vélez, Grandee of Spain (1951).

*Titles recognized by the Assembly of Noble Italians
**Princess of Montalbano (1957).
**Princess of Paternò (1957).
**Countess of Sclafani (1957).
**Countess of Adernò (1957).
**Countess of Caltabellotta (1957).
**Countess of Caltaxineta (1957).
**Countess of Caltabuturo (1959).
**Countess of Collesano (1962)
**Marchioness of Calatafimi (1959).
**Baroness of Molins del Rey (1959).
**Baroness of Centorvi (1959).
**Baroness of Biancavilla (1959).

See also

* List of Dukes of Medina Sidonia


External links

* [ Público (Spain): La 'Duquesa Roja' dies at the age of 72] (Spanish)
* [ Daily Telegraph obituary]
* [ The Independent: The Duchess of Medina Sidonia: Aristocrat whose radicalism earned her the title 'Red Duchess']
* [ Guardian obituary]
* [ Duchess of Medina Sidonia] (includes photograph)

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