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Britain’s most eligible bachelor is now off the market: Duke of Westminster to wed girlfriend Olivia Henson | UK News

Britain’s most eligible bachelor is now off the market: Duke of Westminster to wed girlfriend Olivia Henson | UK News

The Duke of Westminster will lose his unofficial title, “Britain’s most eligible bachelor”, as he marries Olivia Henson today.

Hugh Grosvenor, 33, who ranked 14th on the 2024 Sunday Times Rich List with an estimated fortune of £10.1bn, will make Miss Henson a duchess when he marries her at Chester Cathedral.

The largely private couple only made their first public appearance together last month, but their wedding is being billed as one of the most prestigious social events of the year.

A view of the magnificent Chester Cathedral, in the historic city of Chester in Cheshire, UK.
A view of Chester Cathedral. Pic: iStock

One of the people who was there during that public appearance also went to school with the duke, and shares fond memories of a particular trip that ended the way any child would love.

Who is the future Duchess of Westminster?

The 31-year-old bride-to-be had been with the duke for two years when the pair announced their engagement in April 2023.

Much like her fiance, Miss Henson largely stays out of the public eye. What we do know is she’s a senior accounts manager at Belazu, an ethical food company based in London, and she was introduced to the duke through mutual friends.

She is widely reported to have studied at Marlborough College – the same as the Princess of Wales and Pippa Middleton.

‘Britain’s most eligible bachelor’

The duke became an instant billionaire when he inherited his title and control of the historic Grosvenor Estate aged 25 following the death of his father from a heart attack in 2016.

Pic: PA
Pic: PA

As part of the estimated £10bn estate, the duke, previously known by his honorary title Earl Grosvenor, also inherited Eaton Hall in Cheshire – home to the Grosvenor family since the 15th century.

It’s where his notably casual engagement photo with Miss Henson was taken last year.

The duke, a former student of countryside management at Newcastle University, is one of four children: He has two older sisters, Lady Tamara and Lady Edwina, and one younger sister Lady Viola.

He inherited his father’s fortune despite not being the eldest of them as legitimate male heirs take precedence over their older sisters when it comes to inheriting an estate.

Hugh Grosvenor's sister Lady Tamara married her husband Edward van Cutsem at Chester Cathedral in 2004. Pic: AP
Hugh Grosvenor’s sister Lady Tamara married her husband Edward van Cutsem at Chester Cathedral in 2004. Pic: AP

The property company he inherited, the Grosvenor Group, owns about 300 acres of land in Mayfair and Belgravia in central London, as well as major city centre developments such as Liverpool’s ONE shopping centre and properties in the US and Canada.

The billionaire, who was widely dubbed Britain’s most eligible bachelor after inheriting the fortune, is chair of both the Grosvenor Trustees and the Westminster Foundation, which represents his and the Grosvenor Group’s charitable interests.

Grosvenor Square in Mayfair is the second largest square in London. Pic: Wolfram Kastl/picture-alliance/dpa/AP
Grosvenor Square in Mayfair is the second largest square in London. Pic: Wolfram Kastl/picture-alliance/dpa/AP

Grosvenor Group owns Liverpool ONE, a shopping centre with more than 170 stores. Pic: PA
Grosvenor Group owns Liverpool ONE, a shopping centre with more than 170 stores. Pic: PA

When he does occasionally make headlines, it’s usually down to his charitable role. Such was the case in 2020 when he donated millions to the national effort against COVID.

‘You can feel the positive energy coming from them’

It can be difficult for the public to get to know a couple like the duke and Miss Henson who like to stay out of the limelight.

They made a rare public outing last month when they attended a parent-toddler music programme at Chester Cathedral, where they’ll soon marry.

It was a chance for them to see one of the many charitable programmes for young people they support through the duke’s Westminster Foundation.

Emma Thomas, a development artist at Cheshire Dance, which runs the programme, not only met the couple on their visit, but also went to primary school with Hugh Grosvenor.

Ms Thomas said they had a very “relaxed” and “approachable” quality to them on their visit, adding: “They seem very comfortable together and you could feel the really positive energy coming from them.”

Hugh Grosvenor. Pic: PA
Hugh Grosvenor. Pic: PA

She said the duke was “so enthusiastic about bringing opportunities for young people” and that it’s “wonderful to hear him talk so genuinely and passionately about that work”.

“The duke was absolutely wonderful” with the children there, she added. “So approachable, so engaging. I think it could be very easy to not be like that.

“But he was wonderful and he gave the kids a really great experience. I think they were very nervous to meet him, and he made it feel very relaxed.”

She added Miss Henson was “asking lots of questions” and “really valuing the voices of the children”.

A good end to a good day

Ms Thomas also reminisced with the duke about their time attending Eccleston C of E Primary School together.

She was a few year groups older but saw a fair amount of the duke because he and her younger brother were friends.

She recalls a birthday party they both went to when they were about six or seven – where they had a tour of Liverpool’s Anfield stadium.

“He was quite a calm kid, but he loved Liverpool so much. The enthusiasm!”

She said she fondly recalls going to McDonald’s with the duke after visiting the stadium.

Wedding of the year?

Despite keeping a low profile, the expected 400-guest wedding won’t be the first lavish event the duke has thrown.

His 21st birthday party for 800 guests at Eaton Hall in 2012 was reported to have cost £5m.

Comedian Michael McIntyre and hip hop duo Rizzle Kicks provided the entertainment, and Prince Harry was among the guests for the “black tie and neon” event.

On his wedding plans, the duke told Town & Country Magazine during the Chester Cathedral visit: “I think next time we’re in here will be slightly more nerve-wracking.”

He added he was “unbelievably excited”.

“I also just wanted to make it very clear how unbelievably helpful people have been, how supportive they’ve been so far which I’m unbelievably grateful for,” he told the publication.

“Because I do realise that it’s going to be a big thing for the city. It’s going to be certainly a huge thing for us, so we’re just really grateful for all the help.”

On holding the wedding in Chester, Miss Henson added: “It’s obviously a place where we will live, where we’ll be building our lives together.”

The pair currently live in London and are “slowly transitioning” to Chester where they plan to put “roots down”, she added, saying it was a “really easy decision” to have the wedding there.

Shortly after their engagement announcement last year, a spokesperson for the couple said: “The couple have chosen the cathedral for both its beauty and long association with the Grosvenor family, including to the duke personally.

“Cheshire is the Grosvenor family’s ancestral home and as Miss Henson’s connection to the region continues to grow, they are keen to plan their wedding there.”

The Duke of Westminster with the Queen in 2004
The sixth Duke of Westminster – the current duke’s father – with Queen Elizabeth II in 2004. Pic: PA

What do we know about the wedding arrangements?

Ahead of the service, Miss Henson will travel to the cathedral with her father Rupert Henson in a vintage Bentley that was originally made for W.O. Bentley, the founder of Bentley Motors, in 1930.

The ceremony at Chester Cathedral will begin at midday, with the Dean of Chester, the Very Reverand Dr Tim Stratford, leading the service.

It will feature the Chester Cathedral choir, conducted by Philip Rushforth, organist and master of the choristers at the church. They will be accompanied by a group of musicians from across North West England.

A spokesperson for the Duke and Miss Henson says the couple have chosen seasonal flowers sourced from local growers, with much of the foliage coming from the grounds of the Duke’s Eaton Estate.

They include rambling roses, philadelphus, campanula and orlaya grandiflora, while birch trees will line the inside of the church, the spokesperson added.

After the ceremony, the Duke and Duchess of Westminster will travel back to Eaton Estate, which has been home to the Grosvenor family since the 1400s, where they will host a private wedding reception for guests.

Their spokesperson said the couple had taken “a great deal of care in planning the wedding, putting their own personal stamp on all the arrangements and have made a conscious effort to involve local and regional suppliers in several aspects of the day”.

Royal relationships

The Grosvenors have been aristocrats for centuries, as they began building their property empire in London back in the 1600s.

To cut a several hundred-year story short, Hugh Grosvenor’s ancestor Hugh Lupus Grosvenor was made the first Duke of Westminster by Queen Victoria in 1874. The current holder of the title is the seventh Duke of Westminster.

However, the Grosvenor family’s modern relationship with the royals goes beyond peerage.

The duke’s late father Gerald Grosvenor was a close friend of King Charles before his death in 2016.

They were so close that Gerald Grosvenor made the King a godfather of his son, Hugh, when he was born in 1991.

Now the duke is a godfather himself to Prince William’s eldest child, Prince George, and Prince Harry’s son Prince Archie.

He is said to have maintained relationships with both brothers over the years, but it has been reported Prince Harry will not attend the duke’s wedding.

Teaser image for article on Hugh Grosvenor's wedding
The Duke of Westminster’s links to the Royal Family

Some reports have suggested he and his wife Meghan were not on the guest list, adding the duke was concerned their presence would take away from the wedding itself due to their ongoing rift with the rest of the Royal Family.

