The passing of the sixth Duke of Westminster, 64, on Tuesday afternoon (August 9) means Hugh, now aged 25, has automatically inherited the title as seventh Duke of Westminster, along with £9.9bn assets plus all the responsibilities that go with it.
The late duke and his wife, the Duchess of Westminster, agreed to be interviewed at their Abbeystead country retreat in Lancashire nearly 15 years ago to coincide with his 50th birthday.
Both were extremely forthcoming in offering an insight into their hopes and dreams as well as the hurdles they had faced in life.
The late duke said of the young Hugh: “This is going to be an interesting challenge. I was not born into this. He is the first boy for a 100 years that has been born into this.”
And with a turn of phrase that typifies the Grosvenors’ attitude to privilege, he added: “With Hugh I have always said the fellow was born with a silver spoon in his mouth – our job is to take it out!”
His Grace always hoped Hugh, a Liverpool FC fan back then, would follow in his footsteps.
But he was ever mindful of the pressures the role brings as the link in the chain between the past and future generations of Grosvenors. And the late duke acknowledged being surrounded by history could ‘bear down on people’.
“I have never felt like that. I feel that to have history like that is a privilege. The aim is to build upon it and look to the future,” he said.
However, he candidly admits it did come as a huge shock to his younger self, on realising his future would be mapped out for him when life took an unexpected and radical change of direction.
As fate would have it, his uncle Gerald, the fourth Duke of Westminster, died without an heir and the empire moved sideways to Gerald's brother, the duke’s father, Colonel Robert Grosvenor, who became the fifth Duke of Westminster.
This meant Gerald Cavendish Grosvenor became heir at just 15, turning his world upside down.
“I was born in Northern Ireland into what was by any standards, a comfortable but simple existence,” said the late duke, who had aspirations to be a farmer.
He recalled his horror when it dawned that life would never be quite the same again after arriving at Eaton Hall as a teenager.
“The keepers lined up in their best suits, the head keeper with a bowler hat on. I thought ‘What is this life I have entered into?’. I ran a mile.”
When his father fell ill and died aged 69, the 27-year-old Gerald was launched centre stage in 1979.
“I entered it too early, I suppose. I missed out on a lot of my youth,” said the late duke, who incidentally had trials for top flight club Fulham FC as a youngster. However, it ‘didn’t fit into’ how his father, a cricket fanatic, had thought he should conduct his life.
Gerald inherited the dukedom having not been long married to former Vogue secretary Natalia Phillips, the great granddaughter of the Grand Duke Michael Mikhailovich of Russia and descendant of Russian poet Alexander S Pushkin and emperor Nicholas the First.
Despite having aristocratic roots, she had been ‘a gregarious party animal’ and her new life was ‘at times lonely’, suddenly having to take on responsibilities at such a young age.
Just as the duke had suffered from physical ill health with the removal of a tumour from his lung in 2012, so too in the case of the duchess who had surgery followed by chemotherapy after she was diagnosed with breast cancer many years earlier.
Fortunately it was caught in its early stages.
“It was a nasty time,” she told The Chronicle. “But out of an experience like that come the most positive things - when you’re up against the wall you see things differently. It frees you from lots of little things. You begin to see what is really important.”
In June 1999, the duke, a patron of 150 charities at the time, had a much publicised breakdown.
He openly revealed he had been suffering from depression and had been forced to cut back on his workload.
“Putting in a full day, getting home at midnight and then getting up early, there comes a moment when one’s tank is dry,” he told The Chronicle.
Aside from Hugh, the couple have three daughters who are currently grieving for the loss of their father.
Lady Tamara , 36, is remembered locally for her 2004 fairy-tale wedding in Chester Cathedral when she married Prince William’s close friend Edward van Cutsem in front of the royals as well-wishers braved the drizzle outside. The couple have two sons and a daughter.
Lady Edwina , 33, the late Princess Diana’s goddaughter, is a prison reformer who married TV historian Dan Snow in a more low key event in 2010. They have a son and two daughters.
Less well known is the baby of the family, Lady Viola, 23. She is said to be a netball and hockey fanatic.
At the moment she works for St Vincent’s Family Project in Westminster and Kidscape, on the ZAP programme which supports young people who are being bullied.
She wants to train as an art therapist and eventually set up her own charity to help young people.
Every parent worries about their kids. And the duke and duchess are no different except some of their fears were specific to their unusual situation.
They worried how their offspring would survive in the outside world having been raised in a cocoon.
Speaking when their offspring were many years younger than today, the late duke said: “One worries all the time because of the environment they have been brought up in.
“It’s a fine balance. One must give children freedom of expression. One sometimes shuts one’s eyes and hopes for the best.
“If you give them a good start in life and instil the right values and standards, then one hopes that’s a foundation they can use as a springboard."