How a billionaire's wedding drama became a 'testament to where Harry's relationship is with Prince William' (2024)

It was the high society wedding of the year, bringing together 400 members of the British aristocracy to witness the union of one of the kingdom's richest men and his bride.

The Duke of Westminster, Hugh Grosvenor, married his partner, businesswoman Olivia Henson, in a lavish ceremony in England's north west on June 7.

Once billed as Britain's most "eligible bachelor", the 33-year-old duke is worth $18 billion, thanks to his powerful family's astounding real estate portfolio.

The Grosvenor family's ties to the royal family trace back generations, and the current Duke of Westminster has forged strong connections to the Windsors.

King Charles is his godfather.

He is also very close friends with Princes William and Harry — so much so they asked the duke to be godfather to their sons George and Archie.

But whether you're getting married in a simple backyard ceremony, or on your family's sprawling 11,000-acre estate, guest list drama comes for us all.

And for the duke and his newly-minted duch*ess, their wedding day stress involved two warring brothers and a lot of tabloid sniping.

While Prince William attended the ceremony, acting as an usher for guests arriving at Chester Cathedral, Prince Harry was not present.

How a billionaire's wedding drama became a 'testament to where Harry's relationship is with Prince William' (1)

How a billionaire's wedding drama became a 'testament to where Harry's relationship is with Prince William' (2)

It's no secret that there is trouble in the House of Windsor.

Since Prince Harry and his wife Meghan, the duch*ess of Sussex, "stepped back" as working royals in 2020, the spare's relationship with his family — especially his big brother — has spiralled.

"I love William to bits. We've been through hell together and we have a shared experience, but we are on different paths," Harry said in 2021.

"The relationship is [full of] space at the moment and time heals all things, hopefully."

In the weeks leading up to the wedding, both William and Harry's camps have been backgrounding the press.

Sources close to William told the UK Times that the duke left Harry off the guest list because he was keen "to avoid anything overshadowing the day, especially for Olivia, and doesn't want any awkwardness".

But then sources close to Harry told Page Six he and Meghan were, in fact, invited, but rang the duke to explain they thought it best they didn't attend.

"We've actually long been at the point where they can't be in the same room together," said royal commentator Afua Hagan.

"Which is pretty sad, to be honest."

How a billionaire's wedding drama became a 'testament to where Harry's relationship is with Prince William' (3)

Royals rarely fight in public, which makes it difficult to know exactly what's happening inside the House of Windsor.

But these leaks from so-called "friends" and "palace insiders" are almost always an attempt by rival courts — if not the royals themselves — to control the narrative.

The Duke and duch*ess of Westminster are now married, free to enjoy their untold riches and vast swathes of prime British land.

But the rampant speculation about the two biggest stars on their guest list suggests William and Harry remain deeply divided.

As heir to the throne, William shows no sign of reconciling with his brother — or calling a ceasefire on their cold tabloid war — before he becomes king.

The Grosvenors' long history in Britain

The Grosvenors define what it is to be "old money".

How a billionaire's wedding drama became a 'testament to where Harry's relationship is with Prince William' (4)

Their inherited wealth dates back centuries to the lucrative marriage of Sir Thomas Grosvenor and Mary Davies in 1677.

The young heiress' vast fortune included various estates, and parcels of land that are now home to some of the most expensive real estate in London, including Mayfair and Belgravia.

These sprawling land holdings were passed down the family line and, as property prices have skyrocketed in recent decades, so has the Grosvenor's wealth.

By the time little Hugh came along in 1991, the family were on their way to achieving billionaire status.

As the only male heir of Gerald Cavendish Grosvenor and Natalie Grosvenor's four children, he automatically became next in line to one of the biggest fortunes in Britain.

A centuries-old English law dictates that only sons — not daughters — can inherit their family's seat and wealth upon the passing of a relative.

But Gerald Cavendish saw his son's immense privilege as both a blessing and a challenge.

"He's been born with the longest silver spoon anyone can have, but he can't go through life sucking on it. He has to put back what he has been given," Gerald Grosvenor said of his son in 1993.

How a billionaire's wedding drama became a 'testament to where Harry's relationship is with Prince William' (5)

The family kept mostly to themselves, but the heir still mingled with famous friends, including William and Harry.

The younger Windsor was among 800 guests who celebrated Hugh Grosvenor's elaborate 21st birthday bash at the family's ancestral home in Eaton Hall.

The event, which reportedly cost upwards of $9.5 million, was billed as the party of the year with a theme to match, black tie and neon.

"The party was simply amazing – a birthday and a party I will never forget," Hugh, who was studying a bachelor of science at Newcastle University at the time, told The Cheshire Chronicle.

"It is the beginning of a new era in my life and I look forward to the challenges that lie ahead."

