Duke of Westminster’s Marquess title safe thanks to bride’s distant relative

The Duke of Westminster and Olivia Henson
The Duke of Westminster and Olivia Henson will marry at Chester Cathedral on Friday - Grosvenor2023

A 90-year-old academic living in Australia could become the saviour of the Duke of Westminster’s family title first bestowed on his ancestors at William IV’s coronation in 1831.

The Duke will marry his fiancée, Olivia Henson, at Chester Cathedral on Friday, in what has been dubbed the society wedding of the year.

If the newlyweds do not have a son, the historic Duke of Westminster title will die with him.

However, his subsidiary title, the Marquess of Westminster, will live on through the Earl of Wilton, his fourth cousin once removed.

The 8th Earl and heir presumptive also happens to be distantly related, through marriage, to Ms Henson, as her step-first cousin twice removed.

The Eton-educated academic, more commonly known as Francis Ebury, lives in Melbourne, where he settled after pursuing a career in the financial industry that took him from London to Hong Kong.

Page from Tatler in 1935 showing Anne Grosvenor, Baroness Ebury with Francis, Lord Wilton
Page from Tatler in 1935 showing Anne Grosvenor, Baroness Ebury with Francis, Lord Wilton

He took a doctorate in Philosophy-Arts at Melbourne University, where he also taught as Dr Francis Ebury, and served as a director of the city’s Victorian Opera until 2017.

Lord Wilton was born in 1934, the elder son of Robert Grosvenor, the 5th Baron Ebury, and his wife, Anne Acland-Troyte, who had wed the previous year.

The glamorous baroness was photographed in Tatler magazine with Francis, then one, in June 1935.

The young family lived in Croxley Green, Hertfordshire before the couple divorced in 1941.

Later that year, Anne married Henry Hoare, whose sister, Angela Frisby, was Ms Henson’s great-grandmother.

Lord Wilton declined to comment about the possibility of inheriting the Marquess of Westminster title and appeared unaware of his familial link to Ms Henson.

On his death, his son, Julian Grosvenor, Viscount Grey de Wilton, who also lives in Australia, will become heir apparent.

Australian historian Michael Reed, who unearthed the link between the Duke and Ms Henson’s families, said: “For centuries, British aristocrats – not to mention royalty – have married into each other’s families and Hugh and Olivia seemingly prove that blue-blooded intermarriage is here to stay.

“However, putting aside the magnificent surrounds of Cheshire’s Eaton Hall – which Olivia will call home - it may be an understatement to say that some of the wedding reception small-talk about title-grabbing and the like could be awkward.

“It is a fascinatingly strange situation in which she finds herself: if she doesn’t produce an heir, her husband’s title will die with him  - and yet it is her own relative who can rightfully  claim the title as his own.”

Robert Grosvenor, the son of the 1st Earl Grosvenor, was created the 1st Marquess of Westminster at the coronation of William IV in 1831.

The title was passed to his elder son Richard Grosvenor, then to Richard’s second and eldest surviving son, Hugh Grosvenor, the 1st Duke of Westminster.