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Friend of the Queen and one of Britain’s richest men Samuel Vestey has died 

A close friend of the Queen and a member of her racing circle Lord Samuel Vestey has died. 

The death of royal courtier and multi-millionaire businessman Lord Vestey, 3rd Baron Vestey at the age of 79 was announced today, and comes just over nine weeks after his wife Lady Vestey died suddenly. 

Old Etonian Lord Vestey, known as ‘Spam’ to his friends, was one of Britain’s one of Britain’s richest men with a £750million fortune thanks to his family’s food business, Vestey Holdings, which owned the Dewhurst the Butchers chain. He presided over the 6,000-acre Stowell Park Estate in Gloucestershire.

Lord Vestey – whose cause of death has not yet been revealed – was a former chairman of the Cheltenham Racecourse and Master of the Horse, and was appointed a Lord-in-Waiting to Her Majesty in August 2019.  

Meanwhile Lady Vestey, who stayed out of the society spotlight, was one of Prince Harry’s six godparents, and the couple attended his wedding to Meghan Markle in May 2018, as well as Prince William and Kate Middleton’s marriage in 2011. 

The couple’s eldest son William will inherit his father’s title and the family’s 6,000-acre estate.  

A close friend of the Queen and a member of her ‘racing circle’ Samuel Vestey, has died, months after the death of his wife Lady Vestey 

Old Etonian Lord Vestey, known as 'Spam' to his friends, was one of Britain's one of Britain's richest men with a £750million fortune thanks to his family's food business, Vestey Holdings and a Lord-in-Waiting to Her Majesty

Old Etonian Lord Vestey, known as ‘Spam’ to his friends, was one of Britain’s one of Britain’s richest men with a £750million fortune thanks to his family’s food business, Vestey Holdings and a Lord-in-Waiting to Her Majesty

Samuel Vestey and his wife Lady Vestey were close friends with Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall (pictured, during an event in London)

Samuel Vestey and his wife Lady Vestey were close friends with Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall (pictured, during an event in London)

The Vestey family's combined wealth amounts to approximately £1.2 billion, according to the Sunday Times Rich List 2013. Lord Vestey's share is estimated to be around £750million

The Vestey family’s combined wealth amounts to approximately £1.2 billion, according to the Sunday Times Rich List 2013. Lord Vestey’s share is estimated to be around £750million

Eldest son William, who will inherit his father's title and the family’s 6,000-acre estate is married to magazine editor Violet Henderson, who has worked for titles including Tatler and Vogue. The couple, pictured in 2014, have two children

Eldest son William, who will inherit his father’s title and the family’s 6,000-acre estate is married to magazine editor Violet Henderson, who has worked for titles including Tatler and Vogue. The couple, pictured in 2014, have two children

In a sign of their closeness to the royal family, Lord and Lady Vestey joined the Queen and Prince Charles in the Royal Box at Cheltenham and stayed as guests of the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh at Sandringham. 

As the Queen’s Master of the Horse, his duties included attending ceremonial occasions as the man responsible for the Royal Mews and the Queen’s carriages and horses. 

The grandson of renowned Victorian opera singer, Dame Nellie Melba, Lord Vestey, who succeeded his grandfather in the peerage title at the age of just 13, was educated at Eton College, before attending Sandhurst and serving as a Lieutenant in the Scots Guards.

He was the chairman of the Meat Training Council from 1991 to 1995, before becoming chairman of the Vestey Group (now Vestey Holdings) in 1995. 

The Queen was greeted by Lord Vestey, president of The Royal Smithfield Club and of The Royal Smithfield Show, when she visited the agricultural exhibition at London's Earls Court with the Duke of Edinburgh in 1986

The Queen was greeted by Lord Vestey, president of The Royal Smithfield Club and of The Royal Smithfield Show, when she visited the agricultural exhibition at London’s Earls Court with the Duke of Edinburgh in 1986

Lord and Lady Vestey have regularly joined the Queen and Prince Charles in the Royal Box at Cheltenham and stayed as guests of the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh at Sandringham (pictured with the Queen in 2017 at Epsom)

Lord and Lady Vestey have regularly joined the Queen and Prince Charles in the Royal Box at Cheltenham and stayed as guests of the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh at Sandringham (pictured with the Queen in 2017 at Epsom) 

Queen Elizabeth II and Lord Vestey attend the Royal Windsor Horse show in the private grounds of Windsor Castle on May 16, 2015

Queen Elizabeth II and Lord Vestey attend the Royal Windsor Horse show in the private grounds of Windsor Castle on May 16, 2015

The company – which once owned Dewhurst butchers – has been privately owned since it was founded in 1897 by brothers William and Edward Vestey.

Who is the heir to the Vestey family seat?

Eldest son William, who will inherit his father’s title and the family’s 6,000-acre estate, served as a Page of Honour to the Queen Elizabeth from 1995 to 1998. 

