Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have admitted they did not get married three days before the Royal wedding after an official certificate blew their claim apart.
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex confessed the ceremony with the Archbishop of Canterbury in Kensington Palace saw them just ‘privately exchange personal vows’.
The U-turn comes two weeks after the couple made the comments in their bombshell interview with Oprah Winfrey.
Britons were left fuming as it raised questions why the £32million taxpayer-funded wedding at Windsor Castle in May 2018 was necessary.
Meanwhile it emerged yesterday another of the Sussexes’ right-hand women in the US is moving to another role after less than a year in her current job.
‘Chief of staff’ Catherine St Laurent has left her post leading to reports the departure was unexpected.
Lawyers for the couple denied this, saying she was employed on a fixed-term contract which was due to expire.
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex confessed the ceremony with the Archbishop of Canterbury in Kensington Palace saw them just ‘privately exchange personal vows’
Meghan claimed that the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby married her and Harry three days before their wedding
A spokesman for Harry and Meghan has now confirmed their ceremony three days before their wedding was not a marriage.
They said they had ‘privately exchanged personal vows a few days before their official/legal wedding on May 19’.
In the interview with Oprah, Meghan said: ‘You know, three days before our wedding, we got married. No one knows that.’
She said the couple asked the Archbishop to marry them in private at Nottingham Cottage — their home in the grounds of Kensington Palace.
But the claim was blown apart yesterday after the General Register Office revealed the couple’s wedding certificate for the first time.
It proved they did get married on May 19, 2018 in the lavish ceremony at Windsor Castle after all.
The official who drew up the licence says Meghan is ‘obviously confused’ and ‘clearly misinformed’ over the wedding.
General Register Office has now revealed the couple’s wedding certificate for the first time, proving they did get married on May 19, 2018 in a lavish ceremony at Windsor Castle after all and not in private in a ceremony officiated by the Archbishop
Stephen Borton, former chief clerk at the Faculty Office, told the Sun: ‘They did not marry three days earlier in front of the Archbishop of Canterbury.
‘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.’
Mr Borton said they could not have been married in the grounds of Nottingham Cottage because it is not an authorised venue.
He also added there were not enough witnesses to make it a valid ceremony.
Mr Borton said: ‘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.’
He said the £325 fee normally paid for couples to have a Special Licence was waived for the couple.
The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby (centre) has so far refused to comment on claims made by Meghan as he says it is a ‘private matter’ but Rev Edwards has called for clarity
Meghan told Oprah on the show: ‘You know, three days before our wedding, we got married. No one knows that’
The wedding certificate confirmed the ceremony took place at Windsor Castle with the witnesses recorded as Prince Charles and Meghan’s mother Doria Ragland.
A spokesman for the Archbishop said he would not be commenting on personal or pastoral matters.
Rev Mark Edwards, a C of E priest from Newcastle, said: ‘When I called Lambeth Palace to ask about this I was told Justin doesn’t do private weddings. Meghan doesn’t understand.
‘But the fact that the Archbishop has not commented publicly needs to be addressed.’
He decided to look into Meghan’s claims because during the Covid outbreak he has been inundated with requests for private weddings which have been declined.
Rev Edwards, the vicar at St Matthew’s Church, in Dinnington, and St Cuthbert’s Church, in Brunswick, Newcastle upon Tyne, said he was told by a Lambeth Palace staff member: ‘Justin does not do private weddings. Meghan is an American, she does not understand.’
He says the claim has caused confusion among clergy and couples anxious to tie the knot and is asking Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby to clarify the situation.
Elsewhere yesterday it emerged another of the Sussexes’ right-hand women in the US is moving to another role after less than a year in her current job.
Catherine St Laurent – head-hunted by the couple from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to become their ‘chief of staff’ – has left her post leading to reports the departure was unexpected.
Lawyers for the couple denied reports that she had left unexpectedly, saying she was employed on a fixed term contract which is due to expire.
Catherine St Laurent was head-hunted by the couple from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to become their ‘chief of staff’
The couple called her an ‘incredible asset’ when they announced her appointment, adding: ‘We are excited to have her on our team.’
But yesterday it emerged the Canadian-born mother-of-two has unexpectedly left her current post.
There was no comment from her directly, but according to the New York Post, Miss St Laurent has already stepped down, although she will continue to work with Archewell in an ‘advisory’ role.
