Some day, lad, all this will be yours...
Jim Dyson Getty Images
By Geoffrey Smith
August 11, 2016

There is–just–still such a thing as the eligible English bachelor. He’s 25, graduated from Newcastle University in England’s unfashionable north-east, and he works as an account manager for a biofuels company.

Oh, and he’s godfather to young Prince George (third in line to the British throne), his 21st birthday party cost $7 million–and he’s worth nearly $13 billion–the youngest billionaire on the planet, according to Bloomberg.

Meet Hugh Richard Louis Grosvenor, who became the 7th Duke of Westminster yesterday after his father Gerald suffered a fatal heart attack.

That makes him the titular owner of 300 acres of the swish London districts of Mayfair and Belgravia, with thousands more acres of country estates in northern England and Scotland. It also puts him in charge of Grosvenor Estate, the holding company for the family’s worldwide real estate assets, its investments in sustainable food and energy, and its charitable activities.

The figures are, of course, somewhat misleading. The estate he inherits is, to a large extent, a trust run for the benefit both of his current family (he has three sisters and the dowager Duchess his mother to take care of) and for future generations of Grosvenors.

More importantly, there’s a certain culture of expectation that comes from being born into a dynasty that’s 850 years old: Gilbert le Gros Veneur (lit. ‘Master of the Hunt’) came over with William the Conqueror in 1066 and helped him consolidate Norman control of England in the late 11th century; subsequent Grosvenors accompanied Richard the Lionheart on the Third Crusade and fought with Edward III at the battle of Crécy in the Hundred Years War.

“He’s been born with the longest silver spoon anyone can have, but he can’t go through life sucking on it,” the 6th Duke said of his heir back in 1992. “He has to put back what he has been given.”

If anything, the 7th Duke’s descent is even more exotic on his mother’s side. The dowager duchess (that’s the Maggie Smith character in Downton Abbey, if you need to picture it that way) claims Tsar Nicholas I, the great reactionary scourge of mid-19th century Europe, and Russia’s national poet Alexander Pushkin among her forebears.

For all that, the 6th Duke had had very clear notions about keeping Hugh and his other children as grounded as possible. He kept them away from Britain’s private boarding schools, after being miserably unhappy at his own. Hugh attended a local state primary school and was only a day pupil at his first secondary school. Appropriately enough for a huge land-owner, he studied countryside management at university.

“He’s a really down-to-earth bloke who never acted like a toff and is just a really good guy,” the muck-raking tabloid The Sun quoted an unnamed “pal” as saying Thursday. That’s the kind of language that The Sun normally reserves for aristocrats that it hasn’t yet succeeded in digging dirt on. The new duke has been successful in keeping himself out of the public eye so far.

 

U.K. media reported Thursday that the 7th Duke is expected to escape a heavy inheritance tax bill thanks to the advance tax planning of his father, who had paid the modern equivalent of $260 million in death duties when he succeeded to the duchy.

 

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