On July 16, 1756, José María Álvarez de Toledo, Duke of Alba and Medina Sidonia, was born. Several of the most eminent aristocratic titles in Spanish history merged in his person. Namely, he was born as the son of the Marquis of Villafrance (sp. Marques de Villafranca), and from birth he had the title of Duke of Fernandina (sp. Duque de Fernandina), which was traditionally awarded to the heir of the main member of the Villafranca family.
He inherited his father’s title of Marquis of Villafrance from José María at the age of 17, making him the head of the said house. He married in 1775 the richest heiress in Spain – María del Pilar Teresa Cayetano de Silva Alvarez de Toledo – who soon inherited the vast wealth of the House of Alba (the Dukes of Alba were among the richest aristocrats in Spain and throughout Europe).
With this marriage, José María became, after his wife, also the Duke of Alba (sp. Duque de Alba), and he received a number of other ducal titles that accompanied her. By the way, his wife became especially famous in history as Maja in the paintings of the famous Francisco Goya. José María and his wife were by far the richest aristocratic married couple in Spain. In addition, shortly after the wedding, José María inherited from his cousin the title of Duke of Medina Sidonia, which, along with the title of Duke of Alba, was the most prominent in Spain. In his person, the two richest Spanish aristocratic houses were thus united: Alba and Medina Sidonia.
At the end of his life, José María Álvarez de Toledo had a huge collection of nine ducal titles (Fernandina, Montalto, Bivona, Alba, Olivares, Montoro, Huéscar, Galisteo and Medina Sidonia), two princely (princely) titles, 14 marquis titles and as many as 20 count titles. Unfortunately, he passed away at the age of only 39, and after his death that vast inheritance fell apart because he had no male descendants.