The Archbishop of Canterbury has refuted claims made by Meghan Markle and Prince Harry that he married the Duke and Duchess of Sussex at a secret ceremony before their Windsor Castle wedding. Speaking for the first time since the controversial given by Prince Harry and Meghan to Oprah Winfrey, the Archbishop of Canterbury confirmed on Tuesday that he did not marry the couple three days before their Royal wedding.
During her tell-all interview with Winfrey, broadcast earlier this month, Meghan said the pair had the secret marriage ceremony with the archbishop, Justin Welby, in their "backyard". Meghan had claimed that nobody knew the pair had shared personal vows for "just the two of us" ahead of their wedding day in Windsor on Saturday May 19, 2018.
Breaking His Silence
Welby said he signed Harry and Meghan's wedding certificate on the day millions watched them marry. "The legal wedding was on the Saturday," said the Archbishop in an interview with Italy's La Repubblica newspaper referring to May 19, when Harry and Meghan married at St George's Chapel in Windsor.
"I signed the wedding certificate which is a legal document," Welby explained, "and I would have committed a serious criminal offence if I signed it knowing it was false." Welby was replying to "what happened with Meghan and Harry? Did you really marry them three days before the official wedding?"
"I had a number of private and pastoral meetings with the duke and duchess before the wedding," he said before saying that it was impossible to marry the couple twice as it is illegal. "So you can make what you like about it. But the legal wedding was on the Saturday. But I won't say what happened at any other meetings," he added.
The archbishop told the paper: "If any of you ever talk to a priest, you expect them to keep that talk confidential. It doesn't matter who I'm talking to."
Meghan's Claims Refuted
During her bombshell interview with Winfrey, which was aired earlier this month and was watched by 12 million people in the UK, the duchess claimed nobody knew the couple had shared personal vows for "just the two of us" ahead of their wedding day in Windsor on Saturday May 19, 2018.
Meghan had told Winfrey: "You know, three days before our wedding we got married. No one knows that, but we called the archbishop and we just said, 'Look, this thing, this spectacle, is for the world, but we want our union between us.'"
She said the vows they have framed are "just the two of us in our backyard with the Archbishop of Canterbury". Both Harry and Meghan claimed it was "just the three of us".
Interestingly, Harry and Meghan also backtracked on their private ceremony claim in a statement last week. A spokesman for the couple told US website the Daily Beast: "The couple exchanged personal vows a few days before their official/legal wedding on May 19."
The statement came after their claims drew heavy suspicion, partly because a legal marriage in the UK requires two witnesses. A backyard exchange of vows is not a marriage. Despite this, Harry chipped in during the Oprah interview, adding it was 'just the three of us'.
A spokesman for the Archbishop's office said last week he "does not comment on personal or pastoral matters." However, other clerics got involved. Rev Mark Edwards said he contacted the Archbishop's office to "get some clarity" on claims made by the couple.
Edwards, vicar at St Matthew's Church in Dinnington and St Cuthbert's Church in Brunswick, Tyne and Wear, said he was told by a Lambeth Palace staff member: "Justin does not do private weddings."