Anthony Montague Browne

Sir Anthony Arthur Duncan Montague Browne KCMG CBE DFC (8 May 1923 – 1 April 2013) was a British diplomat who was private secretary to Sir Winston Churchill for the last ten years of the latter's life.

Sir Anthony Montague Browne
Anthony Montague Browne.jpg
Anthony Arthur Duncan Montague Browne

8 May 1923
Died1 April 2013(2013-04-01) (aged 89)
EducationStowe School
Alma materMagdalen College, Oxford
Known forPrivate secretary to Sir Winston Churchill
ChildrenJane Hoare-Temple (born 1953)
Justin Welby (born 1956)

He was the biological father of Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, although Welby did not learn this until paternity testing taken after Sir Anthony's death.

Early lifeEdit

Montague Browne was the son of Andrew Duncan Montague Browne (1878–1969), a British army colonel, by his marriage to Violet Evelyn Downes (1883–1969). He was educated in Switzerland, and then at Stowe School where he refused to join the OTC until World War II broke out in September 1939.[1]

Second World War RAF serviceEdit

In September 1941 Montague Browne went up to Magdalen College, Oxford,[1] but left in spring 1942 to join the Royal Air Force. After learning to fly in a de Havilland Tiger Moth with No. 9 Elementary Flying Training School at RAF Ansty near Coventry, he was sent to train in the United States via Canada. He graduated as a fighter pilot with the US Navy pilots school,[1] and returned to the UK, training to fly the Bristol Beaufighter with the RAF.[1] After assignment to squadrons flying in Egypt, Palestine and Cyprus, he was assigned to 211 Squadron RAF at Chiringa in Arakan, on the Burma-Bengal border.[1] In 1945 he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his skill and valour attacking Imperial Japanese Army lines of communication within occupied Burma.[2][3] At the end of May 1945 he was promoted a flight lieutenant.[4]

Foreign OfficeEdit

After returning to Magdalen College, Oxford, for a year,[1] Montague Browne entered the Foreign Office in 1946.[5] His first post was as private secretary to the then Permanent Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Sir Orme "Moley" Sargent. After a period as the Foreign Office resident clerk (the political night duty officer), he was assigned to the Western Union Secretariat, which led the UK drafting of the North Atlantic Treaty.

In November 1949 he was posted to the British Embassy in Paris, France, in part due to his good French language skills which were developed during his schooling in Switzerland.[1] Montague Browne was second secretary in the Chancery (political section), responsible for monitoring North Africa, covering Egypt to Tangier. With the French sceptical of Anglo-American intentions in North Africa, and French internal politics dominated at the time with the rise in electoral power of the French Communist Party, Montague Browne was chosen by the then British Ambassador to France, Sir Oliver Harvey, to do the internal political reporting of French concerns.[1]

Churchill's private secretaryEdit

In September 1952, Montague Browne was chosen to be Private Secretary for Foreign Affairs to the Prime Minister, Winston Churchill. Till 1955 the role was undertaken jointly with Jock Colville.[6] When Churchill retired in 1955, Montague Browne briefly returned to the Foreign Office but in the same year was seconded to continue as Churchill's private secretary. He stayed with Churchill for the rest of Churchill's life. At first, Churchill was doubtful of him, observing, "I dare say we will get on very well together."[1] As well as his duties as a chief of staff, Montague Browne lunched and dined with Churchill and provided an opponent for his favourite card game, rubicon (six pack bezique). He also accompanied him on his trips abroad.[1][7] After Churchill's fall in Monaco in June 1962 when he broke his hip, Montague Browne arranged and accompanied him on the RAF flight back to London to assure, as Churchill wished, that if he died he would die in England.[8] In 1965, on Churchill’s death on 24 January, Montague Brown witnessed Churchill's death certificate and liaised between his family and the government regarding Churchill's funeral arrangements.[1]


Following Churchill's death Montague Browne was seconded to the Royal Household (1965–67). He then worked for companies in the City of London, including International Life Insurance and Gerrard and National. He also served as a trustee of the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust in the UK.

In 1988 he made an extended appearance on the television discussion programme After Dark alongside among others David Irving, Lord Hailsham and Jack Jones. The topic under discussion was "Winston Churchill: Hero or Madman". It was stated in the programme introduction that this was the first time Montague Browne had "spoken at length about Winston Churchill" [in public].

Montague Browne's memoir of his time with Churchill, published originally in 1995,[9] offered further affectionate, if carefully discreet, insights into the statesman's final years.[10]

Personal lifeEdit

Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury

Montague Browne married twice. His first marriage, in 1950 (dissolved 1970), took place in Cheltenham and was to Noel "Nonie" Arnold-Wallinger. He had one daughter from his first marriage. He married secondly, towards the end of 1970 in Wandsworth, Shelagh Macklin (née Mulligan), the former wife of racing driver Lance Macklin.

