Secretly marrying Harry and Meghan before Windsor wedding would have been 'a serious criminal offence' - Archbishop

Harry and Meghan claimed they were secretly married by the Archbishop of Canterbury three days before their wedding at St George's Chapel, Windsor.Reuters

The Archbishop of Canterbury has broken his silence on claims by the Duke and Duchess of Sussex that he married them in secret three days before their Windsor wedding.

The extraordinary claim was made in their tell-all interview with Oprah Winfrey earlier this month, when Meghan claimed that Archbishop Justin Welby wed the couple in a private ceremony in their back garden three days before their wedding at St George's Chapel in Windsor Castle.

Both she and Harry claimed that a secret wedding had taken place with only themselves and the Archbishop present. 

If true, it would have breached the legal requirement to have two witnesses present. 

The Archbishop has remained silent on the claim until now, but he clarified events in an interview this week with Italian newspaper La Repubblica in which he said that the legal wedding took place on Saturday, May 19, 2018 at St George's Chapel. 

To have signed the certificate knowing that a secret wedding had occurred earlier would have been "a serious criminal offence", he said. 

He added that he had had "a number of private and pastoral meetings with the duke and duchess before the wedding" but would not be drawn on what had taken place at these.

"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," he said. 

"So you can make what you like about it. But the legal wedding was on the Saturday. But I won't say what happened at any other meetings." 

A spokesperson for the Duke and Duchess corrected their comments in a statement last week, telling the Daily Beast that the couple had "exchanged personal vows a few days before their official/legal wedding on May 19".