Grant was born at
Charing Cross Hospital in
Hammersmith, London, the second son of Fynvola Susan MacLean (b.
Wickham, Hampshire, 11 October 1933; d.
Hounslow, London, July 2001) and
Captain James Murray Grant (b. 1929). Grant's grandfather, Colonel James Murray Grant,
DSO was decorated for bravery and leadership at
Saint-Valery-en-Caux during World War II.
 Genealogist Antony Adolph has described Grant's family history as "a colourful
Anglo-Scottish tapestry of warriors, empire-builders and aristocracy."
 A few of his notable ancestors include
William Drummond, 4th Viscount Strathallan, Dr. James Stewart,
John Murray, 1st Marquess of Atholl,
Heneage Finch, 1st Earl of Nottingham,
Sir Evan Nepean, and a sister of former Prime Minister
Grant's father was an officer in the
Seaforth Highlanders for eight years in
Germany and Scotland.
 He ran a carpet firm, pursued hobbies such as golf and
painting watercolours, and raised his family in
Chiswick, west London, where the Grants lived next to Arlington Park Mansions on Sutton Lane.
 In September 2006, a collection of Capt. Grant's paintings was hosted by the John Martin Gallery in a charity exhibition, organised by his son, called "James Grant: 30 Years of Watercolours."
 His mother worked as a schoolteacher and taught Latin, French and music for more than 30 years in the
state schools of west London.
 She died at the age of 67, 18 months after being diagnosed with
accent is an inheritance from his mother; and, on
Inside the Actors Studio in 2002, he credited her with "any acting genes that [he] might have."
 Both his parents were children of military families,
 but, despite his parents' backgrounds, Grant has stated that his family was not always affluent while he was growing up.
 Grant spent his childhood summers shooting and hunting with his grandfather in Scotland.
 Grant has an older brother, James, living in Portugal.
Grant started his education at Hogarth Primary School in Chiswick but then moved to St Peter's Primary School in
Hammersmith, Grant was then educated at an independent prep school
Wetherby School. From 1969 to 1978, he attended the independent
Latymer Upper School in Hammersmith on a scholarship and played 1st XV rugby, cricket and football for the school.
 He also represented Latymer on the popular quiz show,
Top of the Form, an academic competition between two teams of four secondary school students each.
In 1979, Grant won the Galsworthy scholarship to
New College, Oxford, where he starred in his first film,
Privileged, produced by the
Oxford University Film Foundation. He read
English and graduated with
Anna Chancellor, who met Grant while she was still at university, has recalled, "I first met Hugh at a party at Oxford. There was something magical about him. He was a star even then, without having done anything. Grant joined the exclusive
Piers Gaveston Society at Oxford, a group with a reputation for debauchery and decadence".
Grant received an offer from the
Courtauld Institute of Art,
University of London to pursue a PhD in the history of art, but decided not to take the offer because he failed to secure a grant. Viewing acting as nothing more than a creative outlet,
 he joined the
Oxford University Dramatic Society and starred in a successful touring production of
After making his debut as Hughie Grant in the Oxford-financed
Privileged (1982), Grant dabbled in a variety of jobs, such as working as an assistant groundsman at
Fulham Football Club,
 tutoring, writing comedy sketches for TV shows,
 and working for
Talkback Productions to write and produce radio commercials for products such as Mighty White bread and Red Stripe lager.
 To obtain his
Equity card, he joined the
Nottingham Playhouse, a regional theatre, and lived for a year at Park Terrace in
The Park Estate.
 Bored with small acting parts, he created his own comedy revue called The Jockeys of Norfolk, a name taken from Shakespeare's
Richard III, with friends
Chris Lang and Andy Taylor. The group toured London's pub comedy circuit with stops at The George IV in
Chiswick, Canal Cafe Theatre in
Little Venice and The King's Head in
 Starting on a low note, The Jockeys of Norfolk eventually proved a hit at the
Edinburgh Festival after their sketch on the
Nativity, told as an
Ealing comedy, gained them a spot on the
BBC2 TV show called Edinburgh Nights.
 During this time, Grant also appeared in theatre productions of plays such as
An Inspector Calls (at the
Royal Exchange, Manchester),
Lady Windermere's Fan, and