The Telegraph journalist behind the Archbishop of Canterbury’s “secret father” revelation has said he would not have pursued the story further without consent from the clergyman.
Ex-Telegraph editor Charles Moore decided it was in the public interest to pursue the story which revealed the Most Reverend Justin Welby’s illegitimate father was actually the late Sir Anthony Montague Browne, not whisky salesman Gavin Welby who was married briefly to his mother Jane.
Moore told Press Gazette: “I thought it was in the public interest because when he had become Archbishop he had given interviews about his faith and the influence on him ofhis father and the difficult life he had had with his father Gavin Welby.
“He explained this very convincingly as important in his life, and so it was.”
Moore believed that although his father turning out to be somebody else did not invalidate the Archbishop’s words, it was a matter of correcting the public record.
However, Moore said he would not have pursued the story past the research stage without cooperation from Archbishop Welby.
“I think it is a good story to do but only with certain qualifications,” he said. “I thought to myself it would be wrong to front him up with the story and say I will do it whatever happens.”
He added: “In a sense he had power over the story because he could have behaved differently, he could have said go away and I think if he had done that I would not have been able to go further.”
Therefore after gathering the initial evidence Moore, who already knew the Archbishop “slightly”, met him in a private capacity accompanied by an intermediary.
He said to the Archbishop: “’This is what I believe but I have not got proof. What do you think and what do you want to do about it?’
“He did not think it completely impossible because he knew Montague Browne a little and knew he had been a friend and colleague of his mother’s but he did not believe the story to be true.”
This was largely because he was born almost exactly nine months after his mother’s marriage to Welby, which led him to believe he was a honeymoon baby.
Archbishop Welby understood why the story was in the public interest, oore said, but his concerns were twofold: whether it was true, andthen how to make the situation as easy as possible for his mother.
Moore said: “He is a very direct man, decisive, and said let’s have a DNA test because certainty is better than doubt. I said I will organise that and I was a bit surprised actually that he wanted to do that. I thought he might want to have a private chat with his mother in the first instance.”
But the Archbishop believed it was better to find out if the story was true first.
The Archbishop took the DNA test in front of Moore. “The result was undeniable and he immediately accepted it and spoke to his mother,” he said.
Moore understood it was unlikely 86-year-old Lady Williams of Elvel would want to give an interview, but she confirmed the story to her son and released a statement on Friday night.
In it she confirmed she had slept with Sir Anthony, Sir Winston Churchill’s last private secretary, “in the days leading up to my very sudden marriage”.
Since the story’s publication in The Telegraph on Saturday (April 9), the reaction has been “very favourable”, Moore said.
“It worked very well for the Archbishop because I think people rightly understood it took courage to deal with it.”
He compared this to the five days it took David Cameron to admit he held shares in an offshore fund.
Moore said: “He took on a very, very difficult thing, more difficult actually than the taxes, and came right through it strongly whereas the Prime Minister kept changing his story day by day and got in a muddle really and a mess so it is a very strong benefit for the Archbishop and rightly so, I think.”