Can you think of an interview in recent years that’s made the same kind of impact as Oprah Winfrey’s chat with Prince Harry and Meghan Markle? We’re struggling! But while some time has now passed, one revelation remains unresolved: the secret wedding. So, to help clear things up, a reverend came forward in March 2021 to try and explain what really happened that day.
Who could’ve seen this coming? Sure, most of us were expecting some juicy tidbits from the interview, but a secret wedding? We weren’t ready for that. Mind you, there was another intriguing detail nestled in that huge revelation by Meghan and Harry. And it related to the number of people who attended the nuptials.
If you’re struggling to remember what Harry and Meghan said on the subject, don’t worry. We’ve got you! The Duchess of Sussex informed Oprah, “Three days before our wedding, we got married. No one knows that but we called the Archbishop [of Canterbury] and we just said, ‘This thing, this spectacle is for the world but we want our union between us.’”
Meghan then revealed, “The vows that we have framed in our room are just the two of us in our back yard with the Archbishop of Canterbury.” To add to that, Harry clarified, “Just the three of us.” So, to say this secret ceremony was low-key would be an understatement.
Anyway, we can’t help but wonder: how did that event compare to the big televised wedding in the spring of 2018? What were the key differences between them? Well, there’s quite a few. From the location to the sheer number of people in attendance, the two ceremonies were like night and day.
Let’s stick with the numbers for now. You see, around 600 people reportedly turned up for Harry and Meghan’s wedding – including celebrities like Oprah. We can only imagine her surprise at finding out about the ceremony from three days prior! And as for the viewing figures, they were absolutely massive.
The Nielsen Company noted that the ceremony brought in just under 30 million viewers in America. Some of the most popular programs on TV at the time couldn’t match those figures – like Game of Thrones and The Big Bang Theory. In fact, even if you combined their numbers, they’d still come short.
Roughly 24 million viewers tuned in for the event in the United Kingdom in 2018, according to Forbes. Incredibly, that’s more than a third of the entire population! Quite a contrast to the secret wedding, right? You could say the same about the two locations as well.
As Meghan and Harry mentioned, the secret ceremony took place outside their Nottingham Cottage house in England. But the televised wedding was held at St. George’s Chapel inside Windsor Castle. Like we said earlier, it’s like night and day! Then again, that doesn’t cover all of the differences between the two events.
For instance, who were the witnesses at the weddings? Well, if Harry and Meghan’s claims are true, then the Archbishop of Canterbury was the only person to view their secret coupling. Of course, it was a bit different at St. George’s Chapel – given the number of guests there. But who had the official responsibility?
According to The Sun newspaper, Prince Charles and Doria Ragland are recorded as the witnesses. That shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to be honest. After all, Charles is Harry’s dad and Ragland is Meghan’s mother. Yet this seemingly innocuous variation between the weddings caused quite a bit of drama when everything came to light.
The person who came under the most scrutiny was arguably Justin Welby. He has been the Archbishop of Canterbury since March 2013, but nothing could prepare him for all of the mainstream attention that followed after the Oprah interview. It seemed like everyone in the media world wanted to talk to the guy!
Justin didn’t buckle, though. Instead, the leading religious figure continued to reiterate that he wouldn’t make a public statement in order to preserve Meghan and Harry’s privacy. It was a pretty odd situation. But why was this such a big deal, and what’s the significance of only having one witness for a wedding?
To explain more, Stephen Borton spoke to The Sun in March 2021. He’s the man who put Harry and Meghan’s “special license” together so they could tie the knot at Windsor Castle. Stephen said, “They couldn’t have got married in the grounds of Nottingham Cottage, as it’s not an authorized venue and there weren’t enough witnesses present.”
Stephen continued, “You cannot be married with just three people. It’s not a valid ceremony. I think the duchess is confused. Any certificate she may have of her vows on the wall is not an official wedding certificate.”
According to Church of England regulations, you need two witnesses at a wedding ceremony in the United Kingdom. Obviously, Charles and Doria Ragland fulfilled those roles at St. George’s Chapel. Yet that’s not the only issue with Meghan and Harry’s secret event. The lack of people there played into another important regulation.
You see, the Church of England states that people need to be given “unrestricted access” to weddings. That’s not as strange as you might think – it allows the reverend to ask if anyone objects to the marriage. Clearly, that can’t happen when no one’s there! Mind you, those aren’t the biggest problems.
The most significant issue traces back to the idea that Harry and Meghan tied the knot twice. That simply cannot occur under Church of England rules. Once you’re together, you can’t repeat the ceremony a second time. You can only do it if there was a problem with the original event.
Assuming that Harry and Meghan did get married in a secret ceremony in front of the Archbishop, that means the televised wedding was essentially “fake,” according to The Sun. It adds that Justin Welby broke the law as a result. Plus, given that Queen Elizabeth is the Church of England’s head and she was in attendance, that adds another angle to this. Imagine duping her of all people!
