What are you getting this Christmas? An iPad? Or a large portion of the UK’s capital city? Yep, that bench you’re eating your sandwich on isn’t yours, but probably owned by a guy with a name similar to a medieval knight.
Or a woman who bloody loves swans. Or perhaps the son of a porn baron.
Despite a tendency to side-step the spotlight, it’s true that central London pretty much belongs to a handful of people so wealthy they could buy you 17,000 sandwiches made of gold.
Take a look at our guide to discover those who who run this town:
Gerald Grosvenor, 6th Duke of Westminster
Gerald owns 100 acres of Mayfair and 200 acres of Belgravia which – as we all know – is an alright part of London. To give you an idea of the sort of money we’re talking, the Grosvenor Group once sold a 65sq ft parking space in Mayfair for £65,000. Yes.
Gerald himself once appeared on Desert Island Discs , picked Fleetwood Mac (Albatross – FYI) and had a natter about how much he hated Harrow. Consequently, he sent his three kids to a state school and is adamant they’ll always appreciate how priviliged they are. Which is, quite a lot.
Unsurprisingly, Her Madge has inherited a good 265 acres of London, including a load on Kensington Palace Gardens – the most expensive street in the UK (and one of the richest in the world). Leading up to Kensington Palace, the road is laden with ambassadors and an assortment of astronomically wealthy people – the average house price being a cheeky £19 million.
Oh, and those massive properties overlooking Regent’s Park, Richmond Green and Eltham Palace are also theirs too and all profits of the Crown Estate goes directly to the Exchequer. That’s nice of them, isn’t it? To keep the people who manage the collection of our taxes adequately funded.
The Howard De Waldon Descendents
The Honourable Jessica White, Camilla Acloque, Susan Buchan and Hazel Czernin inherited a quarter each of the 92 acres their father – the late Howard De Waldon – owned. Including Harley Street, Wimpole Street, Marylebone High Street and Cavendish Square, they also own Chandos House. As in – the exclusive Georgian Townhouse venue on Queen Anne Street – not the popular Sammy Smiths pub by the National Portrait Gallery.
Interesting fact: the late Howard de Waldon moved to Munich in 1931, bought a car and on the first day driving it, knocked over a pedestrian. The pedestrian was Adolf Hitler.
Christopher Portman, 10th Viscount Portman
Owning 110 acres between Oxford Street and Edgeware Road (including Portman Square – obviously), the Portmans bagged the land way back in the 16th century before Sir William Portman became Lord Chief Justice to Henry VIII.
Within the empire, there’s 800 residential flats and houses, 215 offices, 130 shops and restaurants, 32 hotels and eight pubs as well as a magazine for residents, and Portman Village on Seymour Place and New Quebec Street. Oh, and a little department store you may have heard of called Selfridges.
Aside from having the best name, Cadogan can walk from Sloane Square to Harrods without stepping off his own land. Spanning 90 acres between Knightsbridge and Albert Bridge, the Old Etonian (blatantly) also knows what he likes and shuts down what he doesn’t.
In 2008, Cadogan refused to renew The Oriel Brasserie’s license because, and we quote: “I didn’t like the food and the prices are far too high.”
He’s also a bit of a hero, having battled against the building of lavish properties on land originally intended for “the working classes” and winning his corner. Bravo, man.
Well, not exactly. After the porn baron and owner of practically all of Soho died in 2008, his 60 acres were amicably split between his son Howard Raymond and his stepson John James. The £75 million fortune was left to his two granddaughters, but with caveats in place to ensure, in Howard’s own words: “it doesn’t disappear up their noses.”
John James casually bought Foyles, and Howard is backing new movie – The King Of Soho – starring Steve Coogan as Paul Raymond. Having opened the first strip club in Britain in 1958, the famous Raymond Revuebar is now owned by granddaughter Fawn James and known as The Box - if you fancy checking it out.
As well as owning 40 acres of Holland Park (and a total of 15,000 acres in the UK) Charlotte Townshend loves a spot of hunting and is the only person in Britain other than the Queen who is allowed to own swans.
Spending most of her time in Dorset, she’s joint master of the Cattistock hunt and – upon the birth of her son – decided to follow an ancient tradition by laying him on a swan’s nest. As you do.