Justin Welby appears to contradict assertion by Duchess of Sussex that she got married three days before royal wedding
Meghan told Oprah Winfrey she had had a secret marriage ceremony three days before the public event at Windsor Castle on Saturday. Photograph: Gareth Fuller/AFP/Getty Images
The Guardian –Lucy Campbell
The Archbishop of Canterbury has addressed for the first time the claim made by the Duchess of Sussex that she and Prince Harry got married three days before the royal wedding.
During her tell-all interview with Oprah Winfrey, broadcast earlier this month, Meghan said the pair had the secret marriage ceremony with the archbishop, Justin Welby, in their “backyard”.
The duchess said nobody knew the couple had shared personal vows for “just the two of us” ahead of their wedding day in Windsor on Saturday 19 May 2018.
However, it was thought that this 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 the Italian newspaper la Repubblica, Welby was asked about what happened. He said the legal wedding took place on the Saturday, adding: “But I won’t say what happened at any other meetings.”
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. 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 interview, 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 said it was “just the three of us”.
The Sussexes, who are expecting their second child – a daughter – in the summer after a miscarriage last year, started a new life in Santa Barbara, California, away from the work of the royal family.
The suggestion of a secret wedding was just one revelation in the explosive Winfrey interview, which raised up serious questions about how “the firm” handled the duchess’s concerns about her mental health and the couple’s marginalisation within the institution.
Among the most damaging allegations made by Meghan and Harry involved an unnamed member of the royal family – not the Queen or the Duke of Edinburgh – who raised concerns about how dark their son Archie’s skin tone would be before he was born.
Meghan disclosed to Oprah that amid a barrage of negative press and an atmosphere of racial hostility, she felt utterly unprotected by “the firm” and had thoughts of suicide during that time. “It was all happening just because I was breathing,” the duchess said. “I just didn’t want to be alive any more. That was a clear, real, frightening and constant thought.”
In the aftermath of the interview, Buckingham Palace said the issues raised, especially over race, were “concerning” and would be addressed by the Queen and her family privately. Prince William, Harry’s older brother with whom his relationship is currently strained, also told journalists at the time: “We’re very much not a racist family.”