20 Feb, 2024 @ 10:20
1 min read

Ira von Fürstenberg dead at 83: Tributes pour in for the ‘Princess of Marbella’ and icon of the ‘Jet Set’ crowd

IRA von Fürstenberg, the rebellious Italian socialite who helped to popularise the Costa del Sol, has died aged 83.

The aristocratic actress died on Sunday in her home in Rome.

She was born in the Italian capital in 1940 as Virginia Carolina Theresa Pancrazia Galdina zu Fürstenberg, daughter of the German prince Tassilo von Fürstenberg and his Italian wife, Clara Agnelli, the granddaughter of the founder of Fiat.

At just 15 years of age, she married 31 year-old Prince Alfonso of Hohenlohe-Langenburg, godson of Alfonso XIII.

Together with her husband, she cemented her status within the ‘Jet Set’ elite, owning homes in Ronda, Austria, London, Madrid and Rome.

She had two children with Alfonso – Christoph, known as Kiko, who died in suspicious circumstances in a Bangkok prison in 2006, and Hubertus, a former Olympic skier and fellow member of the clique that Ira called the ‘happy few’.

In 1954, Ira and Alfonso established the Marbella Club, the luxurious hotel that put the city, and the Costa del Sol, on the forefront of the ‘Jet Set’ scene.

Ira with her first husband, Alfonso, with whom she helped to establish the iconic Marbella Club. Credit: Cordon Press

Ira became friends with fellow wealthy elites, such as the German millionaire Gunter Sachs, the French activist-actress Brigitte Bardot, and swathes of the Spanish aristocracy.

“Marbella back then was a wild party where you came and went with different people. One night it could be the Franco’s or the Bismarck’s, another Cayetana de Alba”, she told Vanity Fair.

After just six years of marriage, she controversially left, starting a romance with Italian-Brazilian playboy Francisco ‘Baby’ Pignatari, a businessman Ira labeled as the love of her life. 

Their marriage lasted for four years.

Following her second divorce, Ira worked as an actress, appearing in over twenty films that saw her become one of the leading sex symbols of the 1970s. 

Up until her death, she continued to live in her typically flamboyant and idiosyncratic way.

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Ben Pawlowski

Ben joined the Olive Press in January 2024 after a four-month stint teaching English in Paraguay. He loves the adrenaline rush of a breaking news story and the tireless work required to uncover an eye-opening exclusive. He is currently based in Barcelona from where he covers the city, the wider Catalunya region, and the north of Spain. Send tips to [email protected]

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