THE Duke of Richmond and Gordon has died after a short illness, his family confirmed.

Charles Henry Gordon-Lennox, the tenth Duke of Richmond, died peacefully at Goodwood House, West Sussex on Friday evening surrounded by his family. He was 87.

His son, and heir to the title, the Earl of March and Kinrara, Charles Henry Gordon-Lennox, described his father as a "progressive" man and "unusually entrepreneurial" - citing his accounting career, and interests in theology and organic farming.

He said his father's illness was very short - he had been in good spirits only last Sunday.

He told the Press Association: "It was really very quick."

The late Duke drew attention when he and the Duchess, Susan Grenville-Grey, adopted two children of mixed-African heritage in the 1960s - an unusual step in that era, Lord March said.

"He was a very progressive thinker, particularly for someone in his position - he was not typical," Lord March said.

"They felt that interracial adoption would be a good thing, they did a lot of things that they believed in."

Lord March, who will inherit his late father's title, becoming the 11th Duke of Richmond, said his father did not constrain his life to the traditional sort some might expect of his position.

The two British-born girls the couple adopted had South African and Ghanaian heritage, respectively. One is actress Nimmy March, whose birth father was South African.

The couple were also interested in sustainable farming practices, his mother kept grain-fed livestock before it was popular and his father ate organic apples, Lord March said.

He also began the process of secession earlier than was traditionally required, moving out of Goodwood House and moving his son and his family in when he turned 40: "He was always very positive about anything I wanted to do."

The late Duke of Richmond was educated at Eton and rose to the rank of lieutenant in the King's Royal Rifle Corps. He later became an accountant, then succeeded to the dukedom in 1989.

He was a chairman and patron of a string of boards and societies, and had a long-standing association with both the Church of England and the University of Sussex, where he served as chancellor.

His father was a family man, and leaves behind five children, 13 grandchildren, and one great-grandchild, Lord March said.

A private funeral will be held at Boxgrove Priory, followed by a memorial service that will be open to the public.