England’s Social Event of the Year: The Duke of Westminster’s Wedding

The society wedding of the year — as it was called by British tabloids — went off without a hitch on Friday at noon. Hugh Grosvenor, the seventh Duke of Westminster and one of the richest people in the United Kingdom, married Olivia Henson at Chester Cathedral, a centuries-old Gothic church in England.

Despite the rapid winds, hundreds of observers and even a few protesters gathered outside to catch a glimpse of the duke, 33, the new duchess, 31, and William, Prince of Wales, a close friend of the groom and an usher at the wedding. (He attended without Catherine, Princess of Wales, who is currently undergoing treatment for cancer.)

The Very Rev. Dr. Tim Stratford, the Dean of Chester, led and officiated the Anglican service. Ms. Henson arrived in a vintage 1930 Bentley with her father, Rupert Henson, wearing a floor-length silk crepe satin dress with a six-and-a-half-foot detachable train and an embroidered veil inspired by one that Ms. Henson’s great-great-grandmother wore in the 1880s. The look was designed by Emma Victoria Payne, who is based in London. A hefty dose of sparkle was added with the Faberge Myrtle Leaf Tiara, which various Grosvenor women have worn since its creation in 1906.

Birch trees lined the inside of the cathedral, and flower decorations included roses and campanula. Many of the flowers will be repurposed as bouquets for local charities and other organizations.

After the ceremony, the newlyweds shared their first public kiss as a married couple before around 400 guests celebrated their union at the nearby Eaton Hall, which has been the home of the duke’s family since the 1400s. Eaton Hall sits on an 11,000-acre estate in Cheshire County, a four-hour drive northwest of London.

The duke, the only son of Gerald Cavendish Grosvenor, inherited the home in 2016 at the age of 25, when his father, the sixth Duke of Westminster, died of a heart attack. Though the duke has two older sisters, the rule of primogeniture meant that a male heir was prioritized over a female, regardless of age.

At the time of his father’s death, the duke’s new fortune was estimated at $12 billion; since then, it has risen to about $13 billion, according to The Sunday Times Rich List published this year.

Ms. Henson and the duke announced their engagement in April 2023 with a simple, down-to-earth photo, in which he wore a button-down and she a long-sleeved shirt. The couple met through friends about two years earlier. After the wedding, they intend to leave London to make their residence in Eaton Hall.

The duke is the chair of the board of trustees of Grosvenor, an international company with rural and urban real estate holdings and investments in food and agricultural technology. He is also the chair of the Westminster Foundation, the family’s charitable arm.

He studied countryside management at Newcastle University in the north of England. The Bachelor of Science degree blends different subjects, including geography, wildlife conservation and estate management. In his spare time, the duke participates in international skeet shooting competitions.

Ms. Henson, who grew up in London and Oxfordshire, attended the same private school — Marlborough College — as the Princess of Wales and Princess Eugenie. Afterward, she studied Hispanic studies and Italian at Trinity College Dublin.

She has maintained a low public profile, and little is known about her beyond what the Grosvenor family’s representatives have shared. Until recently, she worked as an account manager at Belazu, a company that sells food ingredients from the Mediterranean and the Middle East to chefs and home cooks. Ms. Henson is on the board of trustees at the Belazu Foundation, which invests in philanthropic projects, including improving food in schools.

At the time of his father’s death eight years ago, the duke was working as an account manager at Bio-bean, a company that has since closed that collected waste coffee grounds from restaurants, factories and cafes, and turned them into biofuels, according to the BBC. Last year, The Sunday Times named him the richest person under 35 in the United Kingdom.

He inherited real estate holdings in Scotland and Spain, as well as around 300 acres in the Belgravia and Mayfair sections of central London, land that his family has owned for more than three centuries and helped develop, according to The Guardian. His ancestor, Sir Thomas Grosvenor, acquired the land in 1677, as part of the dowry of his 12-year-old wife, Mary Davies.

British media reported that Prince Harry, also a close friend of the duke, had declined his invitation to the wedding out of concern that his attendance would cause a distraction because of his rift with the rest of the royal family.

The duke is a godfather to Prince William’s son, George, and Prince Harry’s son, Archie, according to The Independent. The duke’s mother, Natalia Grosvenor, a descendant of Czar Nicholas I of Russia and the author Alexander Pushkin, is one of Prince William’s godparents. She owns a vineyard in Portofino, Italy.

The sixth Duke of Westminster gave several frank interviews while he was alive, including one in 2000 in which he discussed having a mental breakdown, and another in 1993 in which he said that his son had been born with “the longest silver spoon anyone can have.” His son appears to — so far, anyway — be keeping much more out of the limelight.

He has carried on some of his father’s gift-giving goals with his family, donating 55 million pounds, or around $70 million, to a rehabilitation center for wounded members of the British armed forces. The sixth Duke of Westminster made a founding gift of 50 million pounds to the center in 2010 and was an avid advocate for veterans.

Since taking over the Westminster Foundation, the seventh Duke of Westminster has pushed for more efforts that target people under 25.

“Before, our grant-giving was very much haphazard. My father saw a good idea and would like to back it,” he told Town & Country Magazine in May.

For their wedding celebration, the duke and duchess have focused their gifts to the local community on something pretty and something tasty, paying for more than 100,000 flowers to be planted in Chester and for free ice cream to be given to anyone who visits one of three businesses in the city center on Friday.

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