The most senior churchman in Britain, the archbishop of Canterbury, who is the head of the Church of England, has made a dramatic announcement that his biological father was not the alcoholic whiskey salesman to whom his mother was married, as he had long believed, but the debonair and aristocratic last private secretary of Winston Churchill.
The archbishop, Justin Welby, made the extraordinary announcement disclosing that his biological father was in fact a British diplomat, Sir Anthony Montague Browne, who served as Churchill’s secretary in his final years, after he was presented with the evidence of his paternity by the British newspaper The Daily Telegraph, and took a DNA test.
Browne, the only non-family member to walk behind the coffin at Churchill’s state funeral, was said by contemporaries to be, “intelligent, witty and charming”, and, The Telegraph reports, “at his best in the company of women. Lady Churchill was very fond of him and would sometimes invite him to the lunches she would have two or three times a week…”
A decorated wartime RAF pilot, Sir Anthony joined the Foreign Office after the war and was seconded to work for Churchill from 1952 until the former prime minister’s death in 1965.
In his statement, Welby said, “In the last month I have discovered that my biological father is not Gavin Welby but, in fact, the late Sir Anthony Montague Browne. This comes as a complete surprise.
“My mother (Jane Williams) and father (Gavin Welby) were both alcoholics. My mother has been in recovery since 1968, and has not touched alcohol for over 48 years. I am enormously proud of her.”
The archbishop said that his early life was “messy” as a result of his parents’ addictions, and has previously spoken about miserable school holidays spent with his father on the run from creditors.
He said in his statement, “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.”
Winston Churchill, the legendary war-time prime minister of Britain, died in 1965. Mr. Browne died in 2013 at age 89, and the samples for the DNA test were taken from Browne’s ivory-backed, monogrammed hairbrushes, which his widow had left untouched.
The archbishop’s mother, Lady Williams of Elvel, a campaigner for penal reform, issued a statement saying, “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.
“After leaving my job and getting married, I didn’t see Anthony again for a long time. After Gavin and I broke up in 1958 Anthony and I met occasionally but 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.”