He may not have realised at that moment how soon those challenges would come.

Four years later, the then-earl's father unexpectedly died after a ramble on the grounds of his Abbeystead Estate.

The 'wedding of the year'

At just 25 years old, Hugh Grosvenor inherited the family peerage, huge swathes of expensive land and real estate properties all over the world, which are controlled through the Grosvenor Group.

The newly titled Duke of Westminster also became one of the richest men in Britain.

How a billionaire's wedding drama became a 'testament to where Harry's relationship is with Prince William' (6)

But he has mostly maintained a low profile, with sources telling UK outlet The Times, that he "isn't someone who's drawn to the spotlight".

The few photos of him posted to his company's social media accounts show him planting trees, walking along the grounds of his estate or smiling with children supported by his charity, the Westminster Foundation.

"He's not the type of person that you would have seen falling out of clubs or anything like that," says Ms Hagan.

While the duke has shunned the spotlight, his marriage to Olivia Henson has been widely touted as the society wedding of 2024.

The businesswoman doesn't carry the same titles as her husband but is linked to the royal family through her boarding school, with fellow alumnae including Princess Catherine and Princess Eugenie.

She reportedly met the Duke of Westminster through friends of theirs from the University of Newcastle.

In a year where two senior royals have been hit by serious health issues, the couple's nuptials have attracted significant attention.

UK tabloids and magazines described the glamorous wedding as a "Modern Bridgerton" and a "royal affair".

How a billionaire's wedding drama became a 'testament to where Harry's relationship is with Prince William' (7)

Locals were even advised to avoid travelling around the cathedral in Cheshire where the wedding was taking place.

Seemingly in an effort to make up for the commotion, the couple has paid for 100,000 flowers to be displayed in planters across the city and for free ice cream and sorbet stands around the town square on their special day.

At its core, a wedding is a celebration of two people committing their lives together.

And while that may still be true for Hugh Grosvenor and his wife, there is no denying that much of the attention around the couple's nuptials was about a pair of brothers determined to spend their lives apart.

How are Prince William and Prince Harry involved?

As soon as the duke announced his engagement in April 2023, the British tabloids immediately began speculating about who would be invited to the ceremony.

After all, he was a guest at both Prince William and Princess Kate's wedding in 2011 and Harry and Meghan's nuptials in 2018.

"Prince Harry and Prince William are so close to the Duke of Westminster because they're god brothers essentially," said Ms Hagan.

"He is the godson of their dad, King Charles."

How a billionaire's wedding drama became a 'testament to where Harry's relationship is with Prince William' (8)

The tit-for-tat leaks about the guest list began in December 2023 with a UK Times story called: "Harry and Meghan excluded from Duke of Westminster's wedding".

With or without the prince's approval, sources close to Harry shot back that he called up his old friend after receiving a save-the-date card for the June ceremony.

"It was an 'understanding between the two friends,' a source describes the conversation between the two dukes," People — a US outlet known for receiving intel from both the Sussex and Wales camps — reported.

The narrative shifted when the Daily Mail claimed that Harry only backed out when he learned his brother was in the wedding party.

"Last night, a well-informed source told The Mail on Sunday: 'William was asked to have a prominent role in the wedding and that's what triggered Harry to decline an invitation," the Mail reported in May.

"Apparently he [Harry] was put out by the request when he thought it should have been him."

Afua Hagan says it's not clear whose version of events is accurate.

"Some people are saying that he perhaps got a save the date card, but when he heard that his brother was going to be an usher, he decided not to come," she said.

"We don't know. Recollections may vary, as the [late] Queen [Elizabeth] herself would say."

Hagan said it's very clear the brothers remain at odds — as both relatives and members of the same institution.

"I think it is testament to where his relationship is with Prince William that [Harry] decided that it's best that he doesn't attend this particular wedding," she said.

Ultimately, the guest list of a private citizen's wedding is unimportant.

What is illuminating is the way it has become yet another battlefield between Prince William and Harry's rival camps.

Their divisions are so protracted that some conservative commentators who usually deplore the Sussexes are publicly calling for a reconciliation.

"The Royal family is a microcosm for every family in Britain, and that a divided family, like a divided political party, has an intrinsic weakness," conservative columnist Petronella Wyatt wrote in the UK Telegraph in May.

"… I cannot help but feel that a visible reconciliation between William and Harry would strengthen the unity of the House of Windsor and reassure the public of its commitment."

With the future king and his brother still at odds, however, it appears as if the royal family is likely to remain divided for some time.

How a billionaire's wedding drama became a 'testament to where Harry's relationship is with Prince William' (9)

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How a billionaire's wedding drama became a 'testament to where Harry's relationship is with Prince William' (2024)
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