The British public usually expects controversial gaffes to come from Prince Philip, but now like father like son, the Prince of Wales looks set to anger the Church of England after backing the denomination’s first openly gay clergyman.

Prince Charles praised the openness of the late Harry Williams, who used his autobiography in 1982 to come out.

Writing the foreword to a new book of essays by the Anglican, Living Free, the Prince, who was at Cambridge University while Williams was a dean there, writes, “Harry Williams proved to be a star; a man of intense humanity and warmth whose humour and originality created an aura of approachability.”

He appears to praise the way the cleric admitted being gay, “His courageous willingness to open up his inner soul and being and to speak from the heart about his own experience of the vicissitudes, complications and agonies of life struck a powerful and immediate chord with huge numbers of undergraduates.”

Fr Williams caused shock in the church in 1982 after writing about his life as a homosexual in his autobiography, Some Day I’ll Find You.

Prince Charles writes, “His essence may have evaporated, but his heartening and profoundly sympathetic insight into our humanity and into the relationship between God and Man – what he called ‘our identity with Life Universal, with God’ – will live on through the power and presence of his words and through the affectionate memories of his old undergraduates.”

The publication is likely to anger conservative factions of the church who are known to be against civil partnerships, The Daily Telegraph reports.

The Anglican Church has become bitterly divided over the issue of homosexuality. In 2003 the head of the Church of England, Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, forced the Bishop of Reading Jeffrey John to stand down after it was revealed that he had been in a homosexual relationship, and similar controversy emerged in America when Gene Robinson, an openly gay man, was ordained as Bishop of New Hampshire.