Hugh Richard Louis Grosvenor, the 7th Duke of Westminster
PUBLISHED: 00:00 19 September 2016
With the passing of the 6th Duke of Westminster, his son Hugh takes on the title, the latest Grosvenor in a line of Cheshire land-owners with a 1,000-year heritage. Words by Howard Bradbury.
Until the untimely death of his father, the world knew little of Hugh Richard Louis Grosvenor. That will change rapidly. As the 7th Duke of Westminster, Hugh Grosvenor becomes, at 25, perhaps the world’s youngest billionaire.
The fact that he moves in Royal inner circles - one future king, Prince Charles, is his godfather, another, Prince George, is his godson - would alone pique media curiosity in him. That he is now also the world’s most eligible bachelor - and, for now, without a girlfriend - may turn that into a feeding frenzy.
It seems certain that Hugh’s late father did his best to prepare him for this day.
‘He’s been born with the longest silver spoon anyone can have,’ the 6th Duke once said of his son. ‘But he can’t go through life sucking on it. He has to see himself as a caretaker, keeping the estates in good shape in his lifetime.’
That notion of stewardship is reflected in the system of trusts by which the family wealth is expected to avoid massive liability for inheritance tax.
Gerald Grosvenor, the 6th Duke - who died on August 9 aged 64 - had, like his son, been in his 20s when the death of his father propelled him towards untold wealth and responsibility. Unlike Hugh, however, the title and wealth had not been Gerald’s lifelong expectation, and he once said: ‘It took me ten years just to understand what I had inherited.’
The upbringings of the 6th and 7th Dukes were in marked contrast. His father a farmer and Unionist MP, Gerald spent his formative years living on an island in Lough Erne, County Fermanagh, an idyll which he acknowledged was a real-life version of Swallows and Amazons.
But when the 4th Duke died, childless, in 1967, his brother Robert, Gerald’s father, became the 5th Duke. Thus, at the age of 15, Gerald realised that his own destiny was to be rather more than just a gentleman farmer.
He was sent to Harrow, which he hated, leaving with only two O Levels. Aged 26, Gerald married Natalia Phillips and they had three daughters, Tamara, Edwina and Viola, and one son Hugh who, by the law of primogeniture, inherits.
In a less rarefied upbringing, Hugh attended a state primary school, a private day school, Mostyn House in Parkgate, which closed in 2010, and the independent Ellesmere College at Ellesmere, just over the border in Shropshire.
After studying countryside management at Newcastle University, Hugh worked for Grosvenor Group before taking a job with a London recycling firm turning waste coffee grounds into bio-fuel.
Now a much bigger job - as head of Britain’s richest family business - awaits the 7th Duke.