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How reporter went from ‘hero to zero’ with Duke of Westminster

Duke WestminsterA weekly newspaper’s chief reporter has recalled how he went from “hero to zero” in the eyes of the Duke of Westminster in a matter of days.

The Chester Chronicle’s David Holmes has shared his memories following the billionaire landowner’s suddeen death aged 64 on Tuesday.

In a piece for the Chronicle, David remember interviewing the Duke for the first time in December 2001, having driven to his country retreat at Abbeystead, near Lancaster, to do so.

He added the article produced “was great PR for Chester’s own version of the royal family.”

But David continued: “So what happened next was awkward to say the least. No joke, on returning to the office from Abbeystead I was given a note to ring his Eaton Hall housekeeper who had just been sacked for gossiping.

“The subsequent article no doubt saw me go from hero to zero in the Duke’s eyes.

“Things snowballed and I was then contacted by a sacked security guard. At this point I was summoned by the Duke for another chat in an altogether more tense environment.

“One minute I was speaking to his PA on the phone and then he came on the line, which left me speechless. ‘Good afternoon, Mr Holmes, this is the Duke speaking, I think you need to come over and we can explain to you how we do things around here.'”

Met by a security man in a Land Rover at the Duke’s Eaton Hall seat, near Chester, David followed in his Chronicle pool car and was then led through to the Duke.

He added: “I was irreverent in my questioning as the Duke puffed away on fag after fag. The air was not only smoky but blue with industrial language. Above all the Duke was concerned that personal details about his family were being ventilated in public as part of the coverage that was now getting national newspaper attention.

“He made clear that while he might be fair game, his wife and children were not. I dare say he thought I was an annoying upstart but I came away feeling that here was a bloke I’d love to have a pint with.

“He sounded posh but he could swear like a navvy and appeared completely down to earth. To be honest, I felt a bit guilty if I’d upset him.”

David later met the Duke at the opening of a swimming baths in Chester, where the aristocrat was once again “a gentleman and charming”.

The Duke passed away at the Royal Preston Hospital on Tuesday afternoon after being taken ill at Abbeystead.

David¬†concluded: “The final word must go to my old editor-in- chief Eric Langton, who sadly passed away just a few days before the Duke, last Thursday evening.

“Trying to get me out of one of the aforementioned scrapes with Chester’s number one aristocrat, Eric, who hailed from Winsford, joked down the phone with him: ‘You know, you and I have got something in common, your grace… we were both brought up on an estate!'”

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  • August 11, 2016 at 1:02 pm

    Interesting read, the anecdote at the end is amusing.

    Never met the Duke, but have heard from a lot of people who did what an affable man he was. RIP.

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