Friday, December 15, 2017 | site map | contact | FSJ

Subscribe to Salvo magazine today! Take a look at an issue online and if you like what you see, SUBSCRIBE at a discounted rate.

You Can Be Part of Salvo By Supporting Its Mission Today

We depend on all our great readers to keep Salvo going!

Follow Salvo online

Join Our Email List
Enter your email below:

Further Reading

Foreign Intel

Unmistaken Identity

The Secret Parentage of the
Archbishop of Canterbury

by Michael Cook

In events that seem inspired by the script of a B-grade film from the 1950s, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, the spiritual head of the world's Anglicans, has, at the age of 60, discovered that he is not who he thought he was.

After taking a DNA test to dispel rumours about his paternity, he learned that the rumours were true. His real father was the last private secretary of Winston Churchill, Sir Anthony Montague Browne.

Article originally appeared in
Salvo 38

His mother, Jane Gillian Portal, who also worked for Churchill, had a brief liaison with Sir Anthony shortly before she eloped with Gavin Welby and came to the United States in 1955. She never suspected that her son Justin, who was born nine months after her wedding, was Sir Anthony's child.

Unhappily, her marriage was short-lived. Welby was, to borrow from the stilted diction of upper-crust British society, a cad and a bounder. The son of German-Jewish immigrants, he was briefly involved in selling bootleg whiskey during Prohibition in the United States. He married and divorced, served in the War, stood as a losing Tory candidate twice, swanned around in high society, and swept Jane Portal off her feet. Their marriage lasted only three years. He then almost married Vanessa Redgrave. From then on it was downhill for Mr Welby. He died alone, of alcoholism in 1977. But he was, as far as the archbishop knew, his father.

His mother remarried in 1975, eventually becoming Lady Williams of Elvel.

The succession of marriages and liaisons of Justin Welby's real father is just as complicated. Sir Anthony, who was married at the time, met Jane when they both were working for Churchill. Only days before her wedding to Welby, she had an alcohol-fuelled tryst with her colleague in which Justin was conceived. Sir Anthony was divorced in 1970 because of his adultery with the personal secretary of Churchill's wife, whom he later married. He went on to have a successful career as a liaison officer between Buckingham Palace and the media and as a director in London's financial world.

This messy mix of divorces, workplace romance, alcohol, class distinctions, and money was the soil in which Justin Welby flowered.

Identity in Christ

Thanks to his deep religious faith, the archbishop seems to have received the news with calm. He told The Telegraph (London), "There is no existential crisis, and no resentment against anyone. My identity is founded in who I am in Christ."1

He is obviously a strong and self-confident man who surmounted a difficult childhood with alcoholic parents to become a father of six children, a successful oil executive, and then an Anglican priest. He had no idea that his ne'er-do-well, estranged father was not his father at all. In a statement to the press he said:

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. . . .

At the very outset of my inauguration service three years ago, Evangeline Kanagasooriam, a young member of the Canterbury Cathedral congregation, said: "We greet you in the name of Christ. Who are you, and why do you request entry?" To which I responded: "I am Justin, a servant of Jesus Christ, and I come as one seeking the grace of God to travel with you in His service together." What has changed? Nothing!2

A Profound Connection

Although this extraordinary story is just an anecdote, it engages one of the most important issues in contemporary bioethics: the natural desire of every child to know his or her biological parents. It's a fundamental concern. There will always be circumstances in which this is not possible and children have to be raised with adoptive parents. But written into our DNA is a longing to know, or at least to connect with, the man and the woman whose blood runs in our veins.

By virtue of his character and religious faith, Archbishop Welby was superbly prepared to survive a personal earthquake like this, but an earthquake it was nonetheless.

To know who we are, to have a secure personal identity grounded in the facts of our biology, can be an important dimension of our autonomy.

That's why Justin Welby's experience is relevant to the debate over the wisdom of same-sex "marriage," a relationship that wilfully deprives any child brought into it of that connection with either his father or his mother. That intimate bond is not something to be whisked away. It goes too deep. Who knows what storms will rage in the hearts of children who learn as they grow up that their genetic parents had been deliberately excluded from their lives?

If you enjoy Salvo, please consider giving an online donation! Thanks for your continued support.


A Boy's Life: 5 Recommendations for Shielding Our Sons from the Anti-Culture—And Setting Them Towards Manhood by Anthony Esolen

Revolution 101: How the 'New Civics' Is Fomenting Civil Unrest by Terrell Clemmons

Up for Grabs: In Science, When 'Anything Goes,' Everything Goes by Denyse O'Leary

Optimal Optics: Evolutionists Don't Know a Good Eye When They See One by Jonathan Wells


The Darwin Tales: It's Time to Remit Darwinian Storytelling to the Annals of History by Terrell Clemmons

Engendered Confusion: The Chaos of Postmodern Sexuality by Laurie Higgins

Zombie Killer: The "Icons of Evolution" Have Joined the Ranks of the Undead by Denyse O'Leary

My Favorite Zombies: Can We Let Them Rest in Peace? by James M. Kushiner

Eye Openers: Eight Common Factors for Atheists Changing Their Minds About God by Matt Nelson

Tuning Out the Universe: How Naturalism & Post-Fact Science Ignore the Evidence We See by Denyse O'Leary

Deep-Seated Rights: What They Are & Why You Have Them by Steve Jones

Improbably So: Fine-Tuning Is Unlikely, but Unlikely Things Happen All the Time by Tim Barnett

The Long Red Shadow: Mike Shotwell Has a Message for Millennial America by Terrell Clemmons

The Good Life: It's to Know, Serve & Love the Truth, Not the Pursuit of Happiness by James Altena

Taking Polls Apart: Human Complexity Foils Electoral Predictions by Denyse O'Leary

Morality as Story: The False Charity of Modern Journalism by Rebekah Curtis

Can We Talk?: It Is Crucial That We Put Our Minds to Contentious Issues by James M. Kushiner

© 2017 Salvo magazine. Published by The Fellowship of St. James. All rights reserved. Returns, refunds, and privacy policy.