Members of the Grosvenor family are today (Wednesday) gathering to remember the sixth Duke of Westminster on the first anniversary of his untimely death.

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.

The sad news filtered through late on a Tuesday evening sending shock waves not only through the Cheshire community but across business, political and royal circles too.

The seventh Duke of Westminster Hugh Grosvenor with his later father, the sixth duke.
The seventh Duke of Westminster Hugh Grosvenor with his later father, the sixth duke.

The duke, whose wealth was estimated at £9.52bn, left behind his wife, the Duchess of Westminster, Natalia Grosvenor, his 26-year-old son and heir Hugh Grosvenor – the seventh Duke of Westminster – and daughters Lady Tamara van Cutsem, Lady Edwina Grosvenor and Lady Viola Grosvenor.

A spokesperson for the family said: "The Grosvenor family did not want any formal Grosvenor Estate commemoration of the anniversary of the death of the sixth duke but they will be spending time together."

Grosvenor Estate have never spoken about the circumstances surrounding the final hours of Gerald Cavendish Grosvenor, although locals in Abbeystead understand he had been out ‘on the fell’ that afternoon accompanied by a gamekeeper when taken ill.

The duke was conveyed by air ambulance to the Royal Preston Hospital where he sadly died.

The fell above Abbeystead where the Duke is believed to have been out walking with a gamekeeper when he suffered a heart attack
The fell above Abbeystead where the Duke is believed to have been out walking with a gamekeeper when he suffered a heart attack

It’s not known why he was out on the moors but 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.

He was buried near the family seat of Eaton Hall at St Mary’s Church, Eccleston, just three days later following a private service. His life was celebrated in a more public way at a memorial service at Chester Cathedral last November which was attended by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge as well as Prince Charles and Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge arriving for a memorial service to celebrate the life of the sixth Duke of Westminster at Chester Cathedral, Chester. Photo: Peter Byrne/PA Wire
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge arriving for a memorial service to celebrate the life of the sixth Duke of Westminster at Chester Cathedral

An 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 lifestyle.

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.”

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

His Grace appeared to confirm this in January, 2016, 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!”

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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.

Guests arriving at the 6th Duke of Westminster's Memorial service: Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall are welcomed by the Very Rev Dean of Chester Gordon McPhate
Guests arriving at the 6th Duke of Westminster's Memorial service: Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall are welcomed by the Very Rev Dean of Chester Gordon McPhate

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.”

The 7th Duke of Westminster, Hugh Grosvenor, arriving for a memorial service to celebrate the life of his father, the sixth Duke of Westminster at Chester Cathedral. Photo: Peter Byrne/PA Wire
The 7th Duke of Westminster, Hugh Grosvenor, arriving for a memorial service to celebrate the life of his father, the sixth Duke of Westminster at Chester Cathedral. Photo: Peter Byrne/PA Wire

It was recently revealed that the seventh Duke of Westminster, Hugh Grosvenor, does not yet feel ready to follow in his late father’s footsteps by taking on the role of chairman of Grosvenor Group.

A Grosvenor Estate spokesperson said: “In terms of the chairmanship, the chairman of the Grosvenor Estate trustees is much better held by a member of the family than by any of the other trustees but at age 26 Hugh feels he should gather some experience before taking up the role and so it has been agreed with him that the other trustees will chair meetings by rotation until he has such time and experience to take it on."