The archbishop who married Prince Harry and Meghan Markle at Windsor Castle on May 19, 2018, has vehemently denied a sensational claim made by Meghan herself that the couple were wed in private three days earlier.
During the Sussexes' tell-all interview with Oprah Winfrey in early March, the duchess revealed that ahead of the fanfare of their official wedding she and Harry had snuck away to tie the knot in secret.
"You know, three days before our wedding, we got married. No one knows that," the 39-year-old told an astonished Oprah.
Meghan said the pair asked the man who would preside over the televised ceremony at St George's Chapel, the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby to marry them privately at Nottingham Cottage on the grounds of Kensington Palace.
The revelation reportedly had Britons fuming over why $58m of taxpayer money was spent on the lavish wedding if the duke and duchess were already married.
Now, three weeks after the bombshell interview went to air, the Archbishop of Canterbury has blasted the royal couple's claims of a secret marriage, saying that doing so would have been a 'serious criminal offence' on his part.
"The legal wedding was on the Saturday [May 19]," the archbishop confirmed in an interview with Italian newspaper La Repubblica.
"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. So you can make what you like about it," he added.
The Archbishop of Canterbury declined to provide further details on his discussions with Prince Harry and Meghan Markle prior to their nuptials.
“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... But I won't say what happened at any other meetings."
No 'secret wedding'
The archbishop's comments come after Harry and Meghan themselves backtracked on their 'secret wedding' claims, instead saying that they'd taken the opportunity to "privately exchange personal vows".
A spokesman for the duke and duchess told The Sun that the couple had "privately exchanged personal vows a few days before their official/legal wedding on May 19".
The 'secret wedding' claim was also proven to be false when the General Register Office revealed Harry and Meghan's wedding date, showing they did in fact officially tie the knot at Windsor Castle.
"They did not marry three days earlier in front of the Archbishop of Canterbury," Stephen Borton, former chief clerk at the Faculty Office, told The Sun.
"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."
Additionally, Mr Borton revealed the grounds of Nottingham Cottage is not an authorised wedding venue, so they couldn't have legally married there. There were also not enough witnesses present for a wedding ceremony.
"In order for them to be married a Special Licence was drawn up and the wording from Her Majesty the Queen authorising the wedding and the official venue was recorded," Mr Borton said, adding the fee normally paid for a Special Licence was waived.
The wedding certificate shows Prince Charles and Doria Ragland were the couple's witnesses.
Additional reporting by Marni Dixit.