Other reports suggested Harry and Meghan were sent a ‘save the date’ but decided to decline in order to prevent any awkwardness.

Prince William, on the other hand, will reportedly be an usher at the wedding, as he was for Lady Tamara’s. The Princess of Wales is unlikely to attend as she continues to undergo her cancer treatment.

There has been speculation over whether one of the Prince of Wales’s children could also have a part in the wedding.

Princes William and Harry at Lady Tamara Grosvenor and Edward van Cutsem's wedding in 2004. Pic: AP
Princes William and Harry at Lady Tamara Grosvenor and Edward van Cutsem’s wedding in 2004. Pic: AP

Will the King and other royals be at the wedding?

The King and Queen are expected to miss the wedding, as they did the duke’s sister Lady Tamara’s in 2004.

It was widely reported at the time that the King had refused their invitations after learning he would have to sit separately from Camilla, with him in the front row and her several rows behind and on the other side of the aisle.

This was reportedly due to royal protocol because the couple were not married at the time.

The King and Queen were also in France for D-Day celebrations yesterday.

King Charles has scaled back his public appearances since he started being treated for an undisclosed form of cancer.

What other guests could be there?

The duke’s three sisters, who are all married, are expected to attend.

Lady Tamara is married to businessman Edward van Cutsem, a good friend of Prince William’s.

Lady Edwina, an esteemed criminologist and philanthropist, is married to TV historian Dan Snow.

Princess of Wales applauding Lady Edwina at an event for her charity, One Small Thing, in June last year. Pic: AP
The Princess of Wales with Lady Edwina at an event for her charity, One Small Thing, in June last year. Pic: AP

And finally Lady Viola, the youngest of the four, married Royal Dragoon Guards officer Angus Roberts two years ago.

It has been reported there will be another, more intimate reception on Saturday, with family and close friends, plus some of the duke’s Grosvenor group associates.

Motorists warned – and ice-creams on the happy couple

Chester’s council has warned the city will be busier than usual on Friday due to the wedding, and has urged people to “rethink journeys into the city centre” on the day.

In an update on X, the council added it would be best to avoid travelling to the centre by car.

There will also be a slew of road closures in place, with affected roads including Northgate Street, Bridge Street, Hamilton Place, St John Street, St Werburgh Street and Eastgate Street.

You can check the full list of road closures on the council’s interactive map.

The couple are also supporting local businesses by subsidising free ice-cream, gelato and sorbet on their wedding day from three local dessert parlours.

Duke of Westminster’s fortune explained

The duke has been featuring on rich lists since he inherited his father’s billion-pound fortune.

As Sky News’ business presenter Ian King explains: “While the Grosvenor family is automatically linked in many people’s eyes to properties in west London’s upmarket Mayfair and Belgravia districts, such assets are only part of the wider Grosvenor Group, the company that manages the Duke of Westminster’s wealth.

Gosvenor Group owns buildings, squares and public spaces in Belgravia and Mayfair. Pic: iStock
Grosvenor Group owns buildings, squares and public spaces in Belgravia and Mayfair. Pic: iStock

“The business now encompasses a range of assets and activities, including property in the UK and overseas, investments in food producers and agricultural technology companies and three large rural estates in northern England and the Scottish Highlands.”

He adds: “The business is owned by a series of UK resident (in other words, onshore) trusts set up by the family in the 1950s to shield itself from the risk of expensive divorces or reckless spending by wayward members of the family.

The arrangement means that, although the duke and his family are the ultimate owners of Grosvenor, he is not able, for example, to sell assets if he felt the need to raise cash. Major transactions such as asset disposals have to be agreed by the trustees.”

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“Contrary to what is often suggested, the family are all UK-registered for tax and pay UK taxes, while the trusts are liable for income tax and capital gains tax.

“They are also liable for inheritance tax levied by the UK government, although, as is common with UK trusts of this type, the majority of the trusts pay a recurring payment to HM Revenue & Customs of 6% of the value of their assets every 10 years, rather than a payment of 40% inheritance tax upon death of beneficiaries.

“For a private company, Grosvenor is unusually open about its activities, publishing annual reports and financial statements in the way a listed company would.

“Its latest results, for 2023, revealed a £400m drop in the value of the group’s portfolio to £8.6bn. That portfolio is split roughly 50/50 between UK and international assets. A pre-tax loss of £28.6m for the year compared with a profit of £110.4m in 2022.”

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