The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby who recently discovered the identity of his real father said the DNA test result which revealed the the unexpected information came as a “complete surprise” to him.
The Most Reverend Justin Welby, 60, has discovered that he is not the son of Gavin Welby but the late Sir Anthony Montague Browne, the private secretary of Sir Winston Churchill, although the discovery changed nothing because according to him, his real identity is found in Christ not in genetics.
The news was disclosed in The Daily Telegraph after a DNA test that he took to put an end to rumours about his paternity. He and his mother, Jane Williams, who was Sir Winston’s personal secretary at the time, had never doubted that Gavin Welby, a whiskey salesman and alcoholic, who died in 1977 was his father. His mother, Lady Williams of Elvel, has confirmed she had a ‘liaison’ with Sir Anthony just before she wed in 1955.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, who is the most senior cleric in the worldwide Anglican communion, says he discovered the real identity of his biological father in recent weeks, adding that “this is a story of redemption and hope from a place of tumultuous difficulty and near despair in several lives. It is a testimony to the grace and power of Christ to liberate and redeem us, grace and power which is offered to every human being”.
In a statement issued through Lambeth Palace, the Archbishop of Canterbury refers to his mother and Gavin Welby’s addiction to alcohol while he was growing up. He said:
“My mother has been in recovery since 1968, and has not touched alcohol for over 48 years. I am enormously proud of her.”
“As a result of my parents’ addictions my early life was messy, although I had the blessing and gift of a wonderful education, and was cared for deeply by my grandmother, my mother once she was in recovery, and my father (Gavin Welby) as far as he was able.”
“My own experience is typical of many people. To find that one’s father is other than imagined is not unusual. To be the child of families with great difficulties in relationships, with substance abuse or other matters, is far too normal.
“This revelation has, of course, been a surprise, but in my life and in our marriage Caroline and I have had far worse. I know that I find who I am in Jesus Christ, not in genetics, and my identity in him never changes. Even more importantly my role as Archbishop makes me constantly aware of the real and genuine pain and suffering of many around the world, which should be the main focus of our prayers.”
Lady Williams, the mother of the Archbishop of Canterbury, whose marriage to Gavin Welby broke up in 1958, had also been working as secretary to Sir Winston during his final spell as prime minister. In a personal statement she said:
“Although my recollection of events is patchy, I now recognize that during the days leading up to my very sudden marriage, and fuelled by a large amount of alcohol on both sides, I went to bed with Anthony Montague Browne. It appears that the precautions taken at the time didn’t work and my wonderful son was conceived as a result of this liaison.”
Sir Anthony became private secretary to Sir Winston Churchill while he was in Downing Street in 1952, continuing after Sir Winston resigned as prime minister in 1955 and until his death in 1965.
Lady Williams, who remarried in 1975, says she has not drunk alcohol since 1968. She added that she had seen Sir Anthony occasionally after her relationship with Gavin Welby ended.
“Although he may have asked how Justin was, there was nothing that gave me any hint that he might have thought he was Justin’s father,” she said.