by Christopher Draper (formerly published in Northern Voices 15)
TO be fair, Gerald Cavendish Grosvenor, the sixth Duke of Westminster doesn’t own all the North but 11,500 acres of Cheshire, 23,500 acres of the Forest of Bowland, 42 acres of “Liverpool One”, 1,800 acres of north Wales and 96,000 acres of Scotland is enough to be going on with. That’s not all, for Gerald Cavendish Grosvenor also owns 300 acres of central London comprising the top-drawer districts of Mayfair and Belgravia. When the United States sought the freehold of their London (Grosvenor Square) Embassy, Gerald counter-claimed with a demand that the U.S. hand back to the Grosvenors Florida and Virginia which he alleges the Americans stole from his ancestors after the War of Independence. The Americans backed down and now plan to relocate from prestigious Belgravia to a freehold site at Nine Elms, Wandsworth. Such is the power, wealth and influence of Gerald, Duke of Westminster, Britain’s richest landowner (not to mention his extensive landholdings in 17 other countries around the globe).
Currently estimated at about £8.5 billion, Gerald’s wealth comfortably exceeds that of the poorest 10% of the British population (£7.0 billion). In other words, Gerald Cavendish Grosvenor is worth more than 6.3 million ordinary people.
He might not be handsome, clever or strong but Gerald certainly selected the right ancestors. Gilbert Le Gros Veneur (spot the connection) came over in 1066 with the Conqueror (“William the Bastard”) and shared the spoils of Norman rape and pillage. The “Gros Veneurs” were rewarded with vast tracts of rich farming land around Chester that, to this day, continue to provide the family with their magnificent country seat of Eaton Hall.
Another great wodge of the Westminster’s wealth was acquired through the 1677 strategic marriage of Sir Thomas Grosvenor to the 12-year old Mary Davis. Mary came with 300 acres of Ebury Manor that the Grosvenors shrewdly developed to create Britain’s most valuable real estate, Mayfair and Belgravia.
Two Brain Cells or One?
Expensively educated at public school (Harrow), Gerald managed to pass only two O-levels (his daughter, Lady Edwina, says one) yet, surprisingly, this limited academic success didn’t prevent Gerry’s elevation to the Chancellorship of the University of Chester in 2005. Nor did it stop him reaching the rank of Deputy Commander Land Forces of the Territorial Army, despite suffering a nervous breakdown in 1997 and a blizzard of damaging publicity in 2007. Fortunately Gerald’s lawyers forced the genie back into the bottle and details can now only be discovered from overseas sources.
Gerry hates unpleasantness and prefers to promote his academic credentials; Pro-Chancellor Keele University 1986-93, Chancellor Manchester Metropolitan University 1992-2002, Fellow Liverpool John Moores University 1990, Honorary Fellow University of Central Lancashire 2001, Honorary LL.D. University of Keele 1990, Honorary LL.D. University of Liverpool 2000 and D.Litt. University of Salford 2000. Not bad for a man with two O-levels.
Not What You Know…
Gerald is a personal friend of Prince Charles and his wife Natalia, a descendant of George II, is the godmother of Prince William. The Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh and the Princes William and Harry all attended the 2004 Chester Cathedral wedding of the Grosvenors’ oldest daughter, Lady Tamara Katherine (b.1979). According to the Financial Times, Daddy gave Lady Tamara £10 million as a wedding gift.
The second daughter, Lady Edwina Louise Grosvenor (b.1981) is married to broadcaster Dan Snow, author of “Death or Victory – The Birth of the British Empire”. The youngest daughter, Lady Viola Georgina Grosvenor (b.1992) remains, as yet, unmarried.
Gerald’s only son and heir apparent, Hugh, Earl of Grosvenor (b.1991), celebrated his 21st birthday in 2012 with a £5 million “black tie and neon” party in the grounds of Eaton Hall. The 800 partygoers naturally included Prince Harry and entertainment was provided by Michael McIntyre and Rizzle Kicks.
