THE claim by the Duchess of Sussex that she and the Duke were married “in secret” by the Archbishop of Canterbury, three days before their wedding in St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle, in May 2018 (News, 19 May 2018), cannot be true in terms of English marriage law.
In a wide-ranging interview with the American talk-show host Oprah Winfrey, broadcast in the United States on Sunday evening, the Duchess said that the couple had been married by Archbishop Welby in their private garden in Kensington Palace, where they were living at the time. The couple now live in Los Angeles with their son, Archie.
While showing Oprah some chickens that they had rescued from a factory farm, the Duchess, who is now pregnant with their second child, said: “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.’ So the vows that we have framed in our room are just the two of us in our backyard with the Archbishop of Canterbury.”
Prince Harry said that it had been “Just the three of us.”
It is common for couples to exchange vows during a wedding rehearsal, or in private, shortly before their wedding day; but this is not recognised as the marriage. In England, a marriage is invalid without two witnesses (in addition to the officiant). In the Church of England, a marriage must also be solemnised by a member of the clergy in a church (or elsewhere — e.g. in hospital, or in a college chapel — by special licence).
A spokesperson for Lambeth Palace declined to comment on the interview, saying on Monday that the Archbishop did not comment on “personal or pastoral matters”.
During the Oprah interview, which will be broadcast in the UK this evening, the couple also spoke of various disputes and tensions with members of the royal family and the royal staff both before and after their exit from royal duties in 2019 and subsequent move to the US.
Read more on the story from Paul Vallely and in Andrew Brown’s press column