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The 25-year-old Duke of Westminster's £9bn fortune missed out his older sisters – but there are good reasons they didn't complain

Of course, what Hugh really needs is a stalwart Northern woman around 20 years his senior from Cumbria who could acquaint him with North West England culture by taking him to the Liverpool One shopping centre – which he now owns – in Liverpool

Grace Dent
Saturday 13 August 2016 11:00 BST
The Duke was a close friend of the Royal family
The Duke was a close friend of the Royal family (Getty)

The sad passing of the 6th Duke of Westminster will be bittersweet news to husband hunters across the world now spying the fresh-faced unmarried 7th Duke of Westminster, Hugh Grosvenor, as a fabulous prospect. It helps that Hugh is doe-eyed, clear skinned, outdoorsy and by all accounts a decent type. It helps more that Hugh this week inherited around £9bn in land and funds.

Hugh, let’s be honest, could resemble Groot from Guardians of The Galaxy and would – in a dance as old as time – still have women willing to elbow each other under a combine harvester in order to marry into this gilded brood. I like to imagine Carole Middleton, mother of The Pippa, spent a good proportion of 9 August screaming into a mirror over this oversight. Silly Carole, allowing Pips to become engaged to a chump from Made In Chelsea’s brother, when this prime social-climbing branch was about to come available.

Of course, what Hugh really needs is a stalwart Northern woman around 20 years his senior from Cumbria who could acquaint him with North West England culture by taking him to the Liverpool One shopping centre – which he now owns – in Liverpool, perhaps even in traditional Saturday leisure wear of a velour sleeping onesie and a full head of curlers. Sadly, for me, this will never happen. One of the prime reasons the Grosvenor family have stayed so rich for 400 years is that they’ve rarely made such flippant, socially inclusive mistakes with their wealth.

Hugh’s family began its path to mightiness when Sir Thomas Grosvenor married a woman who came with around 500 acres of swamps, orchards and pasture back in 1677. Later ancestors began developing the plot, expanding the empire, marrying neatly and nicely and being beautifully tax efficient with each death. The Grosvenor empire includes luxury homes currently being built in Cambridge, Oxford and Edinburgh. There are projects in Stockholm, Washington DC and the Suzhou Riverbank in China.

Clearly, Corbynistas reading this may feel 2016 to be an apt point in history for Hugh Grosvenor to return the initial vast patch of what is now central London to its original owners. He could let it loose to the ancestors of the turnip-foraging peasants from which it was initially nabbed. Power to the people, and all that.

This is a pleasing enough idea on the surface, but also problematic.

Grosvenor Square and its environs are presently gorgeous and neatly kempt, whereas Corbyn’s own personal Islington fiefdom puts all sane onlookers in mind of Dr Terrible’s House of Horrible. During the recent Labour coup, news crews watched Corbyn fight a one-man battle against an errant climbing plant outside his door, so I fear that maintaining Hugh’s 23,500-acre Abbeystead Estate in Lancashire may beyond Jezza’s gardening remit.

Also, come the revolution, I worry that Lochmore Lodge may be the responsibility of that harem of maxi-dress-clad women with pendulous bra-less knockers who follow Corbyn about hoping to sponge-wash his flip flops. We should be made aware of the finer details of the New Dawn before we wheel out the guillotine.

It should also be noted that three women staying very schtum about unfair distribution are Hugh’s three sisters, Tamara, 36, Edwina, 34, and Viola, 23, whom because of primogeniture will watch Hugh receive the title, house, lands and largest share of the family fortune, while they inherit only considerable trust funds. This would rankle me greatly.

A clue to how the wealthy stay so very wealthy lies here in how little is said by the women “suffering” at the hands of such archaic, patronising and stridently anti-feminist law. All the female aristocrats in this liberated country are perfectly at liberty to rise up, join the revolution, reject their titles, overturn laws and shake the system in the name of gender fairness.

They do not, I feel, because life as Lady Tamara, Edwina or Viola is really rather fantastic as it stands. Not only is their family’s money and power utterly secure in neat tax-efficient set-ups, but in this case, the women skip the daily responsibility of three crumbling country estates, the shopping centre, the global empire the sun never sets on and the intense public scrutiny about where you dip your wick. The system as it stands stinks, but for so many of Hugh’s ilk, it’s a boat they have no plans to rock any time soon.

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