The Archbishop of Canterbury has confirmed that he legally married the Duke and Duchess of Sussex on 19 May 2018 in Saint George’s chapel, Windsor, contradicting claims made by the couple.
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle told Oprah Winfrey that they married in a private ceremony, three days before the public “spectacle”.
Harry added it was “just the three of us” - him, Meghan and the Archbishop of Canterbury. In England, weddings require two witnesses and must take place in an official licensed venue, which is why questions were raised around the legality of Harry and Meghan’s ‘garden wedding’.
Clergymen also raised concerns about the claims, as they had been forced to deny hundreds of couples the option to marry without witnesses or in an unofficial venue during the coronavirus pandemic.
Confusion around the reports led the Archbishop to clarify when the royal couple officially married.
So, what did he say and how does it compare with Meghan’s version of events? This is what you need to know.
When did Harry and Meghan get married?
It has now been confirmed by Archbishop Justin Welby and the publication of Prince Harry and Meghan’s wedding certificate, that the couple officially became husband and wife on 19 March 2018.
This is the day when over 11.5 million people tuned in to watch Meghan walk down the aisle, and 600 guests filled Saint George’s chapel.
The Sun published a copy of the certificate earlier this month, which stated that they married in the eyes of the church and in accordance with law, on 19 May 2018.
The certificate was drawn up by the registrar, Stephen Borton, former chief clerk at the Faculty Office. It provides details of the date, place of marriage, who conducted the marriage and the two witnesses.
The document states that the wedding took place on 19 May 2018, in accordance with the “rites and ceremonies of the Established Church” by Special Licence by “Justin Cantuar”.
“Justin Cantuar” is an abbreviation of the Latin Cantuariensis, meaning Canterbury, and this is how the archbishop - the head of the Church of England - formally signs himself on official documents.
For weeks, the archbishop had refused to comment on the wedding as he claimed he would not provide a statement on ‘private or pastoral matters’.
However, asked about the wedding in an interview with Italian newspaper, la Repubblica, Mr Welby confirmed the marriage was officiated on 19 May 2018, adding: "But I won't say what happened at any other meetings."
The archbishop added: "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."
If he had in fact married them on the day Meghan claims, in a “backyard” ceremony, the archbishop would not only have acted unlawfully, but would also have presided over a “fake” royal wedding in the presence of the Queen, who is the titular head of the Church of England.
What were Meghan’s claims?
On 7 March, CBS aired a tell-all Oprah Winfrey interview with the duke and duchess.
During the interview, Meghan claimed that the couple married “in [their] backyard” at Nottingham Cottage, Kensington Palace, three days prior to the public ceremony, which she described as “this spectacle for the world.”
Meghan said: “We called the archbishop, and we just said, 'Look, this thing, this spectacle is for the world, but we want our union between us.
“The vows that we have framed in our room are just the two of us in our backyard with the Archbishop of Canterbury.”
Harry went further by telling Oprah it had been “just the three of us,” which would mean there were no witnesses.
On 19 May, the date the couple became legally wed under the conditions stipulated by the Royal Marriages Act of 1772, Meghan’s mother Doria Ragland and Prince Charles were the official witnesses.
Why was the archbishop under pressure to clarify Meghan’s claims?
Rev Welby's comments come after the former chief clerk at the Faculty Office, who issued the licence for the couple’s wedding, described Meghan as “confused” about her own wedding date.
Stephen Borton told The Sun that Meghan "is obviously confused and clearly misinformed".
He said: "They did not marry three days earlier in front of the Archbishop of Canterbury.
"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."
A Church of England priest also investigated Meghan’s claims, prior to the archbishop’s comments.
Rev Edwards, the vicar at St Matthew's Church, in Dinnington, and St Cuthbert's Church, in Brunswick, Newcastle upon Tyne, said he was told by a Lambeth Palace staff member that, “Justin does not do private weddings. Meghan is an American, she does not understand”.
The spokesperson for the archbishop’s official London residence said: “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.”
Rev Edwards also called for clarity as the misinformation “puts us priests in a difficult position on what constitutes a Church of England wedding,” he said.
He questioned how the backyard wedding could have stood up to church rules, adding: “Should there be witnesses and licensing and legality or is it now just an ad hoc arrangement with members of clergy? Can we now do private weddings without witnesses in our back gardens?”
The duke and duchess now live in California after quitting royal duties. They will welcome their second child - a girl - in the summer.