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Queen saddened by sudden death of Northern Ireland-born Duke of Westminster

Third richest billionaire in the UK spent his early years on shores of Lough Erne

By Aine Fox

Published 10/08/2016

Queen Elizabeth with the Duke of Westminster in 2008. The Duke passed away at Royal Preston Hospital
Queen Elizabeth with the Duke of Westminster in 2008. The Duke passed away at Royal Preston Hospital

Billionaire landowner the Duke of Westminster has died at the age of 64.

Born in Omagh in 1951, Gerald Cavendish Grosvenor died yesterday afternoon at the Royal Preston Hospital in Lancashire.

A spokeswoman for his estate said he had become ill suddenly on his Abbeystead Estate.

The spokeswoman said last night: "It is with the greatest sadness that we can confirm that the Duke of Westminster, Gerald Cavendish Grosvenor (64) died this afternoon at Royal Preston Hospital.

"He was taken there from the Abbeystead Estate in Lancashire, where he had suddenly been taken ill. His family are all aware and they ask for privacy and understanding at this very difficult time.

"No further comment will be made for the time being, but further information will follow in due course."

The Duke was said to be worth around $10.8bn (£8.3bn), according to Forbes - making him the 68th richest billionaire in the world, and third in the UK.

He owned 190 acres in Belgravia, an area adjacent to Buckingham Palace and one of London's most expensive boroughs.

One of his four children, Hugh Grosvenor, is Prince George's youngest godfather.

A Buckingham Palace spokeswoman said: "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."

The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall are "deeply shocked and greatly saddened" by the sudden death of their friend the Duke of Westminster, a Clarence House spokeswoman said.

An old friend once recalled how he had been influenced by his childhood in Northern Ireland, where his mother Viola was Lord Lieutenant of Co Fermanagh.

"The key to both him and his sisters is that they were brought up in a very remote part of Northern Ireland in a simple, rural, unaffected and unspoilt way.

"It wasn't until he was in his teens that it began to dawn on him that he was heir to this unimaginable fortune," he said.

The duke once recalled his childhood on Ely island in the middle of Lough Erne as idyllic, frugal and isolated.

Enniskillen, the nearest town, was six or seven miles away.

"Popping down to the corner shop to buy sweets was a bit of a safari," he said.

"It was a wonderful foundation for life. I am a country person by birth and inclination," he added.

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