25-year-old Hugh Grosvenor, godfather to Prince George, is now the Duke of Westminster and one of the wealthiest men in the United Kingdom. Seems they’re still doing the aristocracy thing over there. Frankly, the whole kit and caboodle is probably the last thing this kid wanted—not to mention that his dad had to die for him to get it.
That’s according to the Guardian. Grosvenor’s father, Gerald, died unexpectedly Tuesday, making Hugh the seventh Duke of Westminster. (The title was created by Queen Victoria in 1874; the family had been on the upward march since Richard Grosvenor was created Baronet of Eaton in 1622. Relatively new compared to, say, the title of Duke of Norfolk, created 1397.)
But if the dukedom isn’t exactly ancient, it’s certainly wealthy. The Daily Beast explains that, “According to Forbes, the duke had a fortune of £8.3 billion, making him the 68th-richest person in the world, and the third-richest person in the U.K. However, he has frequently been cited as the richest person in the U.K., depending on property values of the day.” Specifically, Hugh now owns not just Chesire’s Eaton Hall but also chunks of the very expensive London neighborhoods of Belgravia and Mayfair and additional swaths of the country, as well. That’s thanks to a fortunate marriage three centuries ago, which got the Grosvenors 500 acres of land that the family would develop in the early 18th and 19th centuries, thereby getting in on the ground floor of the very fancy West End.
The website of the Grosvenor Estate is a trip and a half. Imagine some hedge fund/property management group, except run by a family who’d owned much of Connecticut for a century and a half, backed by the weight of a thousand-year-old system insisting that a 25-year-old could be one’s superior by mere accident of birth. Maybe it’s not that much of a stretch in terms of the practicalities, but at least in America you aren’t expected to call Stephen Schwarzman, CEO of Blackstone Group—or eventually, one of his kids—“Your Grace.”
“Little is publicly known of the former student of countryside management at Newcastle University,” according to the Guardian, which explains that, “His family guarded his privacy as he was growing up as heir apparent to the vast fortune.” But there’s no avoiding the news entirely when you’re the heir to a fortune and a dukedom:
His 21st birthday party at Eaton Hall, which reportedly cost £5m, also made the newspapers. He hosted about 800 guests, including Prince Harry, at the “black tie and neon” bash, where comedian Michael McIntyre and hip-hop duo Rizzle Kicks topped the bill.
Guests who wanted to give a gift were asked to contribute to the the young earl’s large wine collection. He told the Chester Chronicle at the time: “The party was simply amazing – a birthday and a party I will never forget. It is the beginning of a new era in my life and I look forward to the challenges that lie ahead.”
The Telegraph says that, in a departure from aristocratic norms, Grosvenor attended not a boarding school, but rather “a state primary before going to a private day school.”
Please note that Hugh here is not in fact the eldest child of his father but the eldest son, because aristocratic inheritance still works according to primogeniture, meaning the parts of the sixth duke’s estate tied up with the title can’t go to women. Though they surely aren’t hurting for cash, and getting all this at the ripe old age of 25 did require that Grosvenor’s father die suddenly, at the relatively young age of 64.
Unfortunately we can’t quite recommend Mr. Grosvenor as a most eligible bachelor, because duty will surely compel him to marry some impeccably bred miss fresh out of the schoolroom. (That’s how it works, right?)