Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have finally admitted to The Daily Beast that they were not married three days before their official ceremony, as they had claimed in their interview with Oprah Winfrey.
A spokesperson for the couple conceded Monday that “the couple exchanged personal vows a few days before their official/legal wedding on May 19.”
That backyard exchange of personal vows does not constitute marriage.
The belated admission on the record, which follows several anonymous briefings to journalists, marks the end of a tortuous saga that began when Meghan told Oprah she and Harry tied the knot “in our backyard” three days before the $50 million public wedding on May 19, 2018.
Meghan, 39, said in the interview, “You know, three days before our wedding, we got married. No one knows that. The vows that we have framed in our room are just the two of us in our backyard with the Archbishop of Canterbury.”
The claim was much disputed, not least because in the U.K. a minimum of two witnesses are needed for a legal marriage to take place.
Others argued, however, that Meghan was merely making the point that for them as a couple it was more important to make a personal than a public commitment and that the focus on discrepancies and inaccuracies in the interview was a deliberate strategy by Meghan’s detractors to undermine her wider credibility and the specific claim that “concerns” over her baby’s likely skin color were expressed to Harry.
Today’s formal admission to The Daily Beast that no marriage took place in advance of the official ceremony comes after the marriage certificate document was obtained by the British newspaper the Sun—the paper paid £42 (about $58) to obtain a copy from Britain’s General Register Office.
The certificate, which gives the witnesses as Prince Charles and Meghan’s mom Doria Ragland, confirmed the couple were indeed married on May 19, 2018, at Windsor Castle.
Stephen Borton, former chief clerk at the Faculty Office, told the Sun, “I’m sorry, but Meghan is obviously confused and clearly misinformed. They did not marry three days earlier in front of the Archbishop of Canterbury.
“The Special License I helped draw up enabled them to marry at St George’s Chapel in Windsor and what happened there on 19 May 2018 and was seen by millions around the world was the official wedding as recognized by the Church of England and the law.”
The certificate lists Harry as “single” and his occupation as a “Prince of the United Kingdom” and Meghan as “divorced” and an “actor.” Her dad Thomas Markle is described as a “lighting director” and Charles is described as a “Prince of the United Kingdom.”
The archbishop’s office has refused to comment.
The misleading claim originally made by Meghan was the cause of some disquiet. As The Daily Beast reported last week, Mark Edwards, a priest from Newcastle, said he checked with the archbishop’s office and was told that the claim that they got married in the back garden of their home may have been the result of a misunderstanding stemming from the fact that “Meghan is an American.”
Rev. Mark Edwards has told his local paper in Newcastle, The Chronicle, that he contacted Archbishop Justin Welby’s office to “get some clarity” on the claim after the couple mentioned it in their Oprah Winfrey interview.
He said he was motivated in part to do so because he has been flooded with requests for private or outdoor weddings during lockdown that he has not been able to fulfill, because the law states that Church of England weddings must take place in “a certified place of worship” and cannot be conducted outside.
Edwards said the person he spoke to told him, “Justin had a private conversation with the couple in the garden about the wedding, but I can assure you, no wedding took place until the televised national event.”
Edwards said it was “in the public interest for the leader of the church to put the record straight.”
Now that Meghan’s people have done so, the infinitely more serious accusations of racism within the royal family can be examined with less distraction.