While working for Churchill, Montague Browne had an affair with Jane Gillian Portal (born 1929), one of Churchill's personal secretaries, from 1949 until her marriage to Gavin Welby on 4 April 1955. (Jane Portal later married Charles Williams.) In 2016, DNA tests showed he was the biological father of her son, Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, who was born on 6 January 1956.[11]

Montague Browne died at his home in Bucklebury, West Berkshire, on 1 April 2013.[1] A memorial service was held on 25 June 2013 at St Clement Danes Church on the Strand, London.


Montague Browne and Portal were 9th cousins once removed, both descending from John Erskine, Earl of Mar (1558–1634): Sir Anthony, by his second wife, Lady Mary Stewart (daughter of Esmé Stewart, 1st Duke of Lennox), and Jane, by his first wife, Anne Drummond.

They were also 11th cousins twice removed, by their shared descent from James V of Scotland: Sir Anthony by his mistress, Euphemia Elphinstone, and Jane by his second wife, Mary of Guise.

James V of ScotlandEuphemia Elphinstone
Robert Stewart, 1st Earl of OrkneyLady Janet Kennedy
daughter of Gilbert Kennedy, 3rd Earl of Cassilis
Lady Mary StewartPatrick Gray, 6th Lord Gray
Jane Gray
(d. 1640)
John Wemyss, 1st Earl of Wemyss
David Wemyss, 2nd Earl of WemyssAnna Balfour
(d. 1649)
daughter of Robert Balfour, 2nd Lord Balfour of Burleigh
Lady Jean Wemyss
George Gordon, 15th Earl of Sutherland
John Gordon, 16th Earl of SutherlandHelen Cochrane
granddaughter of William Cochrane, 1st Earl of Dundonald
Lady Jean Gordon
(d. 1747)
James Maitland, Viscount Maitland
(d. 1709)
son of John Maitland, 5th Earl of Lauderdale
Jane Maitland
Sir James Fergusson, 2nd Bt.
Charles Fergusson
Anne Fordyce
(d. 1782)
Sir James Fergusson, 4th Bt.
Henrietta Duncan
daughter of Adam Duncan, 1st Viscount Duncan
Lt.-Col. James Duncan Alexander Fergusson
Margaret Hope
(d. 1896)
Alice Jane Fergusson
(d. 1928)
Maj.-Gen. Andrew Smythe Montague Browne
Andrew Duncan Montague Browne
Violet Evelyn Downes
Sir Anthony Montague Browne


Montague Browne was appointed OBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours of 1955 after Churchill's retirement,[12] CBE in 1965 after Churchill's death,[13] and knighted KCMG in 2000 "for long and distinguished public service".[14]


  • Montague Browne, Anthony (1995). Long Sunset: Memoirs of Winston Churchill's Last Private Secretary. London: Cassell & Co. Ltd. ISBN 978-0-304-34478-9. OCLC 32547047.

References and sourcesEdit

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l "Sir Anthony Montague Browne [obituary]". The Daily Telegraph (online), London. 9 April 2013. Retrieved 8 April 2016.
  2. ^ Browne, Anthony Montague, Long Sunset: Memoirs of Winston Churchill's Last Private Secretary London 1995 Chapter 3 ISBN 0304344788
  3. ^ Anthony Montague Browne at Winston Retrieved 9 April 2016
  4. ^ "No. 37141". The London Gazette (Supplement). 19 June 1945. p. 3267.
  5. ^ The London Gazette, 13 May 1949
  6. ^ Colville, John, The Fringes of Power (W.W. Norton & Company 1985), p. 632.
  7. ^ Steven, Alasdair (12 April 2013). "Obituary: Sir Anthony Montague Browne KCMG, civil servant". The Scotsman. Retrieved 8 April 2016.
  8. ^ Croft, Rodney, Churchill's Final Farewell: The State and Private Funeral of Sir Winston Churchill
  9. ^ Anthony Montague Browne. Long Sunset: Memoirs of Winston Churchill's Last Private Secretary. various publishers. ISBN 978-0-955-94830-5.
  10. ^ William Manchester; Paul Reid (26 March 2015). The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill: Defender of the Realm, 1940–1965. Pan Macmillan. p. 976. ISBN 978-1-4472-7954-9.
  11. ^ Charles Moore (8 April 2016). "Winston Churchill's right-hand man and an affair to shake the Establishment". The Daily Telegraph (online), London. Retrieved 9 April 2016.
  12. ^ Supplement to the London Gazette, 9 June 1955
  13. ^ Supplement to the London Gazette, 12 June 1965
  14. ^ Supplement to the London Gazette, 19 June 2000

External linksEdit

Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Sir David Hunt
Private Secretary for Foreign Affairs to the Prime Minister
Succeeded by
Guy Millard and Sir Philip de Zulueta