A DNA test has given the archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, "a complete surprise." But Welby said the true basis of his identity was not to be found in genetics.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has confirmed that his biological father was a one-time private secretary to British war-time leader Winston Churchill, following a report by the "Daily Telegraph" on the discovery published on Saturday.
"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," Welby, 60, said on his official website.
Welby had always assumed - as had his mother, now Lady Williams of Elvel - that his father was Gavin Welby, a whisky salesman who died in 1977.
The archbishop took the DNA test after the "Telegraph" told him it had evidence pointing to Browne as being his father. The test involved comparing a swab from Welby's mouth with hair samples from Montague Browne.
'An almost unbelievable shock'
Welby's mother also expressed her "almost unbelievable shock" at the discovery, but recounted having an alcohol-fueled "liaison" with Montague Browne in the days before her "sudden marriage."
"It appears that the precautions taken at the time didn't work and my wonderful son was conceived as a result of this liaison," she said, adding that her son was born nine months after her marriage to Gavin Welby in 1955. The marriage ended in 1958.
Montague Browne, who worked for Churchill between 1952 and 1965, died in 2013, the year Welby was installed as the archbishop of Canterbury.
'Story of redemption'
Welby said that both his mother and Gavin Welby had been alcoholics, although he added that his mother had "not touched alcohol for over 48 years."
"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," he said in his statement. But he said the story was one "of redemption and hope from a place of tumultuous difficulty and near despair in several lives."
However, Welby said his concept of his own identity had not changed through the revelation.
"I know that I find who I am in Jesus Christ, not in genetics, and my identity in him never changes, " he said.