Graham Leonard

Roman Catholic priest and
former Bishop of London
Other post(s)
  • 1947 (Anglican deacon)
  • 1948 (Anglican priest)
  • 23 April 1994 (Catholic priest)
Consecration1964 (Anglican bishop)
Personal details
Graham Douglas Leonard

(1921-05-08)8 May 1921
Died6 January 2010(2010-01-06) (aged 88)
DenominationRoman Catholic
(previously Anglican)
ParentsDouglas Leonard and Emily Leonard (née Cheshire)
SpousePriscilla Swann (m. 1943)
Alma materBalliol College, Oxford
Military service
Branch/serviceBritish Army
UnitOxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry

Graham Douglas Leonard KCVO PC DL[1] (8 May 1921 – 6 January 2010) was an English Roman Catholic priest and former Anglican bishop. His principal ministry was as a bishop of the Church of England but, after his retirement as the Bishop of London, he became a Roman Catholic, becoming the most senior Anglican cleric to do so since the English Reformation. He was conditionally ordained to the priesthood in the Roman Catholic Church and was later appointed a monsignor by Pope John Paul II.[2]

Early life

Born on 8 May 1921, Leonard was the son of Douglas Leonard, an Anglican priest, and his wife Emily Leonard (née Cheshire). He was educated at Monkton Combe School near Bath and at Balliol College, Oxford. During the Second World War he was commissioned into the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, rising to the rank of captain. He spent the latter part of the war attached to the Army Operational Research Group for the Ministry of Supply. He then attended Westcott House theological college in Cambridge. He was ordained as a deacon in 1947 and as a priest the following year.[3]

Early ministry

Leonard was a curate in St Ives, Huntingdonshire, and at Stansted, Essex. He then spent three years as vicar of Ardleigh, Essex. In 1957 he became a residentiary canon of St Albans Cathedral and the diocesan director of religious education. His long association with the Diocese of London began in 1962 when, before becoming the Bishop of Willesden (a suffragan bishopric in the diocese) in 1964, he was appointed as Archdeacon of Hampstead and as rector of St Andrew Undershaft with St Mary Axe in the City of London.[4]

Episcopal ministry

Leonard had three episcopal positions in the Church of England, firstly as the suffragan Bishop of Willesden in the Diocese of London and later as the diocesan Bishop of Truro (1973 to 1981) and the Bishop of London (1981 to 1991).[5][6][7][8] During this last period he was also Dean of the Chapel Royal,[9] a Royal Household office, for which he was appointed Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order (KCVO).[10] He was also Prelate of the Order of the British Empire.[11]

As the Bishop of London, Leonard was admired for his pastoral concern for female staff at Church House and had a considerable number of female workers in parishes in his diocese. He was notable for ordaining 71 women as deacons at St Paul's Cathedral on 22 March 1987,[12] but he remained an outspoken critic of moves to ordain women to the priesthood within the Anglican Communion.

In 1989, Leonard co-authored a book titled Let God be God with two Anglican theologians examining the issue of inclusive language in the church, giving particular attention to inclusive God language, of which they were especially critical:

this God and Lord ... is revealed to us as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Try as we may, we cannot see how we can accept God's self-revelation without also accepting that God has chosen to use certain male symbols and male language to express to us the kind of God 'he' is. To cease to use these terms is, to us, to discard that revelation."[13]

Ordination in the Roman Catholic Church

After his retirement Leonard eventually left the Church of England to become a Roman Catholic. On 23 April 1994 he was conditionally ordained as a priest (but not as a bishop) in the Roman Catholic Church. Although the Roman Catholic Church does not recognise the validity of Anglican ordinations, Leonard's ordination was conditional due to there being "prudent doubt" about his previous ordination in the Church of England, because at Leonard's own consecration in 1964 a bishop of an Old Catholic church of the Union of Utrecht (whose own ordination as a bishop was recognised as valid by the Roman Catholic Church) was among the bishops who consecrated him.[14] This eased his reception into the Roman Catholic Church, although his claim that he was legitimately a bishop and his request for a personal prelature were rejected.[15]

Leonard stated that he was not first ordained a deacon[citation needed] in the Roman Catholic Church and that Pope John Paul II's personal instruction was that he should be ordained immediately to the priesthood sub conditione. He was later appointed a papal chaplain with the title Monsignor and then a prelate of honour by the Pope on 3 August 2000.[16]


Leonard was the brother-in-law to the academic Michael Swann (Lord Swann of Coln St Denys) and Hugh Swann, cabinet maker to Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom, having married their sister, Priscilla Swann, in 1943. He and his wife had two sons.

National Portrait Gallery

Nine portraits of Leonard (1962 by Elliott & Fry and 1979 by Bassano and Vandyk) are owned by the National Portrait Gallery.[17]


  1. ^ Debrett's – The Church of England: General Notes Archived 1 September 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ "Bishop of London who became the most senior Anglican defector to Rome since the Reformation", obituary in the Daily Telegraph, 7 January 2010, p. 31.
  3. ^ Who's Who, 1987, p. 1071.
  4. ^ "No. 43432". The London Gazette. 11 September 1964. p. 7670.
  5. ^ "No. 46071". The London Gazette. 7 September 1973. p. 10695.
  6. ^ "No. 48758". The London Gazette. 7 October 1981. p. 12687.
  7. ^ "No. 48628". The London Gazette. 2 June 1981. p. 7523.
  8. ^ "No. 52534". The London Gazette. 16 May 1991. p. 7593.
  9. ^ "No. 48686". The London Gazette. 21 July 1981. p. 9605.
  10. ^ "No. 52525". The London Gazette. 7 May 1991. p. 7063.
  11. ^ "No. 48697". The London Gazette. 4 August 1981. p. 10105.
  12. ^ Alan Webster, "Monsignor Graham Leinard obituary'", Guardian, 6 January 2010.
  13. ^ Leonard, Graham; MacKenzie, Iain; Toon, Peter (1989). Let God be God. London: Darton, Longman and Todd. p. 5. ISBN 978-0232518528
  14. ^ "Statement of Cardinal Hume on the Ordination of Anglican Bishop Leonard as a Roman Catholic Priest". The Catholic Resource Network. Trinity Communications. 1994. Retrieved 1 January 2020.
  15. ^ Christopher Ralls, "Mgr Graham Leonard. Obituary", The Tablet, 16 January 2010, p. 37.
  16. ^ "The Rt Rev Mgr Graham Leonard". The Telegraph. London. 6 January 2010. Retrieved 27 June 2016.
  17. ^ National Portrait Gallery Graham Douglas Leonard
Church of England titles Preceded byGeorge Ingle Bishop of Willesden 1964–1973 Succeeded byHewlett Thompson Preceded byJohn Key Bishop of Truro 1973–1981 Succeeded byPeter Mumford Preceded byGerald Ellison Bishop of London 1981–1991 Succeeded byDavid Hope