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The Red Duchess' Effort to Deny Her Children Their Family Legacy

The Duchess of Medina Sidonia was clearly not centered around her children. She feuded with them while she was alive and tried to prevent them from receiving any portion of the family archives and legacy. The children have now turned to the Spanish courts in the hopes that a right of inheritance in Spanish law will protect them.

Known as the Red Duchess for her strong political response to Franco, Luisa Isabel Álvarez de Toledo and her descendants trace their lineage back to the man who was best known for leading the dramatically failed Spanish Armada against England. While she was alive, the Duchess was in control of the family's historical archive, a private asset valued at some $67 million.

In the 1990s, her children successfully sued her to stop her from giving away portions of the family estate. This caused a permanent rift and the Duchess decided to leave nothing behind for her children. Eventually, she created a foundation to hold the archives.

On her deathbed in 2008, the Duchess married her longtime lover and put her in charge of the foundation, believing this would effectively cut her children out of the estate. The Telegraph reported this story in "Children of 'Red Duchess' who married lesbian lover on deathbed in battle over legacy." The children are now suing for part of the archive.

Under Spanish law children have a right to receive at least one-third of the estate of their parents. However, the courts will have to sort out whether that applies in a case such as this, where the property was actually given to a foundation before the parent passed away. It is clear that the intent behind the law is to make certain that parents cannot leave their children nothing. Thus, if policy dictates, it would seem the children should win.

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