Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s revelation they secretly married three days before their Windsor wedding can be ‘easily verified’ but if untrue could cast doubt over other parts of their interview, a Church of England vicar said this morning.
Doubts were expressed over whether the secret ceremony would have even been legal and one clergyman said the Archbishop of Canterbury – who Meghan said had conducted the wedding – should explain.
Church of England representatives this morning said they had no information about the first ceremony and directed inquiries to the Archbishop, whose office did not respond to requests for information from MailOnline.
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s bombshell interview with Oprah Winfrey in the States overnight revealed the secret earlier marriage for the first time
Meghan told Winfrey: ‘You know, three days before our wedding, we got married. No one knows that’, before Harry later insisted it had been just them and Justin Welby present.
But Reverend David Green, Vicar of St Mary’s, West Malling and the Rector of St Michael’s, Offham, said it was impossible to have had two weddings, adding: ‘I think the Archbishop needs to clarify what did or did not happen three days before.’
Secret: Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have revealed that they were married in secret three days before their royal wedding on May 19, 2018
Under cover: During their explosive interview with Oprah on Sunday night, the couple said they called the Archbishop of Canterbury and asked him to wed them in secret in their yard
Could Harry and Meghan have wed in private? Here’s what the rules say:
Though the act of marriage is a moment of love and devotion, there are still ground rules within Church of England weddings that must be followed.
In an official rule book for clergymen, it states that it is their responsibility to ensure that the legal requirements of marriages are solemnized in accordance with the rites and ceremonies of the church.
There are bans on marrying anyone under 16, as well as in cases of polygamy and close family relations.
But Church of England marriages also require at least two witnesses.
The public must also have unrestricted access to the building during any marriage ceremony to allow for valid objections against the marriage.
And, under the rules, a couple who are already lawfully married cannot choose to re-marry each other, unless there is some doubt as to the validity of the earlier marriage.
Where there is no apparent informality in the previous marriage, and the couple merely wish to go through another marriage ceremony with each other, they should be informed that they are already lawfully married to each and there is no statutory provision for marriage preliminaries to be completed in these circumstances, the Church of England says.
There are other particular rules, such as a permanent type of black ink should be used when registering marriages, preparing quarterly certified copies and issuing certificates.
It is not clear if the Archbishop of Canterbury, who Meghan and Harry said had privately wed the pair before their public wedding, has the power to override the rules.
Reverend Tiffer Robinson, who is responsible for four rural parishes in Suffolk, said: ‘You seriously think there is even a chance that they had a legal wedding in a garden with no witnesses three days before their royal wedding with the Archbishop of Canterbury?’
Reverend Green added on Twitter: ‘You can’t get married twice. So what was the thing three days before? And if it was a marriage, what on earth are we doing ‘playing’ at prayer/holy matrimony for cameras.
‘She clearly thinks something happened with ABC (Archbishop of Canterbury) 3 days prior. So it would be helpful to clarify what it was. Plus this is something she claimed that can be verified by separate testimony (i.e. Lambeth). If it’s BS, that helps assess the rest of the interview too.
‘I’d say we are rehearsing night before. No, it’s not legal to have your own vows. What else is there?’
In their bombshell interview with Oprah Winfrey on Sunday night, Meghan, 39, and Harry, 36, revealed they held a private ‘union’ in their backyard with the Archbishop of Canterbury and no other guests.
Meghan said ‘no one knew’ about the secret ceremony, in which the pair shared personal vows for ‘just the two of us’.
The couple say the private union took place three days before their much publicised royal wedding on May 19, which Meghan described as a ‘spectacle for the world’.
However rules on Church of England weddings are strict. They require at least two witnesses.
And, according to the church’s own rulebook, the public must have ‘unrestricted access’ to the building during any marriage ceremony to allow for ‘valid objections against the marriage’.
Meanwhile, a couple who are already lawfully married cannot choose to re-marry each other, unless there is some doubt as to the validity of the earlier marriage.
It is not clear if the Archbishop of Canterbury – the head of the Church of England – can override any of the rules.
