It was 1972. Camilla from Cornwall was far from who she is today and was simply Camilla Shand, daughter of a British Army officer and one of London's best-known young aristocrats. Then, after an afternoon of partying at the famous Annabel’s club in the British capital, he invited the then-young Prince Charles to his apartment for coffee . The couple was at one of the high points of their stormy romance, which would have to end a few months later. In July 1973, she married the military man Andrew Parker Bowles.
That charming two-bedroom apartment on Cundy Street, near Victoria Station, is in danger today, like so many others. These so-called "aristo-flats", something like "aristocratic apartments" (that is, small flats that have been occupied over the decades by the good children of London) are threatened by a great reform that plans to destroy them, at worst. cases, and remove three-quarters of the natural light they have, at best. An investment of more than 400 million pounds (almost 460 million euros) is at stake, but also the memories of the future queen of England. And that's where the Duke of Westminster comes into play, one of the richest aristocrats in the UK.
Grosvenor, the duke's company, is being widely criticized for wanting to remodel that entire area of the upscale Belgravia neighborhood with what they call the project, Cundy Street Quarter, which is about to be approved by the Westminster board, which governs the area. In that area where Camila's apartment was located, the company seeks to eliminate four blocks to build, in 18,500 square meters, "specialized homes for the elderly" in which 170 people will be able to live, in addition to 93 homes that, they say, will be affordable, 44 with social rents and 77 with market prices, as reported by the newspaper The Telegraph .
However, those who live there say that only 12 homes would be gained from the existing ones, that in the end the residences for the elderly only It will be for a few who can afford it and that all this will mean the disappearance of some old blocks and, the great complaint of many of those who live there, the loss of a good part of light. Apparently, the blocks will reach 48 meters in height, much higher than the average for the area, so they will cover up to 70% of natural light from some homes in that area. Apparently the Duchess of Cornwall herself has voiced her opposition to the project, albeit in private. The Belgravia Owners' Association has lodged a complaint with the company, expressing their anger and stating that one of the most traditional areas of London cannot be treated like this.
Behind the project is the Grosvenor company, led by Hugh Grosvenor, Duke of Westminster and heir to the family saga , who at his 30th birthday and with a family fortune that exceeds 11,000 million euros is the richest aristocrat in the United Kingdom and until a few days ago he held the title of being the youngest person 30 richest in the world. From the company they have distributed a statement in which they explain that all this transformation seeks to achieve a neighborhood "with affordable houses and low carbon emissions, as well as facilities that respect the character of the area."
The Grosvenors are the largest landowners in the Kingdom Kingdom, and they own 0.22% of the country's land (for comparison, Isabel II has 0.03%). In London alone they accumulate more than 200 hectares of land: in 1677 they bought 120 hectares of what are today the best areas of the city. The capital is their fiefdom and the United Kingdom their home, but from the middle of the 20th century they began to expand their empire around the world. Throughout the world and thanks to its eponymous company, they have more than 1,500 properties in 60 countries valued at 8,000 million, or 15,000, if the assets they generate are taken into account. In 2017 they had revenues of 168 million. They have real estate investments in Paris, Shanghai, San Francisco, Liverpool, Stockholm or Vancouver.
In Spain, the Grosvenors are also present. As it became known almost two years ago, the Duke of Westminster has already invested 200 million euros in Madrid and intends to put another 100 more on the table for future projects. In the capital, it has three real estate projects in the Chamberí area (Modesto Lafuente, General Arrando and García de Paredes) and another in the Salamanca district (on Jorge Juan street), as well as an office building north of the capital. In addition, they also own La Garganta, the largest hunting ground in Spain that, between Ciudad Real and Córdoba, covers 15,000 hectares and employs 50 people.
Hugh Grosvenor became duke in 2016, after the death of his father, Gerald, at age 64 due to a heart attack . As long as he is single — he is assigned a girlfriend, a former schoolmate, but no photos of both — his mother, Natalia, will be the dowager duchess. She, 61, is the godmother of Prince William, while Hugh became one of seven godparents in 2013 to his son, Prince George of Cambridge . Far from showing off connections, the low-key Grosvenors prefer to live in the west of the UK in Eaton Hall, their mansion of more than 4,000 hectares.