The Archbishop of Canterbury has addressed for the first time the remark made by the Duchess of Sussex that she got married three days before her grand royal wedding.
During her explosive interview with Oprah Winfrey, broadcast earlier this month, Meghan said she and the Duke of Sussex had a secret marriage ceremony with the Most Reverend Justin Welby in their “backyard”.
The duchess said nobody knew the couple shared personal vows for “just the two of us” ahead of their official wedding day in Windsor on Saturday, 19 May 2018.
It was thought it could not have been a legal ceremony as it lacked witnesses and a registered venue, and was instead likely to have been an informal exchange of vows.
In an interview with la Repubblica, Mr Welby was asked about what happened and he said the legal wedding was on the Saturday, adding: “But I won’t say what happened at any other meetings.”
The Archbishop told the Italian newspaper: “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.”
During the Oprah Winfrey interview, Meghan told her: “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 had framed are “just the two of us in our backyard with the Archbishop of Canterbury”.
Both Harry and Meghan said it was “just the three of us”.
Mr Welby’s comments come after the former official who issued the licence for the Sussexes’ wedding said Meghan is “clearly misinformed”.
Stephen Borton, the former chief clerk at the Faculty Office, told The Sun Meghan “is obviously confused and clearly misinformed”.
“They did not marry three days earlier in front of the Archbishop of Canterbury,” he said.
“The Special Licence 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 recognised by the Church of England and the law.
“What I suspect they did was exchange some simple vows they had perhaps written themselves, and which is fashionable, and said that in front of the Archbishop or, and more likely, it was a simple rehearsal.”
The newspaper also printed a certified copy of an entry marriage document for the couple which was dated May 19, 2018, and bore the names of Prince Charles and Meghan’s mother Doria Ragland as witnesses.
The Sussexes, who are expecting their second child – a daughter – in the summer after a miscarriage last year, have embraced their new life in California, away from the monarchy.
The suggestion of a secret wedding was just one revelation in the Winfrey interview, with Meghan and Harry accusing an unnamed member of the royal family – not the Queen nor the Duke of Edinburgh – of raising concerns about how dark their son Archie’s skin tone would be before he was born.
Buckingham Palace previously said the issues raised in Harry and Meghan’s interview, especially over race, were “concerning” and would be addressed by the Queen and her family privately.