The suicide left an indelible mark on Williams but it also propelled him to gain a betterunderstanding of mental illness and develop his approach to pastoral care.Yet, perhaps because of his cloistered academic and religious experience, when itcame to his love life there remained a naive side to the young theologian.The episode is described by Shortt as one of the bleakest moments of the Archbishop’s life.He says: ‘When asked now about the ordeal, Rowan replies simply that Lori’sdeath remains a source of pain to him.Lori, as she was known to her friends, met Dr Williams and fell headlong in love.But, as a new biography of the Archbishop reveals, the friendship ended in tragedy when Lori committed suicide, leaving behind a message that has haunted the Archbishop ever since: ‘Tell Rowan it’s not his fault.’The biography, Rowan’s Rule, by Rupert Shortt, the religion editor of the Times Literary Supplement, gives an intriguing new insight into the personal life of an archbishopbetter known for his liberal views and intellectual agility.
And yet, despite lacking any of the traditional attributes of a romantic hero — one fellow student described him as ‘a funny little Welshman’ who from afar appeared to be a ‘Gollumlike nerd’ — in the Cambridge of the early Seventies, Rowan Williams was extremely popular with the ladies.
By the time she met Rowan Williams through a counselling network she also had a chronic lung illness that exacerbated her problems.
Williams did his best to help, providing pastoral support and a shoulder on whichto lean, seemingly oblivious to her unrequited love.‘His intentions were entirely noble,’ says a friend.
Corinna had suffered badly after being burnt in a fire as a child and a series of skin grafts could not hide the scars, but this had not affected her confidence.
She was also clever — a worthy intellectual interlocutor for Williams. Students who looked up to Rowan found it hard to associate him with an apparent lapse of judgment.