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This year's society wedding: the Duke of Westminster's 'Bridgerton' moment

Hugh Grosvenor, the Duke of Westminster, attends the wedding of Charlie van Straubenzee and Daisy Jenks at the church of St Mary the Virgin on Aug. 4, 2018 in Frensham, England (Photo by Max Mumby / Indigo / Getty Images) Hugh Grosvenor, the Duke of Westminster, attends the wedding of Charlie van Straubenzee and Daisy Jenks at the church of St Mary the Virgin on Aug. 4, 2018 in Frensham, England (Photo by Max Mumby / Indigo / Getty Images)
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LONDON, ENGLAND -

In the heart of Westminster, an event that intertwines the elegance of aristocracy with the allure of high society is about to unfold, capturing the fascination of both the nation and international onlookers.

Friday's nuptials between Hugh Grosvenor -- the Duke of Westminster and one of Britain's most eligible bachelors who also happens to be the godson of King Charles III -- and Olivia Henson promise to be a spectacle reminiscent of a modern-day episode of Bridgerton.

Dear reader, within the storied walls of Chester Cathedral, a setting rich in history and grandeur, whispers of comparison with royal events, such as those of Prince Harry and Prince William, abound. This wedding (ceremony beings at noon London time) is not just a union of two hearts but a celebration that highlights deeply rooted traditions and the evolving face of the British aristocracy and high society.

The journey of the groom and the bride-to-be to the altar is nothing short of a fairy tale. Chester Cathedral, a marvel in the heart of Cheshire, is set to play host to this grand event. Expected to grace the ceremony are figures of national importance including members of the Royal Family, with rumours of Prince William and Prince George serving as ushers, signifying the close-knit fabric of Britain's noble families.

The guest list, a who's who in high society, along with the sheer extravagance of the wedding, aligns closely with the spectacle and grandeur often associated with royal weddings, making this event a defining moment of contemporary aristocracy.

It’s the most royal non-royal wedding we’ve ever seen.

Who is Hugh Grosvenor?

Hugh Grosvenor, the 7th Duke of Westminster, epitomizes the modern aristocrat with a blend of tradition and contemporary influence. Born into the Grosvenor family, he was raised at Eaton Hall in Cheshire, surrounded by the trappings of historical wealth but with a down-to-earth upbringing that shunned the more ostentatious aspects of aristocratic life.

His education at Newcastle University, where he studied Countryside Management, reflects his commitment to environmental and rural affairs, setting him aside from the typical elite path.

Inheriting the title and a vast property empire at just 25, Grosvenor's wealth is staggering. The duke is thought to be worth £10.42 billion ($18.2 billion), making him the richest man in Britain under 40.

The Grosvenor Estate, encompassing swaths of upmarket areas of London, positions him as one of the UK's most significant landowners.

Hugh Grosvenor, the Duke of Westminster, attends the wedding of Charlie van Straubenzee and Daisy Jenks at the church of St Mary the Virgin on Aug. 4, 2018 in Frensham, England (Photo by Max Mumby / Indigo / Getty Images)

Despite his immense wealth, held in trust to ensure its longevity and protection from potential fiscal losses, Grosvenor is noted for his modest lifestyle and focus on sustainable living. This inheritance structure, designed to bypass hefty inheritance taxes, highlights a savvy approach to wealth preservation that has characterized the Grosvenor lineage.

Hugh Grosvenor's role in society extends beyond mere wealth. His close relationships with the Royal Family, exemplified by his godfather duties for Prince George and Archie, signify his integral position within the U.K.'s elite. Moreover, his philanthropic efforts, notably his substantial donations to the NHS during the COVID-19 pandemic, and his leadership in various charitable organizations, underscore a responsibility to societal welfare that defines his public persona.

This blend of heritage, responsibility, and modernity makes the duke not just a figure of wealth, but a pivotal player in the shaping of British societal norms and philanthropy. He is also surprisingly low-key, and not one to be found in the social scene of London’s glitterati.

Who is Olivia Henson?

Olivia Henson, aged 30, embarked on her educational journey at the private Dragon School in Oxford, followed by Marlborough College, a prestigious institution also attended by notable figures such as Kate and Pippa Middleton. She furthered her studies at Trinity College, Dublin, achieving a 2:1 in Hispanic Studies and Italian.

Currently working as a senior account manager at Belazu, a B-corp known for its environmentally-friendly practices and high-quality European imports, Olivia Henson has carved a niche in the sustainable food sector. Her career includes previous roles at Daily Dose, a company focused on wellness through nutritionally rich pressed juices.

