The Archbishop of Canterbury is the most senior position in the Church of England, and its principal leader. As a result, the duty of presiding over the baptisms, weddings and funerals of the royal family falls to them. However, the current archbishop, Justin Welby, says he hopes he won’t have to preside over Queen Elizabeth’s funeral when it happens, according to an article reported by BBC News.
“I don’t lose sleep and I do hope I don’t have to do that,” 61-year-old Welby said in the interview. “It’s enormous, whoever does it—God willing, someone else—because it is an enormous public event.”
Welby was enthroned in his position in February 2013, some eight months prior to the christening of Prince George. He has also presided over the christening of Princess Charlotte, though it was his predecessor, Dr Rowan Williams, who presided over their parents’ wedding in 2011.
There is, of course, a chance that Welby will not have to preside over the Queen’s funeral if he retires before the occasion—the Archbishop of Canterbury is not a position that one must hold until death—though it would certainly be an overwhelming task for his successor, who would likely have far less experience and time than Welby to brace for the responsibility of such a colossal occasion.
“I don’t want to get into details because it is not something I want to talk about, but the Queen is the most extraordinary person—one of the most extraordinary people I have ever met, in every possible way,” Welby said in the interview.
Though there have been constant reports and plenty of speculation surrounding the 91-year-old Queen’s health and the possibility of her abdication, the Queen looked remarkably well at her last public appearance in Scotland.
Welby has not announced any concrete plans for a retirement date, but it would come as no surprise if the Queen outlasted him; Welby is the seventh person to hold the Archbishop of Canterbury title during the Queen’s 65-year reign. The first, Geoffrey Fisher, presided over both the Queen’s marriage and her coronation.