He married magazine editor Violet Henderson, who has worked for titles including Tatler and Vogue, at St Mary’s church in North Elmham, Norfolk, in 2012. 

The couple now have two children, Ella, five, and two-year-old Samuel, named after his grandfather. 

In 2018, Violet made headlines with a Vogue article in which she revealed the nanny she trusted with her baby daughter had turned out to be a con artist.    

She worked with the family for two years before her crimes were revealed, and she was later jailed for 16 months for stealing thousands of pounds worth of jewellery from Violet – including 18th-century white-gold and diamond earrings that were a wedding present from her in-laws, Lord and Lady Vestey.

 

By the middle of the 20th century Vestey companies dominatied both the wholesale and retail meat trade in the UK, selling everything from refrigerated and canned meats to leather.  

They entered into a price war with the US-owned importers and developed the country-wide Dewhurst the Butchers chain, which was eventually sold in 1995 in the face of increasing competition from the supermarket chains.

The Vestey family’s combined wealth amounts to approximately £1.2 billion, according to the Sunday Times Rich List 2013. Lord Vestey’s share is estimated to be around £750million. 

Twice married, he wed Kathryn Eccles in 1970, and divorced in 1981 after having two  daughters, The Hon. Flora Vestey and The Hon. Saffron Vestey. 

That same year, he wed his second wife, Celia Knight, at a simple civil ceremony at Wantage Register Office, near her family home. 

The couple are survived by their three children, The Hon. William Guy Vestey, The Hon. Arthur George Vestey and The Hon. Mary Henrietta Vestey. The couple also shared four grandchildren, Ella, Samuel, Frank and Cosima.

Lord Vestey’s death comes just a few weeks after the passing of his wife, 71-year-old Lady Vestey, who died on November 28. 

A death notice published in the Daily Telegraph at the time read: ‘Celia Elizabeth SRN BA. Died suddenly, but peacefully, on Saturday 28th November, aged 71 years.

‘Adored wife of Sam. Much loved mother of William, Arthur and Mary and loving Granny of Ella, Frankie, Sam and Cosima. Private family funeral. Memorial service later.’

In a poignant nod to Lady Vestey’s lifelong love of horses, the notice added: ‘Family flowers only please, but donations gratefully received in Celia’s memory to Ebony Horse Club.’

In 1981, Lord Vestey, known as Spam to his chums, who was the Royal Household's Master of the Horse from 1999 to 2018, married wife Celia  Pictured, their wedding

In 1981, Lord Vestey, known as Spam to his chums, who was the Royal Household’s Master of the Horse from 1999 to 2018, married wife Celia  Pictured, their wedding

Lady Vestey was a blushing bride in a non-traditional black dress for their wedding

Lady Vestey was a blushing bride in a non-traditional black dress for their wedding

Sealed with a kiss! The couple share an embrace outside Wantage Register Office on their wedding day

Sealed with a kiss! The couple share an embrace outside Wantage Register Office on their wedding day

Lord and Lady Vestrey attend Harry Meade & Rosie Bradford's wedding at the Church of St. Peter and St. Paul on October 23, 2010 in Northleach near Cheltenham

Lord and Ladyattend Harry Meade & Rosie Bradford’s wedding at the Church of St. Peter and St. Paul on October 23, 2010 in Northleach near Cheltenham

Prince Harry's godmother Lady Celia Vestey died at the age of 71 at the end of last year. Pictured, arriving at Claridges Hotel to attend the wedding reception for Alexander Fellowes and Alexandra Finlay following their wedding ceremony at the Chapel of St Mary Undercroft in the Palace of Westminster on September 20, 2013 in London

Prince Harry’s godmother Lady Celia Vestey died at the age of 71 at the end of last year. Pictured, arriving at Claridges Hotel to attend the wedding reception for Alexander Fellowes and Alexandra Finlay following their wedding ceremony at the Chapel of St Mary Undercroft in the Palace of Westminster on September 20, 2013 in London

Queen Elizabeth II and Lady Vestey attend day 4 'Gold Cup Day' of the Cheltenham Festival at Cheltenham Racecourse on March 13, 2009 in Cheltenham

Queen Elizabeth II and Lady Vestey attend day 4 ‘Gold Cup Day’ of the Cheltenham Festival at Cheltenham Racecourse on March 13, 2009 in Cheltenham

Prince Charles, Prince of Wales and Lady Vestey watch the racing as they attend day 4 'Gold Cup Day' of the Cheltenham Festival at Cheltenham Racecourse on March 17, 2006 in Cheltenham

Prince Charles, Prince of Wales and Lady Vestey watch the racing as they attend day 4 ‘Gold Cup Day’ of the Cheltenham Festival at Cheltenham Racecourse on March 17, 2006 in Cheltenham

Born Celia Elizabeth Knight in 1949, she was the youngest daughter of Major Hubert Guy Broughton Knight and Hester Loyd, scion of the Loyds of Lockinge. The family lived in the stunning Lockinge Manor, Wantage, Oxfordshire.

