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Meet the Duke of Westminster, Hugh Grovesnor and his future Duchess, Olivia Henson

When the Duke of Westminster visited charities in Chester today to see the projects his foundation is funding, he found himself sitting next to a former classmate. Emma Thomas, who attended a local primary school with the Duke, is now a development artist at Cheshire Dance and began reminiscing with her guest about children’s birthday parties. “He looks exactly the same as I remember,” she said afterward. “We were just talking about the birthday parties we went to together as kids, it was nice to catch up for a bit.”

The exchange had a typical tone as Hugh Grosvenor, the seventh billionaire Duke of Westminster, and his future duchess, Olivia Henson, visited three organizations funded by the Westminster Foundation. The Foundation supports several charities and organizations in Chester, and the visit took place exactly a month before the couple’s wedding at Chester Cathedral on June 7. Aside from a remarkably casual photo of Hugh and Olivia posted when their engagement was announced in April 2023, it was also the first time the couple had been properly photographed together publicly.

Hugh Grosvenor, Duke of Westminster

Grosvenor 2023

The Duke of Westminster and Olivia Henson posted this photo to announce their engagement.

After being introduced by friends around two years earlier, Hugh, 33, and Olivia, 31, got engaged at Eaton Hall, outside Chester, home to the Grosvenor family since the 1400s and where Hugh grew up. He has multiple connections to the royal family, being godfather to Prince George and Prince Archie, and he also played a role in the king’s coronation during the procession. Attendance at his wedding has not yet been confirmed, but Prince William is expected to attend. With the King and Princess of Wales currently being treated for cancer, it is unclear which other members of the royal family will be in attendance.

“I think next time we come here it will be a little more nerve-wracking,” Hugh said. Terms and conditions today after watching a toddler music group from the charity The Cathedral Music Trust. “But I’m incredibly excited. I also just wanted to make it very clear how incredibly helpful people have been, how supportive they have been to me so far, which I’m incredibly grateful for. Because I realize it’s going to be a great thing for the city. This is definitely going to be a huge thing for us, so we’re really, really grateful for all the help.

The Duke of Westminster and Miss Henson watch a small sound event for children aged 0-5, run by Cathedral Music Trust at Chester Cathedral

Victoria Tetley / Grosvenor 2024

The couple visited the Small Sounds program at Chester Cathedral, where they will soon be married.

The decision to get married in Chester was, according to the couple, an easy one, with both of them quick to point out what the city offers (he mentions the incredible racecourse and Storyhouse cultural building and she cites the incredible restaurants as her wheelhouse) .

“This is obviously a place where we will live, where we will build our lives together,” Olivia said. “And we’re slowly transitioning away from London and being much more permanent here and really putting down roots. So actually, yeah, it was a very easy decision in the end.”

Hugh’s late father, the sixth Duke of Westminster, once gave a candid interview in which he admitted to being a reluctant heir to the dukedom after his uncle died childless. He and his wife Natalia, godmother to Prince William, appear to have managed to successfully raise four down-to-earth, socially conscious children despite their immense wealth. One of Hugh’s three sisters, Edwina, had a career in prison reform and all are heavily involved in charity work.

Indeed, since becoming Duke of Westminster following the death of his father in 2016, Hugh has quietly set about transforming the Westminster Foundation. Without fanfare, he has distributed several grants of hundreds of thousands of pounds to help programs supporting under-25s in the areas where his family is associated: Chester, Westminster, Lancashire and parts of the Highlands.

“Before, our subsidies were very uncertain. My dad saw a good idea and would like to support it,” Hugh said. “I looked at the Westminster Foundation and thought about how we can make it relevant, how can I make it my own and what I want to focus on. We went through a long process of asking different charities what they thought their needs were.

The Duke of Westminster and Miss Henson chat with members of Studio by Storyhouse in Chester, including Young Frontman Tom Stych and staff member Phoebe Orsmond

Victoria Tetley / Grosvenor 2024

The Duke and Olivia visited the Young Leaders program at Studio by Storyhouse.

“We were doing these roundtables and everyone was saying that early childhood and supporting youth and young families is something that we don’t focus on often enough because it doesn’t look good on the back of it. ‘a brilliant annual report. And I said wait a minute, what do you mean by that? He continued. “And they often said that if you do things right, they don’t become statistics. And I thought that’s exactly what we should focus on so… I said look, if we’re going to support these charities, I’d really like to build a relationship with them and support them over the long term so so that we can get to know them and really start to understand the impact that we are having.

The Westminster Foundation provides partnership grants of up to £100,000 a year to fund long-term projects, such as the Young Leaders program which Hugh and Olivia today saw run by the Storyhouse cultural center, which is now in its fourth year of funding. Kera-leigh, 19, completed the program two years ago and credits it with transforming her experience of education. “I’m a lot more confident and more open-minded,” she said. “It helped me make friends and talk to people I wouldn’t normally talk to.”

Annabel Turpin, Managing Director of Storyhouse, highlighted the importance of the long-term support that Hugh’s interest provides for young people in Chester. “If you really want to do something transformational, you can’t just fly in and fly out,” she said. “Unfortunately, there are many people who are truly disenfranchised and whose basic needs in education and overall life are not being met. Having someone support a foundation that really shows that they care about these communities is huge and just allows us to work with people that we wouldn’t be able to support otherwise.

The Duke of Westminster and Miss Henson chat to members of Cheshire Dance at the Storyhouse in Chester

Victoria Tetley / Grosvenor 2024

The couple attended a Cheshire dance class at Storyhouse and met some of the students.

During a morning of events that had the hallmarks of a royal visit on a much more low-key scale, Hugh and Olivia first saw young home-schooled children taking part in a Capoeira class hosted by Cheshire Dance . They then met people from Storyhouse Young Leaders before heading to the Cathedral. The Westminster Foundation recently made a donation to the cathedral’s Project Discovery initiative to enable them to expand their cultural offering.

Adam Holloway, director of Cheshire Dance, described the money paid to them as “transformative”. “We have to pay artists, we have to rent spaces,” he said. “So finding an organization that just allows us to do what we do, which is reach out to the community and meet the demand where it is.” It’s a transformation for us, and over a five-year period, it’s unheard of. So this gives us a real opportunity to plan well, look to the future and plan a whole range of activities and groups.

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Portrait of Victoria Murphy

Town and country Editor-in-chief Victoria Murphy has reported on the British royal family since 2010. She has interviewed Prince Harry and traveled the world on several royal tours. She is a frequent contributor to Good Morning America. Victoria wrote Town and country book The Queen: A Life in Pictures, released in 2021.