The Archbishop of Canterbury, the leader of the Anglican church, has broken his silence to confirm that no, Harry and Meghan did not get married in secret three days before their official wedding, as they told Oprah Winfrey.
The archbishop’s comments in an interview with Italian newspaper La Repubblica are likely to be the final word on the subject after the couple themselves last week clarified to The Daily Beast that what Meghan described as a marriage taking place three days before the televised ceremony was actually a private blessing.
In an unusual intervention, Justin Welby said he would have committed a “serious criminal offence” if he had signed a “false” marriage certificate. Welby has come under pressure from some within the church to clarify the situation as other vicars have said they were being asked to carry out outdoor weddings following the interview. Under Church of England laws a religious wedding ceremony can only take place in a church.
The marriage certificate, showing the date of the wedding as May 19, the date of the televised ceremony watched by a billion people, was published last week by British newspaper the Sun.
In their interview with Oprah Winfrey, Meghan, 39, said: “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.”
Meghan added: “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’.”
Meghan’s remarks were initially taken at face value, leading to some unease that their formal ceremony was effectively a sham.
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.
In the new interview, the Most Rev Justin Welby said: “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. I had a number of private and pastoral meetings with the duke and duchess before the wedding. The legal wedding was on the Saturday. I signed the wedding certificate, which is a legal document, and I would have committed a serious criminal offence if I signed it knowing it was false. 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.”
In the wide ranging interview, Welby also discussed the dangers of “vaccine nationalism” and described Pope Francis as “a real reformist in many, many areas.”
The suggestion of a secret wedding was just one revelation in the explosive Winfrey interview, which raised serious questions about how the royals treated Meghan. The couple alleged an unnamed member of the royal family raised “concerns” about how dark their children’s skin would be.
Buckingham Palace issued an equivocal statement after the interview saying that “recollections may vary.” Prince William told journalists: “We’re very much not a racist family.”