Her older sister is Henrietta Knight, the retired English Thoroughbred racehorse trainer, best known as a trainer of National Hunt racehorses, who was married to Terry Biddlecombe, the champion jockey. Henrietta was also chairwoman of the British Olympic Horse Trials Selection Committee from 1984 to 1988. 

In 1984, just three years after her wedding to Lord Vestey, Celia was chosen as one of Prince Harry’s six godparents for his christening at St George’s Chapel in Windsor.

Photos from the day show Lady Vestey, smartly dressed in a blazer and hat, standing behind Prince Charles for the formal portraits. 

Lord and Lady Vestey were close friends of the Queen and Prince Charles and was a member of their 'racing circle.' Pictured, from left to right (back row) Bryan Organ, Lady Sarah Chatto, Lady Vestey, Mrs Bartholomew and Gerald Ward, (front row) Prince Harry, The Prince of Wales and Prince William, pose for a photograph at the confirmation of Prince Harry at Eton College on March 19, 2000

Lord and Lady Vestey were close friends of the Queen and Prince Charles and was a member of their ‘racing circle.’ Pictured, from left to right (back row) Bryan Organ, Lady Sarah Chatto, Lady Vestey, Mrs Bartholomew and Gerald Ward, (front row) Prince Harry, The Prince of Wales and Prince William, pose for a photograph at the confirmation of Prince Harry at Eton College on March 19, 2000

Royal relatives and godparents who are amused at the antics of young Prince William, Prince Harry is christened at Windsor Castle on December 21, 1984 in Windsor

Royal relatives and godparents who are amused at the antics of young Prince William, Prince Harry is christened at Windsor Castle on December 21, 1984 in Windsor

The Vesteys and the Royal Family have remained close in the decades since.

Lord and Lady Vestey’s eldest son William, now 37, was one of the Queen’s Page of Honours from the age of 12 to 15. 

Meanwhile Arthur Vestey, 35, is a friend of Prince William. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were surprise no-shows to his 2015 wedding to Martha Beaumont. 

Youngest daughter Mary Vestey married Ed Cookson in 2019. 

The relationship with the Royal Family continued, with Lord and Lady Vestey attending the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s wedding at Westminster Abbey in 2011 and the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s wedding seven years later. 

Lady Celia Vestey attends the wedding of Prince Harry to Ms Meghan Markle at St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle on May 19, 2018 in Windsor

Lady Celia Vestey attends the wedding of Prince Harry to Ms Meghan Markle at St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle on May 19, 2018 in Windsor

Lord Vestey was made Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order (KCVO) in the 2009 Birthday Honours. The Queen promoted Lord Vestey to Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order (GCVO) in December 2018.

In 1995, Lady Vestey suffered a serious stroke. Lord Vestey was told by doctors at Frenchay Hospital, Bristol, that his wife had less than a one in ten chance of survival.

She recovered after neurosurgeons removed a blood clot the size of a golf ball from her brain and said afterwards it was the support of her husband that gave her the strength to recover.

‘He is my hero,’ Lady Vestey said. ‘He was a tower of strength.’ 

In more recent years Lady Vestey walked with the aid of a walking stick. 

Who are Lord and Lady Vestey’s other children? 

Unlike some society figures, William, Arthur and Mary prefer to keep a low profile and are rarely seen out on the town.  

ARTHUR VESTEY: PRINCE WILLIAM’S POLO PLAYING PAL

Arthur Vestey is married  to Martha Beaumont, daughter of the 4th Viscount and Viscountess Allendale. The couple (above in 2018) have son Frank and daughter Cosima

Arthur Vestey is married  to Martha Beaumont, daughter of the 4th Viscount and Viscountess Allendale. The couple (above in 2018) have son Frank and daughter Cosima

Polo player Arthur Vestey is a friend of the Duke of Cambridge. He was an investment manager for six years, before joining his family’s business, The Vestey Group, in 2012. 

In 2015 he married Martha Beaumont, daughter of the 4th Viscount and Viscountess Allendale. Together the couple have four-year-old Frank and daughter Cosima, two.

MARY VESTEY: DREAMS OF TRAINING RACEHORSES

The youngest of Lady Vestey’s three children, 28-year-old Mary is married to jockey Ed Cookson. The couple wed in the summer of 2019 at Norhleach Church in the Cotswolds before a reception at Stowell Park, The Vesteys’ estate.

Ed’s parents have a farm where Mary keeps horses. She is an assistant to trainer Ben Pauling and said it has always been a ‘dream’ to train horses, like her aunt Henrietta.  

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