School pals’ trip to Paris that ended up in £9bn romance
ENJOYING a trip to the Eiffel Tower and posing with a red vintage car, this is clearly a tightknit group of friends.
Look closer, and you will spot the Duke of Westminster and his now-girlfriend within the pack.
For, as our photos show, Hugh Grosvenor and Harriet Tomlinson, both 26,have been firm friends since both attending the exclusive Ellesmere College in Shropshire.
It is believed the duke, who inherited £9.3billion after his father Gerald Grosvenor’s death in August, and Miss Tomlinson were not an item at the £30,000-a-year school.
But they stayed close while at different universities, including going on holiday regularly with their friends – and their romance has blos- somed more recently. Last night a source said: ‘Harriet and Hugh have always been friends, they were in a close group at school.’
The source said the friendship set still go abroad several times a year including to ski resorts and Ibiza, and that last year car enthusiast Hugh and some pals went to Africa ‘big game hunting and driving old Land Rovers’.
In the photo of the ‘gang’ in Paris, taken in 2012 during their university days, the duke looks unassuming in scruffy grey cords. In another image from one of his birthdays, Hugh is behind the wheel of a vintage car while his future girlfriend is laughing and lifting a glass of wine.
The source said: ‘Harriet was sporty at school. She was in the hockey team and did cross country. She was very popular, very pretty, but she was down to earth.’
Miss Tomlinson, the daughter of a curtain factory boss, studied teaching at the University of Wales, Cardiff, and now works in recruitment. The duke studied countryside management at Newcastle.
As well as trips with their friends, the duke, who works for an energy firm, is thought to have gone on several romantic breaks with Miss Tomlinson, including recently to California where they are believed to have stayed in the luxury Ventana resort, where rooms cost upwards of £500 a night.
A source told the Sunday Mirror: ‘Hugh and Harriet are blissfully happy. She’s very much the love of his life.’
Close-knit: Miss Tomlinson, circled left, and Hugh Grosvenor, right, visiting the Eiffel Tower with their friends in 2012
‘Love of his life’: Harriet Tomlinson when she was at university
Birthday boy: The duke behind the wheel of a vintage car while Miss Tomlinson laughs
Sporty: Enjoying the sunshine