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Harry and Meghan's legal wedding was royal ceremony, not secret event, archbishop of Canterbury says

In the bombshell-laden interview this month, Meghan told Oprah Winfrey: "Three days before our wedding, we got married — no one knows that."
Image: Prince Harry and Meghan Markle during their wedding service, conducted by the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby in St George's Chapel at Windsor Castle
Prince Harry and Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, during their wedding at Windsor Castle in May 2018.Dominic Lipinski / Getty Images file

LONDON — Prince Harry and Meghan's interview with Oprah Winfrey gripped millions of viewers and left the royal family to confront allegations of racism as the world pored over every explosive claim.

But Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, also raised eyebrows with the suggestion that the couple were married in secret three days before the ceremonial extravaganza broadcast around the world.

On Tuesday, the man who married them addressed the issue publicly for the first time, saying that wasn't the case and that the big royal wedding on May 19, 2018, was, in fact, the real one.

"The legal wedding was on the Saturday," the archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, who is the religious figurehead of the Church of England, told the Italian newspaper La Repubblica.

"I signed the wedding certificate, which is a legal document, and I would have committed a serious criminal offense if I signed it knowing it was false," he said.

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In the bombshell-laden interview broadcast on CBS this month, Meghan told Winfrey: "Three days before our wedding, we got married — no one knows that.

"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.

She said it was "just the two of us in our backyard with the archbishop of Canterbury." Harry added that it was "just the three of us."

That led commentators to question whether such a ceremony would have been legal, given that under English law it would need to have witnesses and to take place in a registered venue.

Harry and Meghan's representatives, contacted by email, declined to immediately comment on the record after Welby's comments were published.

The detail about the wedding was just one moment in a lengthy interview that has prompted weeks of recriminations. Meghan painted the palace as deeply out of touch, uncaring about mental health and unsympathetic to — and even complicit in — the racism that they say drove them out of the country.

Buckingham Palace released a response on behalf of Queen Elizabeth II expressing concern and sadness at Harry and Meghan's account of their experience. The statement said that "while some recollections may vary," the issues would be dealt with privately by the family.

Harry's brother, Prince William, batted away the racism allegations, telling reporters in London this month: "We're very much not a racist family."

The Sussexes finalized their split from the royal family last month, a year after they "stepped back" from public duties and moved to the U.S. as the fairy-tale wedding turned into a nightmare.

The couple announced on Valentine's Day that they were expecting their second child, months after Meghan revealed that she had suffered a miscarriage.

Harry, 36, was recently named the chief impact officer at Silicon Valley startup BetterUp Inc., a San Francisco-based health tech company that offers professional and mental health coaching.