Ben Lowry: Duke of Westminster seemed insightful and vulnerable in interview

The late Duke of Westminster. Photo: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire
The late Duke of Westminster. Photo: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire

This week I listened to a fascinating radio broadcast.

It was the BBC Desert Island Discs interview with the Duke of Westminster from 1995, that is still available online.

He talks extensively about his idyllic Fermanagh childhood and how he did not want to leave it for English boarding school, where he was bullied.

He had no interest in becoming the Duke of Westminster either – a future fate that was explained to him in his mid teens.

It is an interview that leaves an indelible sense of the limitations of money.

I had already been thinking about how the duke’s stupendous wealth had not been able to help him live beyond the young age of 64, in much the same way that billions was unable to prevent Steve Jobs from dying at an alarmingly youthful 56.

His grace comes across in the programme as sensitive. He might not have been academic but he sounds wise.

The duke, whose funeral was on Friday, was clearly aware of the burden of great wealth, but he was not apologetic for it and he was understandably proud of his ancestry.

He talks about issues that he encountered such as being the object of envy.

He mentions his difficulty in making friends at school.

It is clear that he tried hard to prove his worth at points in his life, such as a soldier and as a business person.

The interview was a reminder that money can buy none of the things that matter: it cannot buy time, it cannot guarantee health, it cannot buy love, or friendship or esteem or achievement.

Yes, it smooths paths and makes daily existence more comfortable but the only big things it can buy are material items, which “moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal”.

The duke understood that and seems to have been likable, vulnerable and insightful.

Ben Lowry (@BenLowry2) is News Letter deputy editor