A prince attends a boarding school and strikes up a beautiful friendship with an Anglican priest. Years after the priest’s death, the prince honors him by gifting a baptismal font to the school. Sounds like a sweet story and a nice gesture.
The Prince is Prince Andrew, the Queen’s second son, who attended the prestigious Lakewood College School as an exchange student in 1977. The priest is Father Keith Gleed, who served as chaplain for the boarding school from 1974 to 1980. The Duke of York remained close enough to Gleed to invite him to his wedding to Sarah Ferguson. As Gleed was dying in 2001, Prince Andrew flew to his bedside to say goodbye.
In 2008, the prince wanted to officially pay tribute to Gleed by installing a hand-carved baptismal font at the school. During the ceremony, Gleed was remembered as “the confidant of the troubled, the defender of the bullied and a true friend to all.”
Gleed was also a pedophile – who quietly sought out victims to sexually abuse for years. As a recent story by Maclean’s asserts, Prince Andrew’s well-intentioned effort to honor the priest was a catalyst for at least five victims to come forward and reveal that they were abused. Two of the victims have filed lawsuits against Lakewood; one seeks damages of $5 million.
Gleed was a veteran chaplain when he arrived at Lakewood, which is one of Canada’s oldest private schools, with an alumni list that includes Felipe VI, King of Spain, Emmy-nominated actor Will Arnett, and David Miller, the former Toronto mayor. In his six years at the school, the priest was known to be funny and approachable and was popular with both students and teachers. Gleed later wrote of his time at Lakewood:“Nowhere else have I found such a warm, relaxed, friendly, uncluttered milieu. It nurtures the whole person well!”
Unfortunately, this nurturing included sexual abuse of vulnerable students. Gregory (Maclean’s shared victims’ stories by first names only) was a bright, motivated student who entered Lakewood in 1977 at the age of 14. His parents were going through a separation at home; Gregory’s father asked Father Gleed to keep an eye on Gregory in case he felt distressed by the troubles at home.
Gleed instead invited Gregory to his private residence and molested him. As the lawsuit claims, these visits ended after Gregory woke disoriented, on the floor, and realized that Gleed had penetrated him.
Gregory’s entire life was altered in that moment; he began drinking daily to numb the pain, and never recovered from the shame. “Being abused by Father Keith fundamentally changed who I am,” he says. “When I was young, I believed I could make a difference in the world and that I had an obligation to do so…since the abuse, I have felt there was something intrinsically wrong with me.”
He kept the secret for more than forty years. In 2014, as he tried to drum up the courage to speak out, Gregory learned about Prince Andrew’s lauded gift to Lakewood in honor of Gleed, and it was this gesture and the idea that even royalty upheld a false image of the chaplain, that finally pushed him to break his silence.
After Gregory’s public exposing of the abuse suffered at the hands of the priest, four more men came forward to make similar claims. Lakewood removed the baptismal font from the school campus in 2014.
The school went on to launch a third-party investigation and concluded in 2015 that Father Gleed did, in fact, abuse several students. The victims’ lawsuits, however, go a step further and accuse Lakewood of “failing to reveal, and in fact, concealing, Father Keith’s sexual misconduct” from parents and police, and permitting the abuse “to continue unchecked.”
The cases are being actively litigated; only time will tell whether the victims will be compensated for Father Gleed’s actions forty years ago. How did Prince Andrew react to this emerging scandal? He currently serves as honorary chairman of the school’s charitable foundation. A royal spokesperson has responded to all questions regarding Father Gleed with “no comment.”
The victims, on the other hand, have plenty to say.