Grosvenors of Eaton
Virtus non stemma (‘Virtue not lineage’) is the motto of the Grosvenors. Yet the family can trace its ancestry for almost a millennium. The Grosvenors traditionally trace their descent from Gilbert Grosvenor (le gros veneur or master of the hunt), nephew of Hugh Lupus, Earl of Chester, who held from his uncle, William the Conqueror, all the lands of Cheshire (excepting those of the Bishop of Chester).
Eaton has been the home of the Grosvenor family since the early 1440s, when Ralph Grosvenor of Hulme in Cheshire married Joan, the heiress of Eaton. From the fifteenth century onwards, the Grosvenor family steadily increased its landholdings, finances and status in the community. Particularly profitable from the 1580s onwards were the rents and royalties from mines of coal, stone and lead in North Wales.
The family finances were somewhat drained in the 1640s when the Second Baronet had to pay a fine of several thousands of pounds for supporting the King in the English Civil War. However by 1677 the coffers had been replenished, and the failure of another suitor to provide the promised funds for the hand of Mary Davies enabled the Third Baronet to step in. This marriage brought into the Grosvenor family an area of boggy marshlands which, again by harnessing the wealth generated by the minerals in North Wales, were later developed to become the prosperous Mayfair and Belgrave areas of London.
In the mid-twentieth century an entrepreneurial decision was taken to diversify by developing the Annacis Island industrial estate in British Columbia. This was the beginning of what was to become an international enterprise with offices, in North America, Europe, and Asia Pacific (and, for a number of years, Hawaii and Australia).
Family members were elevated through the ranks of nobility to Hugh Lupus, First Duke of Westminster in 1874 – the last of the non-royal dukedoms to be created. Thus quirks of fate, good marriages and fortuitous circumstances have influenced the Grosvenor family and the line of succession as the title passes through the male line in a sometimes complicated manner.