Surfing this evening it was interesting to stumble onto a list of Britain’s ten richest people and to notice that, after the Indian steel magnet Lakshmi Mittal with a fortune of some 15 billion pounds and Roman Abramovich, the Russian oil tycoon who has about 7.5 billion pounds, it is the good old Duke of Westminster, who is worth approximately 6 billion pounds, in third place. Now that in itself is not so terribly interesting, you might think. However, the Duke of Westminster has been number three or thereabouts for a long time. while Abramovich and Mittal are relative newcomers to this elite club. Moreover, it interesting to note that it is rising steel prices that see Mr Mittal in the number one spot whereas Mr. Abramovich remains sort of steady; although the dollar price of a barrel of oil has increased to almost $150, the dollar itself is not worth quite as much as it was a couple of years ago. Now, Lakshmi and Roman will never be poor I am sure but the good old Duke of Westminster is always going to be super rich.
In the early eighties when Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher were getting very chummy. Ronald, I am told, stumbled on a sort of strange phenomena. Due to the fact that property in that part of London where the embassies are is normally leased, the US embassy, like the other embassies there, did not strictly speaking own their embassy. This was for Ronald an intolerable state of affairs and he decided to ask his chum, Maggie, if she could not do something about it. She then went to have a chat with the Duke of Westminster, a member of the Conservative Party, and asked him if it might be possible to at least let the Americans buy the land and the building outright. The Duke is reported to have said no problem and that all they had to do was return the land that had been stolen from his family during the American War of Independence. The Duke’s family owned most of the eastern seaboard from Massachusetts down to North Carolina. Now the present 6th Duke of Westminster is the lessor for most of Mayfair and Belgravia. One gets the feeling that in fifty years time when we look at the richest people in Britain a Duke of Westminster will still be there but will there be a Mittal or an Abramovich on the list?