Sunday 25 September 2016

Duke of Westminster: How an aspiring Irish beef farmer became one of the wealthiest men in the world

Published 11/08/2016 | 10:45

The Duke of Westminster on a balcony overlooking the gardens of his country home near Chester, England. | Location: near Chester, England, UK.
The Duke of Westminster on a balcony overlooking the gardens of his country home near Chester, England. | Location: near Chester, England, UK.
Gerald Cavendish Grosvenor, 6th Duke of Westminster, pictured at a ceremony to mark the opening of a new elephant house at Chester Zoo in 2004
The Duke And Duchess of Westminster at their country home near Chester, England. | Location: near Chester, England, UK.
Britain's late Duke of Westminster Gerald Cavendish Grosvenor arriving at St George's Chapel in Windsor, west of London in April 2016
The Duke of Westminster and Queen Elizabeth II leaving Chester Cathedral following the wedding of Lady Tamara Grosvenor and Edwin van Cutsem
The new Duke of Westminster Hugh Grosvenor at the Chapel Royal in St James's Palace, ahead of the christening of Prince George of Cambridge
The Duke of Westminster is made a Companion of the Order of the Bath by Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace.
The Duke of Westminster during a parade before The Queens Own Yeomanry as they are conferred the Freedom of South Ayrshire at a parade through the streets of Ayr
Duke and Duchess of Westminster with their new baby boy leaving St Mary's Hospital, Paddington, London
Pippa and James Middleton with Earl Grosvenor (centre), whose father, the billionaire landowner the Duke of Westminster, has died aged 64
Hugh Grosvenor
Undated handout photo issued by the Grosvenor Estate of the Duke of Westminster, Gerald Cavendish Grosvenor who died aged 64 at Royal Preston Hospital
(L-R) Michael and Julia Samuel arrive with one of Prince George's godparents Hugh Grosvenor (Earl Grosvenor) at the Chapel Royal in St James's Palace, ahead of the christening of the three month-old Prince George of Cambridge by the Archbishop of Canterbury on October 23, 2013 in London, England. (Photo by John Stillwell - WPA Pool /Getty Images)

The late Duke of Westminster never envisaged an aristocratic future for himself with unimaginable wealth and power.

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Gerald Grosvenor was born and raised in Omagh, Co Tyrone and hoped to become a beef farmer. But when his uncle died without heirs, his father Robert received the title, and €9bn fortune, which his son would receive when he was 27 years old.

Similarly, after Gerald's death on Tuesday, his son Hugh (25) will now inherit the estate.

He was described as an "introspective" man who never yearned for wealth and later said material things meant nothing to him.

The Duke of Westminster and Queen Elizabeth II leaving Chester Cathedral following the wedding of Lady Tamara Grosvenor and Edwin van Cutsem
The Duke of Westminster and Queen Elizabeth II leaving Chester Cathedral following the wedding of Lady Tamara Grosvenor and Edwin van Cutsem

"Not interested in material things. Honestly. It would drive me bonkers if I thought too deeply about it," he said in a rare interview.

"Given the choice, I would rather not have been born wealthy, but I never think of giving it up. I can't sell. It doesn't belong to me."

Many believe it was his rural Irish background that kept his feet on the ground, even while mingling in one of the most exclusive circles in the world - that of the British royal family.

He was close with Prince Charles and knew Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, while his son Hugh is godfather to Kate Middleton and Prince William's son Prince George (three).

The Duke And Duchess of Westminster at their country home near Chester, England. | Location: near Chester, England, UK.
The Duke And Duchess of Westminster at their country home near Chester, England. | Location: near Chester, England, UK.

The royal couple released a statement after his death, saying: "The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were very sad to learn of the Duke of Westminster’s passing yesterday. Their thoughts are very much with his family this morning."

Hugh is now the third richest man in the UK and 68th richest billionaire in the world with 300 acres of land in Belgravia and Mayfair, among countless others.

The Grosvenor family spokesperson said on Tuesday: "It is with the greatest sadness that we can confirm that the Duke of Westminster, Gerald Cavendish Grosvenor (64), died this afternoon at Royal Preston Hospital.

"He was taken there from the Abbeystead Estate in Lancashire where he had suddenly been taken ill.

Hugh Grosvenor
Hugh Grosvenor

"His family are all aware and they ask for privacy and understanding at this very difficult time.

"No further comment will be made for the time being but further information will follow in due course."

He is survived by his wife of 38 years Natalia Phillips and their daughters, Lady Tamara (37), Lady Edwina (35) and Lady Viola (24).

Undated handout photo issued by the Grosvenor Estate of the Duke of Westminster, Gerald Cavendish Grosvenor who died aged 64 at Royal Preston Hospital
Undated handout photo issued by the Grosvenor Estate of the Duke of Westminster, Gerald Cavendish Grosvenor who died aged 64 at Royal Preston Hospital

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