An extraordinary and wonderful man

The late Duke of Richmond and Gordon and wife the Duchess
The late Duke of Richmond and Gordon and wife the Duchess

It is with great sorrow that we have heard the news that His Grace the Duke of Richmond and Gordon died on 1st September after a short illness.

Sussex Community Foundation was founded by The Duke in 2006 and he was our first chairman. He was an extraordinary and wonderful man.

I first met him when I was interviewed to become the new Foundation’s first chief executive. I must admit to feeling a slightly daunted by being interviewed in the tower of Goodwood House and had never met a duke before. His Grace immediately put me at ease and I was impressed by his understanding of the local community and commitment to helping disadvantaged people and communities. At the same time, he made it very clear that he had high expectations of the charity. Before long, he had set us a target of raising £10 million in endowment for Sussex within ten years. For a while, this seemed an impossible target but, with his help, we did achieve it.

The Duke worked tirelessly to bring people together to make sure the Foundation was a success. He had such a charming yet persuasive way of ‘tapping people on the shoulder’ that few could refuse to support his initiatives.

A combination of His Grace’s deep passion for Sussex, determination to help disadvantaged communities on his doorstep and commitment to use his social position to bring about positive change in the world helped form the strong foundation of this charity. Yet he was also so influential in many other local charities, helping to establish Impact Initiatives and the Weald and Downland Museum, supporting Boxgrove Priory, among many others. He was an early supporter of the campaign for women priests in the Church of England. He was, in many ways, a great social reformer. The Duke had a strong personal faith and believed that those who were more fortunate had a duty to help their communities.

If this all makes The Duke sound very worthy, perhaps he was, yet he always had a twinkle in his eye and a self-deprecating story to tell.

After a committee meeting at Goodwood House went on late into the night, he led us down the back stairs and out across the garden in the pitch darkness. Halfway across, he said: “Be careful not to fall in the pond on your right …or is it the left?” We all got the impression that he had sneaked out of the house in darkness before!

We, at Sussex Community Foundation, will be forever grateful that he chose us as one of his passions and we will do our very best to fulfil the legacy he leaves for Sussex.

All of us at the Foundation send our condolences to his widow, the Dowager Duchess of Richmond and Gordon, and to the other members of the late Duke’s family.