Who is the Duke of Westminster, the English aristocrat 20 times richer than the king

Who is the Duke of Westminster, the English aristocrat 20 times richer than the king

With a heritage estimated at nearly 12 billion dollars, Hugh Gosvenor, 31, Duke of Westminster is the heir to the richest noble family in the kingdom.

370 million pounds sterling (426 million euros). It was the personal fortune of the late-Elizabeth II estimated by the Sunday Times. A sum to be inherited by his children according to his wishes of the deceased monarch. It should be noted that this heritage should not be confused with that of the British Crown (“The Crown estate”) estimated at around 15 billion pounds which includes many real estate assets or farms but which cannot be alienated. Ditto for the famous crown jewels whose value is estimated at 3 billion pounds but which the monarch does not personally have.

The personal heritage of the royal family which he can enjoy and which he can alienate as he pleases therefore amounts to 400 million euros. If this sum is substantial, it does not make the royal family the richest in the country, far from there. Industrial or financial fortunes such as those of James Dyson, the creator of the famous homonymous brand of vacuum cleaners, are much more substantial.

But the Windsors aren’t the wealthiest aristocrats in the Kingdom either. It is the Duke of Westminster who is at the head of the largest noble fortune in the country. It is estimated at 11.6 billion dollars, 27 times more than the personal wealth of the royal family!

120 hectares in central London

It is currently held by Hugh Grosvenor, the seventh Duke of Westminster. Aged 31, ‘Hughie’ inherited his father, the 6th Duke, who died in 2016 of a heart attack. The young heir is at the head of a colossal real estate empire managed by the company Grosvenor Group. It extends over more than 120 hectares in central London (the very upscale districts of Mayfair and Belgravia in particular) and includes many residences such as the palace of Eaton Hall in Cheshire (north of England) and its sumptuous French gardens but also real estate investments in 60 cities around the world like Paris and part of Silicon Valley.

Eaton Hall.
Eaton Hall. © Wikipedia

It was Queen Victoria who created the title of Duke of Westminster in 1874 in favor of Hugh Grosvenor (the ancestor of the current Duke) who was then a Marquess from Cheshire whose ancestors were already important landowners in the central London since the end of the 17th century. Politician, owner of racehorses, the duke is also passionate about architecture and personally oversees many reconstructions in Mayfair in central London. When he died in 1899, he was considered Britain’s richest man.

Coco Chanel’s lover

It is his grandson Hugh Richard Arthur Grosvenor, second Duke of Westminster and nicknamed ‘Bendor’ who is best known in France. Married four times, the Duke is known to have dated Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel. It is he who finances the villa La Pausa that the seamstress had built in 1928 on the heights of Roquebrune-Cap-Martin (Alpes-Maritime) for an amount of 6 million francs. The Duke also has a sulphurous reputation. Known for his pro-German sympathies, he tried to use his affair with the Frenchwoman to negotiate a peace with the Nazi regime. Prime Minister Winston Churchill rejected this attempt.

The successors of the Grosvenor family will be keen to grow the family heritage by expanding internationally from the 1950s, always investing primarily in land and real estate.

The family is also versed in philanthropy (the current duke had donated several million pounds to the NHS during the Covid) and has a relatively simple lifestyle in view of his immense fortune. Hugh and his brothers and sisters, for example, were all educated in public establishments or small private neighborhood colleges and high schools.

Close to the royal family and in particular to Prince William, Hugh Grosvenor is the godfather of George, the eldest son of the princely couple.

Frederic Bianchi

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