Luisa Isabel Alvarez de Toledo y Maura, 21st Duchess of Medina Sidonia, Grandee of Spain (Luisa Isabel María del Carmen Cristina Rosalía Joaquina; 21 August 1936 – 7 March 2008) was the holder of the ducal title Medina-Sidonia in Spain. She was nicknamed La Duquesa Roja or 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.
Luisa Isabel was born in Estoril, Portugal, the only child 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 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, 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, born on 3 January 1956, was the 26th Count of Niebla (ceded by his mother at his birth) until the death of his mother when he inherited the titles 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. He married Pamela García Damián (born 14 November 1956, Caracas, Venezuela), on 12 July 2001. He now is the 22nd Duke of Medina Sidonia.
Her daughter, María del Pilar Leticia González de Gregorio y Alvarez de Toledo, was born on 10 January 1957 and was the 13th Duchess of Fernandina (from. 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 a child 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 another child by this marriage.
The third child of Luisa Isabel is Gabriel Ernesto González de Gregorio y Alvarez de Toledo, born in 1958.
Hours before her death, 7 March 2008, Luisa Isabel married Liliana Maria Dahlmann in a civil ceremony on her deathbed. Today, the Dowager Duchess Liliana Maria, her legal widow, serves as life-president of the Fundación Casa Medina Sidonia.
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 the Archivo de la Casa de Medina Sidonia, one of the most important private archives in Europe.
An atypical and controversial aristocrat, she was a 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 socialist ideals throughout her life. She is said to have been a member of the then illegal Spanish Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE).
Her anti-Francoist activities brought about her incarceration in the prison of Alcalá de Henares during the 1960s. It was from this time that she became popularly known as the "Red Duchess." She established and, until her death, was an active president of the Fundación Casa Medina Sidonia that manages the Archivo de la Casa de Medina Sidonia, the major part of the patrimony of the House of Medina Sidonia, and she continued her work as an historian and author.
During her extensive research in the archives she discovered documents which convinced her that America might have been discovered a long time before Columbus by Arab-andalusian or Moroccan sailors trading with ports in Brazil, Guayana and Venezuela and she published her views in No fuimos nosotros (It wasn't us) and África versus América.
Luisa Isabel Alvarez de Toledo died on 7 March 2008, at the age of 71, in Sanlúcar de Barrameda, Spain.Noble titles recognized by the Spanish Ministry of Justice:
Duchess of Medina-Sidonia, Grandee of Spain (1957)
Duchess of Fernandina
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 Biancavila (1959)
Spain: Knight Grand Cross of the Civil Order of Alfonso X, the Wise