It’s no wonder, then, that Justin has attracted so much attention in the media. Though not everyone was outraged by Meghan and Harry’s comments to Oprah. For example, a reverend named Tiffer Robinson shared their thoughts on the matter via social media following the interview. And he brought up an intriguing point.
Robinson tweeted, “[Meghan’s] entitled to consider it her marriage if she wants to. Americans are much less concerned with the specifics of marriage law than [the] English clergy.” It’s an interesting claim – but is the reverend right? Well, to a certain degree, we’d say so. The witness rule is particularly flexible across the United States.
For instance, you need two witnesses at your wedding in states like Alaska, Delaware, California, Washington and Kansas. Yet in places such as Nevada, Iowa, South Dakota and New York, one witness will suffice on the day. And then there are spots around the country where no such rule exists.
Locations like Texas, Florida, Alabama, Maryland and Pennsylvania don’t recognize the need for witnesses. Who’s to say that Meghan didn’t have similarly flexible thoughts on the rule? But that makes us all the more curious as to what another reverend thought of this story.
Before we get to that, though, you might be curious if there are any other differences between British and American weddings. In truth, most of them are quite slight, yet there is one tradition that really stands out. To go into more detail, an expat from the U.S. named Julie Watson spoke to Forbes in May 2018.
Julie said, “I had never been to an English wedding before mine, so I didn’t know that bridesmaids typically go after the bride over here. I tried to get my husband’s niece to go and she wouldn’t – insisting that I had to go first.” It’s the other way round in America, but Meghan also followed this tweaked tradition at St. George’s Chapel.
Anyway, as the debate continued to rage on about Meghan and Harry’s secret wedding, a reverend came forward with some interesting comments of his own. His name is Mark Edwards, and he works at two churches in northern England. And the resident of Newcastle upon Tyne claims that he was able to get a bit more information from the Archbishop of Canterbury’s end.
After those alleged conversations, Mark then spoke to the ChronicleLive website in March 2021. He shared the intel he was apparently given by an unnamed source within the Archbishop’s residence at Lambeth Palace. And it’s fair to say that it changes the entire story. Excited to hear it? We certainly are!
Mark’s apparent source informed him, “Justin does not do private weddings. Meghan is an American, she doesn’t understand. 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.” Seems pretty cut and dry, right?
The alleged intel from Mark also lines up with Stephen Borton’s speculation on the matter. The latter told The Sun in March 2021, “I’m sorry, but Meghan is obviously confused and clearly misinformed. They did not marry three days earlier in front of the Archbishop of Canterbury.” He didn’t stop there, either.
Stephen added, “What I suspect [Harry and Meghan] did was exchange some simple vows they had perhaps written themselves – which is fashionable – and said that in front of the Archbishop. Or, and more likely, it was a simple rehearsal.” Could he be right about that? It’s a very interesting suggestion.
Mark, for his part, also had some strong opinions regarding the Archbishop of Canterbury’s position on the matter. The vicar told ChronicleLive that Justin had a responsibility to officially come clean about what happened that day. If not for him, then for the Church of England itself.
“[It’s] in the public interest for the leader of the church to put the record straight,” Mark told ChronicleLive. “It puts us priests in a difficult position on what constitutes a Church of England wedding. Should there be witnesses and licensing and legality, or is it now just an ad hoc arrangement with members of [the] clergy?”
Mark continued, “Can we now do private weddings without witnesses in our back gardens? Justin saying he refuses to comment is not helpful to the rest of us clergy and our own policies and practices.” With that, the vicar then pulled up an example from recent times.
“I’ve had people ask me during lockdown if they could have a private wedding, and I’ve had to explain that [it] wouldn’t be a legal wedding and not according to canon law,” Mark added. “I think we need a clarifying statement. We need to know what our policies and procedures are. It can’t appear to be one rule for one and another rule for another.”
It’s an intriguing debate to say the least! But did the new information about the secret wedding get back to Meghan and Harry? Well, a representative of the pair came forward with a statement not long after ChronicleLive published the article on Mark’s alleged intel.
Meghan and Harry’s spokesperson told The Daily Beast in March 2021, “[Harry and Meghan] exchanged personal vows a few days before their official/legal wedding on May 19, 2018.” That admission should finally put things to bed. After all, you can’t tie the knot through personal vows alone.
Then, it happened. The Archbishop of Canterbury eventually made a public statement at the end of March. Mark got his wish! The comments came in a publication from Italy called la Repubblica. And it’s fair to say that Justin’s words removed any lingering doubts about the situation.
Justin said, “I won’t say what happened at any other meetings [with Meghan and Harry]. 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,” Justin confirmed. “I signed the wedding certificate, which is a legal document, and I would have committed a serious criminal offense if I [had] signed it knowing it was false.” And there you have it folks. Just like that, the big question was answered by the man himself.
Anyway, whatever your thoughts may be on this story, one thing can’t be denied – the buzz! Oprah’s interview created global headlines and reached a huge audience. In America alone, over 17 million people tuned in, according to Nielsen. So, it’ll be interesting to see if anything else can top Harry and Meghan’s revelations in the coming years.