Speaking about the secret union, Meghan said: ‘You know, three days before our wedding, we got married. No one knows that.’
Meghan went on to reveal that she and Harry phoned the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby – who performed the ceremony at their official wedding – and asked him to marry them in private days before the event that was watched by millions around the world.
Harry and Meghan were living in Kensington Palace three days before their Windsor wedding
Reverend David Green wanted more information on what happened three days before Windsor
He called for the Archbishop of Canterbury to explain what had happened with the couple
‘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 couple revealed that they exchanged personal vows during their private backyard ceremony, which they now have framed in the bedroom of their Montecito mansion.
‘So, like, the vows that we have framed in our room are just the two of us in our backyard with the Archbishop of Canterbury,’ she continued.
Harry then jokingly interjected by singing: ‘Just the three of us, just the three of us.’
The couple had no guests or spectators at their private wedding – and it is unclear whether anyone in the royal family knew that the secret ceremony had taken place.
At the time, Harry and Meghan were living in a private home in the grounds of Kensington Palace, Nottingham Cottage, which is where they got engaged.
Hitting back: Meghan shut down reports that she made her sister-in-law Kate Middleton cry in the days before her wedding – insisting that the Duchess of Cambridge actually made her cry
Speaking about the royal wedding, Meghan said that she felt as though the star-studded event – which was attended by dozens of high-profile figures, including Oprah, 67, herself – ‘wasn’t our day’.
However, the Duchess insisted that she was not particularly nervous before the big event, revealing that she slept through the night before her wedding day, and then marked the occasion by listening to Chapel of Love by The Dixie Cups before heading to St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle.
During the wedding, the couple exchanged traditional vows, which were viewed by millions of people around the world – as well as 600 guests, including several of Meghan’s former Suits co-stars, and celebrities like James Corden and George and Amal Clooney.
Asking about the wedding, Oprah said: ‘I remember sitting in the chapel, thanks for inviting me by the way. I recall this sense of magic I’d never experienced anything like it. It seemed like you were floating down the aisle.’
Meghan responded: ‘I thought about this a lot because it was like having an out of body experience I was very present for.
‘And that’s the only way I can describe it because the night before I slept through the night entirely, which in and of itself is a bit of a miracle.
‘And then I woke up and started listening to that song Going To The Chapel, and just tried to make it fun and light and remind ourselves that this was our day – but I think we were both really aware, even in advance, that this wasn’t our day.
‘This was the day that was planned for the world.
Meghan also opened up about one other very widely-publicized detail around her wedding planning: reports that she made her soon-to-be sister-in-law Kate Middleton cry over a disagreement about flower girl dresses.
However the Duchess insists that, while the reason for the argument was accurately reported, it was actually Kate who made her cry.
Oprah asked Meghan: ‘Was there a situation where she [Kate] might have cried? Or she could have cried?’
But the Duchess of Sussex replied: ‘No, no. The reverse happened. And I don’t say that to be disparaging to anyone, because it was a really hard week of the wedding. And she was upset about something, but she owned it, and she apologised.
‘And she brought me flowers and a note, apologising. And she did what I would do if I knew that I hurt someone, right, to just take accountability for it.’
Meghan added that it was ‘shocking’ that the ‘reverse of that would be out in the world’.
She continued: ‘A few days before the wedding, she was upset about something pertaining – yes, the issue was correct – about flower girl dresses, and it made me cry, and it really hurt my feelings.
‘And I thought, in the context of everything else that was going on in those days leading to the wedding, that it didn’t make sense to not be just doing whatever everyone else was doing, which was trying to be supportive, knowing what was going on with my dad and whatnot.’
Meghan also said: ‘It wasn’t a confrontation, and I actually think it’s… I don’t think it’s fair to her to get into the details of that, because she apologised.
‘What was hard to get over was being blamed for something that not only I didn’t do but that happened to me.
‘And the people who were part of our wedding were going to our comms team and saying: “I know this didn’t happen. I don’t have to tell them what actually happened.”‘