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Duke of Westminster's untimely death came out of the blue

Gerald Cavendish Grosvenor was said to be 'on the fell' preparing for the Glorious 12th when he was taken ill

When news of the Duke of Westminster’s death broke on August 9 it sent shock waves not only through the Cheshire community but in business, political and royal circles too.

The Duke’s death from a heart attack at 64 came as a bolt out of the blue during a visit to his Abbeystead shooting estate in Lancashire.

Grosvenor Estate have not spoken about the circumstances surrounding the final hours of Gerald Cavendish Grosvenor, although locals in Abbeystead understand he was out ‘on the fell’ accompanied by a gamekeeper when taken ill.

Chester road closures for the Duke of Westminster's memorial service

He may have been preparing for the shooting party he was due to host for family and close friends later that week on ‘The Glorious 12th’ of August, which is the start of the grouse shooting season.

The Duke, whose life will be celebrated at a memorial service at Chester Cathedral on Monday (November 28), was conveyed by air ambulance to the Royal Preston Hospital where he sadly died.

Chester Cathedral will host the Duke of Westminster memorial service

There was initial speculation as to whether his death was in any way connected with a previous illness which led him to have a tumour removed from his lung in October 2012. But the Duke, a former heavy smoker, was understood to have made a full recovery and Preston coroner’s office later confirmed he died of a heart attack.

The obituary released by Grosvenor Estate echoed the public view of the Duke that he was a grounded individual, considering his riches, but also hinted at the pressures of his life-style.

It read: “Distinctly down-to-earth the Duke of Westminster was rarely seen without a Diet Coke and a cigarette (later electric).

“Not much of a sleeper, one might expect emails from him at any hour of the night and an average week would see him up and down from home in Chester to London and all over the world to visit soldiers, businesses, charities and rural estates while representing and promoting numerous organisations.”

Duke of Westminster's memorial service will be attended by international VIPs

However, the Duke is believed to have led a generally healthier lifestyle in recent times.

His Grace appeared to confirm this in January this year during a brief interview when he reopened the Victorian Chester City Baths with which his family has had a long association.

The Duke told The Chronicle afterwards about how he kept himself fit.

“Not so much swimming, I do walking machines, power-walking,” said the Duke, a once talented footballer, who had trials for top flight club Fulham FC but admitted didn’t play any more, even for fun.

“I’m too old. I’m knackered,” he joked. “Bits are falling off me!”

The Duke of Westminster cuts the ribbon to reopen the Chester City Baths

The late Duke was a life-long friend of Prince Charles and there are close ties between the Grosvenors and the Windsors.

The Duchess of Westminster is godmother to Prince William, as Princess Diana was godmother to the Duke and Duchess’ daughter Lady Edwina.

The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall were unsurprisingly said to be ‘deeply shocked and greatly saddened’ by the sudden death of their friend, a Clarence House spokeswoman said at the time.

A Buckingham Palace spokeswoman added: ‘’I can confirm that Her Majesty the Queen is aware of the news about the Duke of Westminster.

"A message of condolence is being sent by the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh.”

And the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge said in a statement released by Kensington Palace that they were ‘very sad to learn’ of the Duke’s death, adding: “Their thoughts are very much with his family this morning.”

St Mary’s Church, Eccleston, where all the Dukes of Westminster are buried including the sixth Duke, Gerald Cavendish Grosvenor

The sixth Duke of Westminster was buried in the Old Churchyard at St Mary’s Church, Eccleston, in the Grosvenor family plot.

This followed a private service on Friday, August 12, held just three days after his death.

The Grosvenor Estate, which represents the Duke’s business interests, said the ‘quiet, private funeral service’ was attended by close family members.

With its many tall trees, the Old Churchyard has features of a woodland. In its centre are the remains of Porden’s old parish church, which consist of a sandstone wall with the lower parts of two windows.

It is designated as a Grade II listed building. Along the south side of the remaining wall of Porden’s old church are the graves of the Dukes of Westminster, other members of the Grosvenor family and their relatives.

A square enclosure in the northeast part of the Old Churchyard, now covered with gravel and surrounded by a low wall with crosses in the corners, marks the spot where the Grosvenor family vault was located within Porden’s church.

The names of those ancestors of the Dukes of Westminster who are interred here are recorded on a brass plaque inside the present church building.

There will be a 16-page special tribute supplement to the Duke of Westminster in Thursday's Chester Chronicle.

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