Misc

Engaged! Inside Alejandro Santo Domingo and Lady Charlotte Wellesley’s Romance

by Keith Dovkants Photographed by Alejandro Santo Domingo
Thursday, July 16, 2015
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For more than a decade Alejandro Santo Domingo was the prize of Manhattan. Women flocked to him and yet he eluded them all until now…


But who is this girl that Alejandro Santo Domingo will soon call his wife? Lady Charlotte Wellesley is no stuffy aristocrat, she is clearly as fun as she is cool. Her Twitter page photograph reveals a wide-eyed young woman wearing a jokey feather headdress with two breadsticks projecting from her mouth like vampirical fangs. Her beau, suave, sophisticated Alejandro, the ever elegant billionaire bachelor, clearly adores his new lighthearted fiancée, much to the irritation of droves of honed, beautiful, women the world over.


If Charlotte Wellesley follows tradition, she will be married at her family’s house, Stratfield Sayre in Hampshire, within months (English custom dictates that marriages, once announced, should be carried out within a three to six month window) and it is guaranteed to be an epic party.   The guest list will be a mixture of top English aristocracy, the Monegasque royal family (Tatiana Santo Domingo is married to Andrea Casiraghi), American blue bloods and South American elite. There will even be a smattering of rock ‘n’ roll since Lady Charlotte’s cousin, Sophia Wellesley, is married to pop singer James Blunt.


Perhaps as a wedding present, he’ll sing the happy couple “You’re beautiful.”


All excitement about the wedding aside for a moment, when this couple walks down the aisle together, they will share more in common than just a sense of fun: they are both scions of tightly knit families with fascinating histories.


Charlotte’s roots lie across the Atlantic, in England.  This is Charlotte’s ancestral home, and the term is used advisedly. Her family is one of the most distinguished in the land, and her father, the Duke of Wellington, bears a title that resonates in British—and European—history. This year, Britain commemorates the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo, the bloody engagement outside Brussels where the first Duke of Wellington and Prussian allies finally defeated Napoleon. A grateful Parliament voted Wellington a £600,000 bounty, worth around $10 million today. He used the money to buy, among other things, a magnificent country estate that was very much part of 24-year-old Charlotte’s growing-up. She is the second youngest of five children in a family noted for its closeness. Indeed, in Charlotte’s devotion to her parents and siblings one sees common ground between her and Alejandro. The Santo Domingo family is a widely extended clan in which blood ties are paramount. Its origins are in Colombia, where Alejandro’s father, Julio Mario Santo Domingo, created one of the country’s biggest business empires from the family’s already impressive banking and industrial holdings. Julio Mario died in 2011, two years after his eldest son, Julio Mario Jr., died of cancer, aged 52, and Alejandro, 38, now runs the family’s affairs with his brother Andres. Following Spanish custom, the brothers add their mother’s maiden name, Davila, to their surname. Informally, however, they and the rest of the family are always known by the Santo Domingo moniker. When Julio Mario Sr. died, the two brothers shared a legacy estimated at $11 billion, with Julio Jr.’s children, Tatiana and Julio Mario Santo Domingo III. Tatiana is married to Andrea Casiraghi, son of Princess Caroline of Monaco, and Andres’ wife Lauren is cofounder of online retailer Moda Operandi and a contributing editor atVogue. Alejandro’s share of the estate took his personal wealth to $4.3 billion, according to Forbes magazine. Alejandro is managing director of Quadrant Capital Advisors, and his interests through the Santo Domingo Group include a big stake in SABMiller, the world’s second largest brewing company, and in Colombia a TV channel, a film studio and an online retailer. Alejandro is a U.S. citizen, but he is a frequent visitor to Colombia, where the Santo Domingos have several homes, including on Baru, a private island off the coast. Last New Year’s he took Charlotte to Cartagena, where she met nieces, nephews and cousins. A New Yorker familiar with the Santo Domingo clan said, “There are a lot of them and they are very tight together. It’s not unusual to see half a dozen or more at the same dinner.”


Alejandro’s girlfriends have included heiress Amanda Hearst and model Julie Henderson. Women flock to him not just because of his movie star looks, old-fashioned charm and huge personal fortune; he also has a reputation for being a warm, caring person. Evidence of this, perhaps, can be seen in his charitable efforts. He is active in the family’s foundation, which is a major player in helping Colombia’s poor. He is also a generous donor and has championed ecological and conservancy causes. All this chimes well with Charlotte; she has supported a charity for underprivileged children in London and is said to care deeply about environmental issues, as well she might; quite a lot of the environment belongs to her family. The first Duke of Wellington bought a vast country estate with his winnings from Waterloo. Stratfield Saye in Hampshire, a little over an hour’s drive from central London, covers 2,743 acres, and at its heart it is one of the loveliest stately homes in England. The palatial main house is open to visitors (although the family still lives there) and includes an exhibition devoted to Wellington’s life and, in the form of his funeral carriage, death. Stratfield Saye’s role as a family home says much about the closeness of the Wellesleys. One writer recently described it as “a thriving Wellesley commune.” Charlotte’s father, the Ninth Duke, has part of the main house with her mother, who, at her marriage in 1977, was Princess Antonia von Preussen, granddaughter of the last emperor of Germany, Wilhelm II. It’s interesting to note that any children born to Charlotte will be, through their grandmother, distantly related to Queen Victoria and a number of Europe’s royal houses. The Ninth Duke’s eldest child, Arthur—Marquess of Douro and heir to the dukedom—lives in the Old Rectory on the estate with his wife, the former model Jemma Kidd, and their three children. Arthur is a great friend of Alejandro Santo Domingo, who is a frequent guest at Stratfield Saye. Also on the estate is Charlotte’s sister Honor who, for the past 10 years, has been running the Wellington Farm Shop, which sells produce not only from Stratfield Saye’s acres, but from the family’s extensive land holdings in Spain as well. The first duke was given a large estate in Granada—and numerous Spanish titles—for his success against Napoleon in the Peninsula Wars. Charlotte has been plugging the farm shop on Twitter—“yummy homemade cupcakes”—with her quirky sign-on: CAW-blimey (her middle name is Anne). “Cor blimey!,” of course, is an expression usually associated with London’s Cockneys, and although Charlotte is most definitely a toff, she is also known for being streetwise and sociable. While at Oxford (reading archaeology and anthropology) she signed on as crew on a 42-foot sailboat taking part in the grueling, 605-mile Fastnet ocean race. She said at the time she wanted to challenge herself “mentally and physically.” The Fastnet is notoriously tough; in the 1979 race a storm claimed the lives of 15 sailors and 3 rescuers. Her day job is at photographer Mario Testino’s studio in London, where she is a producer. London is where the Wellesley family has Apsley House, arguably the second most famous local home (after Buckingham Palace). It stands on the southeast corner of Hyde Park, and still retains its original address, Number One, London. The ground floor, with its magnificent art collection, including paintings commemorating Wellington’s victories, is open to the public (admission about $11), but upstairs is strictly private because the upper floors house apartments still used by the Wellesleys. Apsley House may be a national monument, a museum and a London landmark, but it is still home to a very large and close dynasty. And if there’s anything Alejandro Santo Domingo can relate to, it’s a tight-knit family.


When Alejandro and Charlotte walk down the aisle together it will join two families with incredibly strong links to history, industry and frankly, great looks.  We can’t wait to see how their children turn out. Congratulations to the happy couple.


A version of this story will appear in the August 2015 issue of AVENUE on the Beach.


 


Photo via Bfa.com


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