Dukes of Westminster: property owners

Hugh Grosvenor, the Duke of Westminster, owns Mayfair and Park Lane. And in true Monopoly style this makes him one of the richest men in Britain.


Dukes of... low-risk property investment

Meet the Grosvenors: one of Britain's oldest and wealthiest families. With over 300 acres of Mayfair and Belgravia to his name, Hugh Grosvenor – aka the seventh Duke of Westminster – is one of the country's richest landowners, with an estimated worth around the not-too-shabby £8 billion mark. Hugh is just 25 and inherited the dukedom, landownings and mega wealth from his father Gerald Grosvenor, the sixth duke, when the latter unexpectedly passed away in August 2016. Gerald too had inherited the dukedom at a young age in 1979, and was a successful (if reluctant) big property owner.

Hugh's inheritance consists of pretty much all of Mayfair and Belgravia in London plus estates in Oxfordshire and Cheshire. The land is held in trust by a distinct legal entity, the Grosvenor Estate, meaning the duke does not control day-to-day operations and also handily avoided what could otherwise have been a multibillion-pound tax bill when he inherited the estate from his father. Nifty. 

Boodle Hatfield's affiliation with the Grosvenor family stretches all the way back to 1722, when the firm's founder – a fresh-faced 18-year-old called Robert Andrews – began working as a legal clerk and estate manager for Grosvenors. After becoming a fully fledged solicitor in 1730, Andrews set up shop in London. His reputation quickly spread, attracting the capital's most blue-blooded and well-landed families. Basking in its success and keen to grow, the firm gained the first part of its moniker when it employed 15-year-old clerk Edward Boodle in 1767.

By 1820, the firm was helping the Grosvenor family implement some of its most ambitious projects. Partner John Boodle took up his post as first clerk for the Grosvenor Place trustees: together they rolled out a grand construction programme across Pimlico and Belgravia, which gave these areas their iconic white stucco terraces.

Today, Boodle maintains an unwavering bond with its number one client. When Boodle marked the opening of its new Bankside HQ in 2014, an air of solemnity was added to the affair when the sixth Duke of Westminster himself cut the ribbon. And despite moving its central functions south of the river, Boodle has retained a pied-à-terre in Mayfair, “just a short walk from the Grosvenor office,” according to trainees.

Recently, Boodle's real estate team helped the Grosvenor estate to develop a boutique Mayfair hotel with luxury restaurateurs Corbin & King. With oversight from the richest landowners in the UK, it's no surprise this hotel comes with all manner of glitzy mod cons, including a £2,500-a-night habitable sculpture (yes, you read that right) created by Anthony Gormley – the sculptor-cum-architect who masterminded Gateshead's 'Angel of the North.'

“Grosvenor representatives are always invited to our corporate dos,” noted one of our trainee sources. But the ongoing relationship goes beyond mere handshaking exercises, with friendships just as likely to be forged on the playing field as they are in corporate hospitality: “We have joint football and netball teams that meet up every Wednesday to play in a league against other young professionals,” chirped one interviewee. “We often go for a meal before or afterwards, so it's a great way to socialise with clients on a weekly basis, but in a non-legal context.” With this in mind, it comes as little surprise that “our relationship with the client means that things are a little more relaxed than elsewhere. We know they’ll pay up, so never have to worry about chasing fees, and if the work is taking longer than expected, we can breathe easy knowing they won’t just drop us.” Phew.

A potted history of the Grosvenor family

Seven members of the Grosvenor family have held the title of Duke of Westminster since Hugh Grosvenor was made a duke by Queen Victoria.

The family's history stretched back well before that and in that more distant past, the Grosvenor fortunes were not always as great as they are now. Sir Richard Grosvenor, 1st Baronet, spent nearly ten years in Fleet Prison for unpaid debt. For more on the Grosvenor Estate itself, visit its website.

Hugh Lupus Grosvenor, 1st Duke of Westminster (1825-1899)

  • British politician and one of the most successful British racehorse owners of all time
  • The most recent person to earn the highest degree of the peerage without being either born into or related by marriage to the British Royal Family
  • Potential model for the character of Colonel Ross in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s short story 'Silver Blaze'
  • Thoroughbred

Hugh Richard Arthur Grosvenor, 2nd Duke of Westminster (1879–1953)

  • Served in the Second Boer War with the Imperial Yeomanry
  • Competed in the 1908 London Olympics as a motorboat racer
  • Pursued Coco Chanel relentlessly after being introduced to her in 1925 after a party
  • Outed his brother-in-law (William Lygon, 7th Earl Beauchamp and the basis for Evelyn Waugh’s characterisation of Lord Marchmain in Brideshead Revisited) as a homosexual
  • Bold

William Grosvenor, 3rd Duke of Westminster (1894–1963)

  • Died in 1963 at the age of 68, without wife and without issue
  • Not too colourful

Colonel Gerald Hugh Grosvenor, 4th Duke of Westminster (1907–1967)

  • Commissioned into the 9th Lancers in 1926, promoted to lieutenant in 1929, captain in 1936, major in 1943, honorary colonel 1955 and colonel in 1961
  • Military man
  • Wounded by shrapnel commanding his regiment during the Second World War

Lieutenant-Colonel Robert George Grosvenor, 5th Duke of Westminster (1910–1979)

  • Ulster Unionist Party Member of Parliament and honorary Colonel of the North Irish Horse
  • Lord Lieutenant of Fermanagh from 1977 to 1979
  • Richest man in Britain in the 1970s

Major-General Gerald Cavendish Grosvenor, 6th Duke of Westminster (1951-2016)

  • Ninth on 2015’s Sunday Times Rich List
  • Reluctant billionaire who preferred charitable and military activities to being a mega property owner 
  • High society

Hugh Richard Louis Grosvenor, 7th Duke of Westminster (born 1991)

  • Owns approximately 300 acres of the most exclusive commercial and residential property in Mayfair and Belgravia, plus estates in Lancashire, Cheshire and Scotland
  • Godfather to Prince George
  • Got a 2:1 in countryside management from Newcastle University in 2013

Lady Edwina Grosvenor, elder sister of the current duke