CATHERINE ST-LAURENT: ‘SENIOR ADVISORY ROLE’
Old position: Executive director of the Archewell Foundation
New position: A ‘senior advisory role’ at the Archewell Foundation
Catherine St-Laurent took on the position of chief of staff and executive director of the Sussexes’ non-profit enterprise the Archewell Foundation in April 2020.
The Canadian-born French speaker was previously the director at Pivotal Ventures – Melinda Gates’ women and families foundation – and held a top communications role at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
At the time of her appointment, a friend told the Mail that Ms St-Laurent was ‘feisty, fair and up for a tough conversation’, adding: ‘But if all goes wrong, she is good for a laugh and a cocktail afterwards.
‘She’s a good egg. She’ll bring a clean-sheet perspective.’
After her hiring last year, the Sussexes had said: ‘We are proud to be joined by Catherine St-Laurent in this next chapter with us.
‘Her leadership and proven track record working within two organizations that have tremendous impact in the world — the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Pivotal Ventures make her an incredible asset and we’re excited to have her on our team.’
In a departing email to staff, she announced: ‘I am thrilled to be able to play a supporting role in realising their vision and enabling them to achieve impact on the issues that matter most to them.’
It has now been revealed that mother-of-two Ms St-Laurent will instead take on a senior advisory role for Archewell, and will ‘continue to bring high-level strategic guidance’ to the foundation, a spokesman told Page Six.
She will be replaced as Archewell’s executive director by the couple’s current communications officer in the UK, James Holt.
Reports suggest they have no immediate plans to replace him, leaving the Duke and Duchess of Sussex without any official representation in Britain and all their media relations now being handled in the US.
The couple have already appointed Toya Holness as Archewell’s ‘global press secretary’.
Buckingham Palace ceased to act for them after they quit as working royals last spring.
One royal insider expressed surprise at Miss St Laurent’s departure, telling the Mail: ‘She was a huge appointment for them.
‘A big hitter with a great track record, poached to head up their new working life in the US. It is really quite astonishing she has left that role after less than a year.’
Miss St Laurent is apparently launching her own new ‘social impact firm’, supported by and working with Archewell.
Harry and Meghan were dogged by a spate of departures from their ranks as working royals, losing at least two PAs as well as other key staff from their private office.
Earlier this month Buckingham Palace announced it was launching a probe into the handling of claims by their former head of communications that Meghan bullied several female members of their team, forcing at least two to quit.
A spokesman for the couple denied the claims, calling it a ‘calculated smear campaign’.
At the time of her appointment as Harry and Meghan’s most senior team member, Miss St Laurent had said she was ‘thrilled to be able to play a supporting role in realising their vision’.
She added: ‘From our very first conversation, Harry and Meghan have expressed a deep commitment to improving lives and having a positive impact on society.’
The couple have also made two high-profile new appointments.
Ben Browning, who produced the Oscar-nominated film Promising Young Woman, is now head of content for Archewell Productions and Archewell Audio as part of their multi-million dollar link-ups with Netflix and Spotify.
Mr Browning said it was a ‘unique opportunity’ and he wanted to turn Archewell into a ‘global production company that will spotlight diverse voices and share uplifting stories’.
The couple have also linked up with Invisible Hand – a ‘social impact and culture change agency’.
Intriguingly, given numerous reports suggesting Meghan has political ambitions in the US, its founder Genevieve Roth worked on Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign.
She will also serve as a ‘senior strategic adviser’ to the couple.
A statement said Invisible Hand would be focusing on ‘strategic change through storytelling and community building in support of gender and racial equity’.
A spokesman for the Sussexes added: ‘They join a rapidly expanding team that’s deeply dedicated to advancing systemic cultural change and supporting compassionate communities across the world.’
A judge has ordered The Mail on Sunday to publish a statement saying it infringed the Duchess of Sussex’s copyright by publishing extracts of a letter she sent her father.
Lord Justice Warby said it did not need to be published until the outcome of an appeal process.
He also ruled against Meghan on how large the statement needed to be printed, saying it would take up a ‘disproportionate amount of the front page’ if the font size was the same as the original 2019 headline.