Beyond her professional achievements, Henson is actively involved in charitable pursuits. She serves on the board of trustees for the Belazu Foundation, which promotes education and healthy eating in the U.K. and around the Mediterranean. Her recent engagement in charity work includes visiting several Chester-based initiatives funded by the Westminster Foundation, highlighting her dedication to creating positive social impacts, particularly in children's health and education.

Chester Cathedral, a monumental site with a rich tapestry of history, stands as the chosen venue for the union of Grosvenor and Henson. This architectural marvel has witnessed numerous significant events over its centuries-long existence. It has long been a focal point for the community and the Grosvenor family, having hosted numerous events that underscore its importance to the duke's lineage and the local heritage.

Inside Chester Cathedral in the city of Chester, Cheshire, England (Tony Hisgett / flickr / CC BY 2.0)

The upcoming wedding is yet another chapter in this ongoing relationship, highlighting the cathedral's role in family milestones. Reflecting the grandeur and elegance akin to a scene from Bridgerton, the venue itself, steeped in a rich history, will host a series of lavish receptions and celebrations. These festivities will showcase a blend of traditional charm and modern sophistication, with the historic Cellarium and the atmospheric 13th Century cloisters providing unique settings for the evening events.

The couple have chosen to sponsor the planting of 100,000 flowers across Chester, creating a vibrant display that will add to the city's summer allure. In line with modern eco-friendly trends, the wedding plans include significant sustainable practices. Local and seasonal flowers will reduce transportation emissions, and the choice of local venues like the College Garden emphasizes a commitment to environmental responsibility. The event will also feature organic and locally sourced cuisine, ensuring that the celebration is luxurious yet mindful of its ecological footprint.

So, who can we expect to see at the wedding of the year? Well, the Grosvenor wedding will be a family affair with Hugh’s three sisters, Lady Tamara, Lady Edwina, and Lady Viola, attending alongside their spouses, Edward Van Cutsem, Dan Snow, and Angus Roberts. The children of Hugh's sisters, including Jake, Louis, Isla Van Cutsem, Zia, Wolf, and Orla Snow, are also expected to play a role in the ceremony.

Why Prince Harry won't be attending

Prince William, a close friend of the duke as well as his godbrother, will serve as an usher, marking his significant role in the celebrations. However, Prince Harry will not be attending, with sources citing potential awkwardness due to his estranged relationship with his brother. The duke is godfather to Prince William’s son, Prince George, as well as Prince Harry’s son, Prince Archie, and it’s thought that the strained relationship between the two princes caused some consternation when compiling the guest list.

Prince William, left, and Prince Harry speak after viewing the floral tributes for the late Queen Elizabeth II outside Windsor Castle, in Windsor, England on Sept. 10, 2022 (Martin Meissner /AP Photo)

Some sources say that Prince Harry wasn’t invited in the first place, some say he got a 'Save the Date' card but when he found out his brother would be an usher, he turned down the invitation.

Meanwhile, King Charles and the Princess of Wales are also unlikely to attend due to health concerns.

Who's on the guest list?

The guest list includes notable figures from the entertainment and aristocratic circles. Lady Eloise Anson and her husband, Louis Waymouth, a writer for James Corden's show, as well as the Marquess of Cholmondeley and his wife Rose, are among the high-profile attendees expected at Chester Cathedral.

David Cholmondeley, 7th Marquess of Cholmondeley and Rose Cholmondeley, Marchioness of Cholmondeley attend a service of dedication for the Order of The British Empire at St Paul's Cathedral on May 15, 2024 in London, England (Photo by Max Mumby / Indigo / Getty Images)

The impending marital union between Hugh Grosvenor, the Duke of Westminster, and Olivia Henson encapsulates a contemporary fairytale set within the historical and majestic walls of Chester Cathedral. This grand occasion, drawing parallels with episodes of Bridgerton, not only signifies the profound personal commitment of the couple but also exemplifies the enduring allure and evolving traditions of the British aristocracy.

By marrying the legacy of the Grosvenor family with the environmental and sustainable ethos that both Hugh and Olivia passionately advocate for, this wedding emerges as a symbol of modern nobility blending with progressive values, poised to captivate both national and international audiences.

There’s also a broader narrative of how tradition and modernity can co-exist with grace, responsibility, and a forward-looking perspective. Dear Reader, this celebration will undoubtedly leave a lasting imprint on the cultural fabric of British high society and inspire conversations about the role of the aristocracy in contemporary society, blending the old with the new in a truly memorable fashion.

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