Good heavens! Former Dean of Canterbury confesses to an ‘inappropriate relationship’ with the wife of ex-Archbishop Robert Runcie

  • Reverend Victor de Waal, 91, quit after relationship with Lady Rosalind Runcie
  • Affair happened years before Lady Runcie sued a newspaper for speculating about her marriage 
  • Her union with former Archbishop of Canterbury Robert Runcie was dogged by rumours of infidelity 

A priest has admitted to having an ‘inappropriate’ extra-marital relationship with the wife of the former Archbishop of Canterbury.

Reverend Victor de Waal, 91, has revealed for the first time that he resigned as Dean of Canterbury after his relationship with Lady Rosalind Runcie, the wife of Robert Runcie, the Church’s most senior cleric at the time.

Lady Runcie, whose husband served as archbishop through the 1980s, was always defensive of her marriage which was riddled with rumours about infidelity.

Dr Robert Runcie is pictured (seated) with the Dean of Canterbury, Victor De Waal, at his enthronement as Archbishop of Canterbury in 1980

She sued the Daily Star newspaper in 1987 over suggestions the union was less than secure. She won a sizeable sum and used the money to remodel the gardens at Lambeth Palace.

And a few years into Archbishop Runcie’s tenure, the couple released a statement reiterating their closeness, describing their marriage as ‘a union of duty and delight’.

But now Rev de Waal has admitted the pair had an ‘inappropriate’ relationship the year before she pursued the legal action.

He told The Daily Telegraph: ‘It was not a sort of a big relationship really, it was just a friendship.

‘But it could have been misinterpreted so it was better to leave it. Someone talked about it, I think, and it looked as if it might cause, you know, some upset so it seemed sensible to go quietly really at that point.’

Dr Runcie’s marriage to Lady Rosalind Runcie was riddled with rumours about infidelity

Rev de Waal, who was married with four sons, said he went to see the Archbishop and offered to resign after the discovery of their relationship. We talked about it and it seemed inappropriate and I apologised for that and we left it at that. We talked about it, about my doing something else,’ he said.

‘I had been planning some other things. I was just about to write a new major book and I wanted to have time to myself so I went and did that.

‘I think the relationship was not really relevant to that. Or only just relevant.’

Rev de Waal spent most of the following years until his retirement at a remote convent in Gwent, South Wales.

Dr Runcie watches his wife Lady Rosalind working out as part of a Sport Aid event in 1986

Meanwhile the matter was quietly hushed up amid fears that the truth would have had catastrophic consequences for the Church. The Rev de Waal said the Church treated him well despite the transgression.

‘I was treated very well. It was all very amicable,’ he said. ‘You know how it is in a marriage sometimes.

‘There comes a point when something, one or the other, husband or wife, has a friendship which isn’t really appropriate and the other partner doesn’t really like it very much, but anyway we got over that.’

Rev de Waal insisted that he and the Archbishop ‘remained on very good terms right up until his death’.

The Archbishop, who remained in his post until 1991 and later became Baron Runcie of Cuddesdon, died in 2000 aged 78. His wife passed away 12 years later.

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