Aides at the centre of palace intrigue that saw Meghan accused of bullying
Melissa Touabti (right) is pictured with Robbie Williams’ wife Ayda for whom she previously worked
PA WHO QUIT AFTER WEDDING:
Melissa Touabti, the duchess’s former personal assistant, had previously worked for Robbie Williams and Madonna.
She played a key role in preparations for Meghan and Harry’s wedding in May 2018, but quit after just six months.
The Frenchwoman, 41, took a job with the billionaire Livingstone family – owners of the stately home Cliveden.
THE AMERICAN SPIN DOCTOR:
Jason Knauf joined the royals in 2014, having acted as a ‘crisis management expert’ at the Royal Bank of Scotland.
The 36- year-old American, who completed his master’s at the London School of Economics, served as communications secretary to the ‘Fab Four’ of William, Kate, Harry and Meghan before the Cambridges and Sussexes created separate offices in March 2019.
Mr Knauf now heads William and Kate’s charitable foundation.
THE AMERICAN SPIN DOCTOR: Jason Knauf (left) walks behind the couple at the Invictus Games in Toronto
THE TOUGH TALKING AUSTRALIAN:
Formerly the Queen’s assistant private secretary, Samantha Cohen had planned to quit Buckingham Palace in 2018. Instead, she agreed to stay on and help the duchess through her first months in the Royal Family.
The well-liked but tough-talking Australian became the Sussexes’ private secretary, but left in 2019 to work for the environmental charity Cool Earth.
Meghan, Duchess of Sussex and Queen Elizabeth II (accompanied by Samantha Cohen) attend a ceremony to open the new Mersey Gateway Bridge on June 14, 2018 in Widnes, England
Other aides who have quit the Sussexes since their wedding:
September 2018: Senior comms secretary Katrina McKeever
January 2019: Female royal protection officer
March 2019: Assistant private secretary Amy Pickerell
June 2019: Two nannies leave within weeks of each other
January 2020: Sussex Royal charity foundation’s Natalie Campbell
JAMES HOLT: THE NEW EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE ARCHEWELL FOUNDATION
It was today revealed that Meghan and Harry’s UK PR chief James Holt (pictured) would take on the director role
Old position: UK PR spokesman
New position: Executive director of the Archewell Foundation
James Holt previously led communications for the Royal Foundation, the charity headed by the Cambridges.
Holt has worked at Kensington Palace for several years – as well as for the Liberal Democrats – and is passionate about many of the causes championed by Harry and Meghan.
He acted as Harry and Meghan’s UK spokesman and will now take on the role of executive director of the Archewell Foundation.
Holt, a BA Journalism graduate from the University of Lincoln, rose to the position of Head of Media for the Liberal Democrats in 2010 – and stayed in the role until August 2013.
He worked as Special Adviser to the Deputy Prime Minister – Nick Clegg – from June 2013 to January 2014, and moved up to become Head of Government Communications for the Deputy PM until September 2014.
He took on the voluntary position of Director of Communications for Pride in London between March 2016 and November 2017.
In October 2017 he took up the role of Senior Communications Officer for The Royal Foundation of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry – staying in the role for one year.
He then became Head of Communications at The Royal Foundation for one year, until September 2019.
BEN BROWNING: HEAD OF CONTENT FOR ARCHEWELL
Ben Browning, Head of content for Archewell Productions and Archewell Audio
New position: Head of content for Archewell Productions and Archewell Audio
Veteran producer Mr Browning has previously worked on films including The Big Sick, Arrival, Room and Late Night and is set to head up Archewell’s work with Spotify and Netflix.
Most recently, Mr Browning worked on Promising Young Woman, starring Carey Mulligan, which was nominated for five Oscars.
It is thought that Browning will be working closely with Spotify and Netflix to help bring Archwell’s creative partnerships to life, Harpers Bazaar reports.
Browning has been nominated for a BAFTA Award, Academy Award and PGA Award for his role in the production of Promising Young Woman, starring Carey Mulligan.
He had also previously worked as executive producer on HBO’s I Know This Much Is True, which stars Mark Ruffalo.
Browning said in a statement: ‘The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have founded a next-generation production company with best-in-class distribution partners in Netflix and Spotify, a clear agenda to inform and entertain, and an unparalleled global reach.
‘From the moment they shared their vision for Archewell as a global production company that will spotlight diverse voices and share uplifting stories, I knew I wanted to help with this unique opportunity.
‘It’s a thrilling company to be starting.’