Wednesday, August 10, 2016

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

@Peter Kain   (Marlene A. Eilers Koenig Collection)

His Grace The 6th Duke of Westminster died on August 9, 2016 after falling ill at his Abbeystead Estate.  He was taken to the Royal Preston Hospital in Lancashire, where he died.  He was 64 years old.

The Duke's spokesman released a statement:  "It is with the greatest sadness that we can confirm that the Duke of Westminster died this afternoon.  His family are all aware and they ask for privacy and understanding at this very difficult time."

The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall are "deeply shocked and greatly saddened" by the death of the Duke who was a close friend.

The Duke suffered from depression for a number of years.  "I hit the buffers -- ot came totally out of the blue.  At that moment, all my wealth counted for nothing.  I was fragile and, although never suicidal, I recognised that something was desperately wrong and I needed to do something fast."

He was born at Omagh, County, Tyrone, on December 22, 1951, the second child and only son of Robert George Grosvenor, 5th Duke of Westminster and the Hon. Viola Maud Lyttelton.   He succeeded his father on February 19, 1979.  The night before the then Lord Grosvenor's wedding,  the Duke of Westminster suffered an asthma attack, and was taken to the hospital.

The Duke is one of the richest men in the United Kingdom.  As Earl Grosvenor, he became engaged to Miss Natalia Ayesha Phillips, the youngest child of Harold and Georgina Phillips.  Mrs. Phillips was born Georgina Wernher, the second of three children of Sir Harold and Lady Zia Wernher, who was the elder daughter of Grand Duke Michael Mikhailovich of Russia and Countess Sophie de Merenberg.   Georgina was a childhood playmate and life long friend of Queen Elizabeth II.

Georgina's mother, Lady Zia, was a close friend of Queen Elizabeth II.   Lady Zia's younger, Nada, married Prince George of Battenberg (2nd Marquess of Milford Haven), who was Prince Philip's uncle (and Guardian).   Georgina and her sister, Myra and Lady Patricia and Lady Pamela Mountbatten, grew up in the same social circle as Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret.   Georgina's older brother, Alexander, who was killed in the second world war, was one of Prince Philip's closest friends.  Philip thought of Alex as an older brother.

The Duke of Westminster was a mentor to the Duke of Cambridge.

The closeness between the Westminsters and the Royal Family are probably more due to the Duchess's family.  The Duchess is one of the Duke of Cambridge's godparents, while the young Lord Grosvenor, is one of Prince George of Cambridge's godfathers.  The late Diana, Princess of Wales was godmother to the Duke and Duchess' second daughter, Lady Edwina.

The Prince of Wales is godfather to Lord Grosvenor.

courtesy of the Duchess of Westminster

courtesy of the duchess of Westminster

The engagement was announced on May 12, 1978.  The then Lord Grosvenor was described as the second most eligible man in Britain, after the Prince of Wales.   The marriage took place on October 7, 1978 at the 12th century St. Mary's Church, in Luton, which was attended by more than 1000 guests.  The reception was held at Luton Hoo, then the family home of Natalia's brother, Nicholas Phillips.
courtesy of the Duchess of Westminster

The Duke was one of Britain's wealthiest men with a fortune of approximately £9.35 billion dollars (which took a hit after the Brexit vote.)  He owned 300 acres in central London, including Oxford Street and Mayfair.   The Duke also owned 190 acres in Belgravia. one of London's more expensive areas.   The family's main home was Eaton Hall in Cheshire, and the duke also had estates in Lancashire and Scotland.

When the second duke died in 1953,  he left his estate to two year old Gerald Grosvenor, who was then fourth in line to the dukedom, thus allowing the estate to remain in tact.  The family did have to pay "much of the  middle class Pimlico section to cover inheritance taxes of $32 million."   In 1978, Lord Grosvenor, then 26, told the New York Times: "The rules of primogeniture is one of the reasons for the survival of the Grosvenors."  He described himself as the "heir to the whole lot. It's a tough rule. There's no such thing as equal opportunity in primogeniture."

In 2007, the Duke made the news for all the wrong reasons.  He was discovered to have paid for four prostitutes in six weeks at his London mews house.  At the time, he was head of the Territorial Army, and according to one tabloid newspaper, he discussed "military matters and Osama Bin Laden."  He claimed to know where Bin Laden was then living,   Eight years earlier, the duke revealed that he had "fought back from a mental breakdown brought on by stress and exhaustion." A month after revealing his mental health problems,  the duke reported that his wife was fighting breast cancer.  Tally, only 40, underwent an operation at Royal Marsden Hospital.  The cancer was diagnosed in an early state, and the duchess's chemo treatments took place at a local hospital near the family home in Chester.

In 2003, the Duke spent a few days in a hospital due to an infection in his left leg.

The Duke is survived by his widow, Natalia, and their four children, Lady Tamara Cutsem, Lady Edwina, Snow, Hugh, Earl Grosvenor, and Lady Viola Grosvenor, and four grandchildren, Jake and Ludo van Custem and Zia and Wolf Snow.   Lord Grosvenor, 25, will succeed his father as the 7th Duke.  He is sole male heir to the Westminster dukedom.

The Duke and Duchess of Westminster arrive at St Paul's for the Queen's 90th birthday service  @Marlene A. Eilers Koenig

Duke of Westminster (right)  Order of the Garter (2014)  @Marlene A. Eilers Koenig

Key to the wedding group photo:  Back row: Miss Marita Phillips, The Duke of Roxburghe, Mr. Nicholas Phillips, the Earl and Countess Grosvenor, Mr. Andrew-Christie-Miller, Lt. Col. Harold Phillips, the Earl of Lichfield, Mr. James Burnett of Leys, Mrs. James Burnett of Leys.

Middle row: Miss India Hicks, the Earl Mountbatten of Burma, the Duchess of Roxeburghe, the Countess of Lichfield, Mrs. Harold Phillips, Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester, the Marchioness of Hamilton, Mrs. Nicholas Phillips, Viscount Strabane.

Front row: the Hon. Rory Guinness, Fiona Shakerley, Alexander Burnett, Lady Louise Fitroy, Viscount Chrichton, Lady Sophie Hamilton, the Hon. Lorna Ramsay.

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