As the formal proceedings surrounding the death and funeral of Queen Elizabeth II have cast a harsh spotlight on the strife and division within the British royal family, the Monday funeral itself of the late monarch and remarks of the Archbishop of Canterbury may have revealed a rare rebuke from the religious leader.
On Monday, Archbishop Justin Welby delivered a short sermon at the queen’s state funeral during which he made remarks in what some have characterized as “throwing shade.”
Welby told the nation in his sermon, “People of loving service are rare in any walk of life. Leaders of loving service are still rarer. But in all cases, those who serve will be loved and remembered when those who cling to power and privileges are long forgotten.”
The New York Post reported, “Footage of the sermon appears to show him staring intently toward the section of Westminster Abbey where Harry and his wife were sitting behind Harry’s dad, King Charles III.”
“Those who serve will be loved & remembered, while those who cling to power & privileges are long forgotten.”- Justin Welby The Archbishop of Canterbury (while looking straight at Harry & Meghan) #queensfuneral pic.twitter.com/RCBB9RIzy0
— Nancy Sidley (@imagingpdx) September 19, 2022
Other royal watchers have described the remarks as criticism aimed at either Prince Harry and Meghan the Duchess of Sussex, or former Prime Minister Boris Johnson, depending on the politics of the commenter.
According to U.K. publication The Mirror, multiple Twitter users weighed in with various theories. One user wrote, “Is it me, or did the Archbishop of Canterbury just have a dig at Boris Johnson in his address at the Abbey?”
Phantom Power, a Scottish nationalist YouTube channel presented edited footage that smash-cut a shot of Johnson during the remarks.
— Phantom Power (@PhantomPower14) September 19, 2022
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However, careful examination of the footage from multiple sources, such as Sky News and the BBC, showed Welby looking clearly to his left toward the royal family and not toward Johnson who is seated further to the Archbishop’s right.
Some commentators have suggested that Welby directed his statement at the many world leaders present at the funeral, and even some, such as Russian President Vladimir Putin as the Mirror reported, who were not.
MSNBC’s Natasha Noman even suggested that the Anglican leader was condemning “the likes of Trump.”
While it’s incredibly easy to ascribe Welby’s stern words to whomever someone’s socio-political axe-to-grind requires, in the moment, there at Westminster Abbey, surrounded by the most powerful men and women in the United Kingdom, Archbishop Justin Welby looked to his left, toward the royal family, and said, “those who cling to power and privilege will long be forgotten.”
In Welby’s sightline sat King Charles III, whom he had moments prior complimented saying, “I know His Majesty shares the same faith and hope in Jesus Christ as his mother; the same sense of service and duty.”
Just beyond him sat Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex who in words both written and spoken had publicly spurned the royal family and the monarchy, causing great strife and embarrassment to them.