“The Field” country pursuits magazine identifies Hugh as, “the cream of the crop of younger shots”, “Hughie’s a great shot on the grouse”. Fortunately there are several shooting estates at hand and overseas there’s the Grosvenor’s beautiful 37,000 acre Spanish, Finca La Garganta Estate near Seville. “Teeming with stags and wild boar”, La Garganta is, “one of the largest and most exclusive hunting estates in Western Europe” where Princes Wills and Harry, Hughie G and King Juan Carlos frequently enjoy killing sprees. The facilities of La Garganta include a luxuriously appointed ten-bedroomed hunting lodge, a private railway station and a staff of one hundred.
Three Cheers for Hitler
The first Duke of Westminster was Hugh Lupus Grosvenor (1825-1899) who was gifted the title by Queen Victoria. Elected MP for Chester at the tender age of 21 he played little part in parliamentary politics until 1866 when he campaigned against the Reform Act. His real passions were horse racing, deer stalking and shooting.
The passions of the much married second Duke of Westminster, Hugh Richard Arthur Grosvenor (1879-1953), were more varied. A notorious womaniser, anti-semite and Nazi sympathiser he was in his element indulging in a ten year affair with French traitor and Nazi agent Coco-Channel. An all-round, selfish, insensitive brute, Hugh Grosvenor long remained an open-admirer of Hitler. Fiercely anti-gay, in 1931 he “outed” his homosexual brother-in-law, William Lygon, Lord Beauchamp to King George V and Queen Mary. “I thought men like that shot themselves”, was the King’s response. Lygon was rapidly despatched abroad and died an exile in America.
Gerry, the present Duke of Westminster, acquired his astonishing wealth directly from Hugh “the fascist” who bypassed three intervening Dukes to entrust the Grosvenor fortune to the one year-old Gerald who inherited on his eighteenth birthday.
Rebellion Below Stairs
The sixth Duke of Westminster is a socially aware, sensitive man who’s President or patron of more than 100 organisations and charities. His servants at Eaton Hall don’t seem entirely convinced and according to Mrs Frances Hewson the Duchess is a harsh task master with an obsession about the disposition of toilet rolls. Sacked by the Grosvenors in 2001 for “gross misconduct” their former housekeeper was blamed by the Duke for provoking staff to “a stage of rebellion”.
For her part Mrs Hewson claims “the Duchess sent back the sheets, adorned with their “W” monograms, if any bore a single crease…the lavatory rolls in each of the 20 en-suite bathrooms had to be positioned so that precisely two sheets hung down” and the housekeeper, “was not allowed to return from walking the family spaniel at 5.30 each morning until he had done two poos and a wee”.
Before dismissal Mrs Hewson was employed to serve the Grosvenors at Eaton Hall from 5.30 am until 3pm before returning for two hours each evening “to turn down the beds”. After sacking her, solicitors offered Mrs Hewson £5,000 to keep quiet and abandon an action for unfair dismissal, she refused but lost anyway. The lawyers then obtained a legal injunction to prevent Frances Hewson publishing a book revealing more about life at Eaton Hall.
“Virtue not Ancestry”
In 1381, when the ascendancy of the Grosvenors was but three centuries old the English peasantry rose up and cast off the yoke of aristocratic oppression. Tragically, they accepted the written guarantees of young King Richard II to then right their wrongs. Once dispersed the rebels were easily overcome by well-armed knights and noblemen as Richard vindictively declared, “Serfs you were and serfs you will remain!”
Six centuries on we’re still subjects not citizens yet many continue to bend the knee and applaud these pompous, pampered drones. If we look up to them it is unsurprising that they, most assuredly look down on us.
It’s rumoured that in his heart of hearts even Gerald Cavendish Grosvenor, the sixth Duke of Westminster KG, CB, CVO, OBE, TD, DL, CD knows his vast wealth and status is undeserved. His aristocratic power and prestige is all smoke and mirrors. With his two O-levels and a lawyer-suppressed personal life Gerald knows he’s not worth more than six million ordinary folk and his family motto, “Virtue not Ancestry” is an ironic joke.
As long as Gerry grinds the organ, the likes of Michael McIntyre, Rizzle Kicks, and assorted solicitors are suitably employed as performing monkeys but independent-minded Northern folk can see the Duke has no clothes.