Margaret Thatcher's funeral: Maverick bishop's sermon will not be vetted by No 10

 

Officially, there will be no political eulogy at Baroness Thatcher's funeral. But when the Bishop of London, the Right Reverend Richard Chartres, clambers up to the pulpit of St Paul's Cathedral to deliver the sermon on Wednesday, there will be some who will be holding their breath to see what he comes out with.

For although, on the face of it, Dr Chartres is an archetypal establishment figure – a friend of Prince Charles and member of the Privy Council – he is also a maverick and a man of strong beliefs, some of them quite at odds with those of the late prime minister. Indeed, his name first entered public consciousness thanks to an altercation with Lady Thatcher. In 1982, as a junior chaplain to the then Archbishop of Canterbury, Robert Runcie, he wrote the controversial sermon for the Falklands thanksgiving service.

The thrust of it was that although war may be the lesser of two evils, it was always, in a sense, a failure. Runcie asked the congregation to pray for the dead of both sides and for Argentine, as well as British, mothers. The then Prime Minister was livid, and the sermon triggered a furious row between Downing Street and Lambeth Palace. Asked about the episode, in an interview in 2000, Chartres said he felt the decision was right, and that society requires triumphalism and hubris to be tempered.

Chartres's politics are of the right, but he is by no means a Thatcherite. He is passionately opposed to the greed culture of the City. When the Occupy movement moved into the precincts of St Paul's in 2011, he offered a debate in exchange for the protesters' departure. A staunch advocate of green issues, he has written articles on the need to protect the environment. A close friend describes him as a "high Tory", but of the patrician, "wet" mould.

"Unlike Thatcher, Richard has a disdain for unfettered free-market capitalism," says his friend. "He also has a high regard for the environment, which she did not."

Dr Chartres, 65, has often been tipped as a possible Archbishop of Canterbury, but he ruled himself out when Rowan Williams announced his resignation last year. It's thought he considered the job too gruelling. As it is, he is No 3 in the Anglican church, and enjoys a high media profile, partly thanks to his closeness to the Royal Family. He was at Trinity College at the same time as Prince Charles, and is a regular guest at Highgrove. After the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, he delivered the address at her memorial service in 2007 and was appointed a trustee of her will. He also presided over Prince William's confirmation, and officiated at his wedding to Kate Middleton – duties that might have fallen to the Archbishop of Canterbury.

With a deep, plummy voice, and full grey beard, he cuts a Victorian figure, speaking in full, rounded sentences. Married with four children, he takes a traditional Anglican view on gay marriage. But he is a curious mix of traditional and maverick: he is not afraid to be outspoken, and will speak his mind. When he chooses a position, he sticks to it, as in 2006, when he was criticised for spending Easter giving lectures on a cruise ship, rather than presiding at St Paul's. The Bishop stayed aboard, pointing out that he was on a sabbatical, his first in 33 years.

Whether he acknowledges the divergence of his beliefs from Lady Thatcher's in his sermon remains to be seen. A Downing Street spokesman says there is no precedent of vetting the bishop's sermons, and No 10 had no intention of doing so. But would Dr Chartres, so profoundly a member of the establishment, risk reigniting the row he caused 30 years ago? His friends think not: "Yes, Richard has strong views, but he won't want to rock the boat." And yet, the opportunity is there.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
Steve Shaw shows Kate how to get wet behind the ears and how to align her neck
healthSteven Shaw - the 'Buddha of Breaststroke' - applies Alexander Technique to the watery sport
Arts and Entertainment
The sight of a bucking bronco in the shape of a pink penis was too much for Hollywood actor and gay rights supporter Martin Sheen, prompting him to boycott a scene in the TV series Grace and Frankie
tv
Sport
footballShirt then goes on sale on Gumtree
Voices
Terry Sue-Patt as Benny in the BBC children’s soap ‘Grange Hill’
voicesGrace Dent on Grange Hill and Terry Sue-Patt
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010
music
Arts and Entertainment
Twin Peaks stars Joan Chen, Michael Ontkean, Kyle Maclachlan and Piper Laurie
tvName confirmed for third series
Sport
Cameron Jerome
footballCanaries beat Boro to gain promotion to the Premier League
Arts and Entertainment
art
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine