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William, 33, wrote to Gillian Molyneux soon after her husband was shot dead four years ago. And on Sunday, when he met her, he passed along his sympathies in person, and asked her to give her four children a hug from him.
William met with Molyneux, whose husband Lt. Cdr. Ian Molyneux was shot dead when a Royal Navy junior sailor went on the rampage on the nuclear submarine HMS Astute in 2011, at a special remembrance service for submariners in London.
Molyneux, 41, told reporters how William had written a private letter to her about a week before his wedding in April 2011. In it, he said that, having lost his mother when he was a child, he knew something of how her youngsters must be feeling. “He wrote that he could sympathize, because he was the same age as [her son] Jamie when he lost his mother,” she shared. “I think the intention of his letter was to make us understand that we weren’t alone – and it did that.”
Molyneux, representing submariners’ widows and families as she lay a wreath at the memorial service, was accompanied by two of her children: Jamie, 18, who is training to be a submariner and also laid a wreath, and Arron, 16, a Royal Marine cadet. Her other two children are Bethany, 10, and Charlie, 7.
She said William had been keen to find out how the children were doing. “He asked me to give the children big hugs from him, which was nice,” she said.
Lt. Cdr. Molyneux was killed by Able Seaman Ryan Donovan as he tried to stop the junior sailor, who was drunk, as he fired indiscriminately at a docked naval ship in Southampton in April 2011. Donovan admitted murdering Lt. Cdr. Molyneux and was jailed for life at Winchester Crown Court in September 2011.
On his wreath, William had left a handwritten tribute to the thousands of submariners who have perished since the service was created in 1901. It said: “Unseen but not forgotten. William.”
During the service – the first of several this week in the traditional period of remembrance in the U.K. – the names of the 167 submarines lost since 1901 were read out in front of 500 serving submarines and veterans.
William was there in his capacity as Commodore-in-Chief of the Submarine Service, and, at a reception afterwards, the 6ft. 3in. prince, who served on the Type 23 frigate HMS Iron Duke, doubted whether he would have been suited to the cramped conditions on a submarine. “I would have had a lot of gashes and scars on my head,” he quipped.