Who is new Duke of Westminster? Hugh Grosvenor becomes Britain's most eligible bachelor

Grosvenor studied countryside management at Newcastle University. Photo / Supplied
Grosvenor studied countryside management at Newcastle University. Photo / Supplied

It is not something he would have at all wished for himself, but at the age of 25 Hugh Richard Louis Grosvenor has been left contemplating the fact that overnight he has become Britain's most eligible bachelor.

Following the sudden death of the Duke of Westminster at the age of 64 on Tuesday, the young account manager - who has spent his time working for a bio-fuels company - has inherited his father's title and estate, making him one of the richest men in the world.

Until now the new Duke had lived a life of relative obscurity for someone so gilded - save for a memorable 21st birthday party rumoured to have cost several million. But his sudden elevation will put him in the spotlight as never before, raising the question; just who is the 7th Duke of Westminster?

By inheriting the bulk of his father's estimated £8.3 billion fortune, the new Duke becomes the third richest person in the UK and the 68th wealthiest in the world.

At the heart of the family fortune is a property portfolio which includes 300 acres in two of London's most expensive neighbourhoods, Mayfair and Belgravia.

Prince Charles laughs with the late Duke of Westminster. Photo / AP
Prince Charles laughs with the late Duke of Westminster. Photo / AP

That had previously led more than one society commentator to joke that on his father's death Hugh would "own half of London".

As well as property and land holdings in the capital the new Duke has inherited huge tracts of land across the British Isles, including in Oxford, Cheshire and Scotland, as well as in Spain.

Among the first decisions he will be required to make is whether to abandon the family's much anticipated Glorious Twelth shoot on Friday on the Abbeystead estate, in Lancashire - where his father was taken ill before being rushed to the Royal Preston Hospital - or carry on as normal in tribute to the Duke.

Even though Hugh was born to huge wealth, and was brought up amid the splendid surroundings of Eaton Hall, the family's 10,872-acre Cheshire estate, his parents tried to endow him with as normal a childhood as possible.

Along with his three sisters he was - unusually for the child of hereditary peers - educated at a state primary school on The Wirral, close to their home, before attending a private day school, Mostyn House.

Grosvenor studied countryside management at Newcastle University. Photo / Supplied
Grosvenor studied countryside management at Newcastle University. Photo / Supplied

The children later attended the co-educational £10,296-a-term Ellesmere College in Shropshire, whose former pupils include the rugby player Bill Beaumont and Michael Chapman, the former Archdeacon of Northampton.

Hugh, whose previous title was Earl Grosvenor, went on to study countryside management at Newcastle University, and later studied at Oxford.

After graduating, he worked in estate management for his father's Grosvenor Group, before becoming an accounts manager at bio-bean, a recycling firm which collects waste coffee grounds and converts them into biofuel pellets.

But it was inevitable that at some stage Earl Grosvenor - once described by Vanity Fair as "baby-faced" and "absurdly rich" - would come to public attention and he did so in some style.

Prince Charles talks with the late Duke of Westminster in Aldford, England. Photo / AP
Prince Charles talks with the late Duke of Westminster in Aldford, England. Photo / AP

The occasion was his 21st birthday party in 2012, held at Easton Hall and rumoured to have cost as much as £5 million.

Prince Harry was among the 800 guests, who were entertained by the comic Michael McIntyre and Rizzle Kicks, two London hip-hop artists.

Photographers were banned and the security was so tight that the doors of vehicles taking guests to the party (dress code 'black tie and neon') had been sealed with tape to prevent gate-crashers.

Hugh said at the time that the expense was worth it.

"The party was simply amazing - a birthday and a party I will never forget," he told the Chester Chronicle. "It is the beginning of a new era in my life and I look forward to the challenges that lie ahead."

The following year, in a sign of how highly he is regarded by Prince William and his wife Catherine, Hugh became godfather to their first child Prince George.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge said in a statement yesterday that they were "very sad to learn" of the Duke of Westminster's death. Kensington Palace said: "Their thoughts are very much with his family this morning."

It is only as a result of Britain's ancient laws of primogeniture, first introduced by the Normans following the invasion of 1066, that Hugh has inherited his father's title.

He is not, after all, his parents' first born child, being preceded by his older sisters Lady Tamara, 36, who is married to one of Prince William's closest friends, Edward van Cutsem, and Lady Edwina, 34, the wife of television presenter Dan Snow.

By virtue of being a boy, however, Hugh now inherits both the title and the estate, although his sisters - including the youngest, Lady Viola, 23 - will benefit from substantial trust funds.

Things might have been different had a bill seeking to introduce equal rights of succession for all first born children, whether male and female, succeeded in making its way through Parliament.

The Equality (Title) Bill - known as the "Downton Abbey law" because of the plotline involving Lady Mary's exclusion from inheriting the family estate - was drafted following a change in the law in 2013 allowing a first born Royal baby girl equal right of succession to the throne.

But the bill failed to make it beyond the committee stage, and that means all eyes are now on Hugh Grosvenor, 7th Duke of Westminster.

- Daily Telegraph UK

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