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Royalty and stars gather for John Mortimer memorial service at Southwark Cathedral

London SE1 website team

The Duchess of Cornwall joined several hundred friends and admirers of Sir John Mortimer for his memorial service at Southwark Cathedral on Tuesday morning.

Duchess of Cornwall
The Duchess of Cornwall with cathedral sub dean Canon Andrew Nunn
Lord Mandelson
First secretary of state Lord Mandelson arrives at Southwark Cathedral
Lord Bragg
Lord Bragg
Jon Snow
Channel 4 News presenter Jon Snow in conversation with the BBC's Alan Yentob
Edward Fox
Edward Fox
Kathy Lette
Kathy Lette

Southwark Cathedral's sub dean Canon Andrew Nunn, welcoming the congregation, described Sir John as someone "who brought humanity, realism, honesty and humour to the law".

The address was given by Lord Kinnock who said: "This cathedral has ancient grandeur which John liked. It's a place of performance which John loved."

He added that John Mortimer's many inconsistencies included his declaration that he was 'an atheist certainly but an atheist of Jesus'.

Joss Ackland read the lesson from Ecclesiastes and Jeremy Irons read Afterwards by Thomas Hardy.

Other readings were taken from John Mortimer's own work and included extracts of The Summer of a Dormouse read by Edward Fox and Sir Derek Jacobi.

Freddie Fox and Patricia Hodge also read pieces. Belinda Evans sang an aria from The Marriage of Figaro.

Composer Jon Lord of Deep Purple, a close friend and neighbour, performed his own works including Turville Heath named after the Mortimers' village.

Among others present were Tom Stoppard, Jon Snow, Anna Ford, Cathy Lette, Lord Bragg, Jean Marsh and Peter O'Toole.

Politicians included government ministers Lord Mandelson and Baroness Kinnock, Michael Howard, Lord St John and Lord Gowrie.

In the congregation was Sir John's former diocesan bishop Richard Harries. A reading at the service included Mortimer's line: "I am fascinated by clerics and never miss the opportunity of a good argument with a bishop".

The prayers were led by the former Redemptorist superior-general Joseph Tobin who had flown in from Rome for the occasion. Fr Tobin, a friend of fifteen years, shared holidays in Tuscany with Sir John and attended the weddings of his daughters Rosie and Emily.

An early arrival at the cathedral was Jeremy Paxman, an old friend and neighbour in Oxfordshire, who sat quietly at the side next to the Shakespeare memorial.

The cover of the service booklet had a portrait by Feliks Topolski which was displayed in the window of Topolski Century on the South Bank earlier this year.

Afterwards Sir John's widow Penny and her family hosted a champagne reception in the cathedral courtyard.

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