FHB interview with EXCMO. SR. D. CARLOS FITZ JAMES-STUART, DUQUE DE ALBA, Honorary Vice President of the British Hispanic Foundation

Carlos Juan Fitz-James Stuart y Martínez de Irujo is the XIX Duke of Alba and who has the responsibility to merge 600 years of history with Twitter. At the head of The House of Alba, he finds the opportunity to commemorate traditions and memories such as the friendship between his grandfather and the archaeologist Howard Carter whose get togethers are recalled as part of the XXV anniversary of the Spanish British Forum.


(Translated by ANA LUCÍA CERDÁN)

November 2022

This interview might seem unusual, because in addition to being focused in the FHB honorary Vice-Presidency, it will be a great opportunity to talk about archaeology, history and the always fascinating Egypt from Madrid. This November is the hundredth anniversary of the tomb discovery of the Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamun made by Howard Carter, who shared a great friendship with the Duke of Alba’s grandfather Mr. Jacobo Fitz James Stuart y Falcó. Might we start by recalling that friendship? Do you know how it start?

My grandfather became close friends with many people from the Anglo-Saxon world, it could be said that he was a real Anglophile. In that context, he met Lord Carnarvon from the United Kingdom, who as is well known, was Howard Carter’s patron.

In fact, your mother and grandfather journeyed to Egypt to see the archaeological progress in situ…

My grandfather travelled to Egypt on several occasions at the beginning of the century, it was a country that, from an early age, caught his attention. He travelled with friends, with my grandmother during their honeymoon, soon after, with my mother, and together they visited the main sights.

Thanks to the letters of recommendation from his aunt the Empress, he managed to know first-hand both the museum in Cairo and the main excavations with the help of the best archaeologists.

Anecdotally, during their honeymoon in 1921, they met Howard Carter at the Valley of the Kings, being just a few meters from the Tutankhamun tomb, which would be discovered one year later.

One hundred years later, in the FORO HISPANO BRITÁNICO we are able to recall his conferences in that cultural, literary feel and open to innovations atmosphere of Madrid. In fact, Howard Carter said: «it has been the best week of my life, I repeat that I will never forget it», after giving several conferences in Madrid… He must have felt honoured and found good friends. Could we share something of his personality, in order to get know some traits less known beyond his professional projection?

According to specialists, Howard Carter was not an easy person. Nevertheless, he and my grandfather connected from the first moment.  He stayed at the Liria Palace on the two occasions he was in Madrid and together they visited the Archaeological Museum, the Prado Museum, Toledo and other places. He was even greeted by the Kings, Alfonso XIII and Victoria Eugenia.

It may be curious for most of the public opinion to find out now that there has been so much relationship between a finding so photographed, filmed and followed and the House of Alba, also famous… In so many centuries of history, there must have been innumerable stories and characters that had something to do with the House of Alba. Would you highlight anything more that may be unknown to most of us?

Luckily, the history of my House is very complete, full of interesting figures who, in different ways, were protagonists of episodes related to the history of our country and the world. It comes to my mind names like the Grand Duke of Alba, the Marshal of Berwick, the Count-Duke of Olivares or the Empress Eugenia de Montijo.

Does all this history that we are going to remember in the FORO HISPANO BRITÁNICO have any continuity in terms of what relates Egypt to the House of Alba?

Well, the admiration the Dukes of Alba felt for Egypt did not end with my grandfather, my parents went on several occasions and I myself enjoy it very much when I go.

Are there currently cultural or social projects of special interest for the House of Alba?

In addition to taking care of the conservation of the historical-artistic collections, as one of the fundamental objectives, its diffusion is also important.

Not only with the opening of the palaces to the public, what I started in 2016, but opening my house to researchers. For example, this year we have presented a biography of my father, so that his figure is known.

Leaving aside the history and already being in the XXI century. Is it a difficult to find the balance between to protect so much history and compete for the audience attention in a world of social networks and tik toks?

Indeed, we work to consolidate the House of Alba in the XXI century and also be able to share the History and collections through social networks.

What is your biggest concern or priority to keep intact all this legacy with excellence?

My main task as Duke of Alba is to bequeath this inheritance to my descendants.  For example, I have recently linked Las Dueñas palace to the House of Alba Foundation.

Photo: Juan Carlos Vega