LONDON — Meghan Markle is now a fully fledged member of the Church of England after the American actor was reportedly baptized and confirmed in a secret ceremony at St James’s Palace in London this week.
Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby administered the holy sacrament in a 45-minute service on Tuesday evening at the palace’s Chapel Royal with her fiance, Prince Harry, by her side, UK media outlets reported, quoting the Daily Mail.
Kensington Palace has not made a public statement but Prince Charles and his wife, the Duchess of Wales, were also said to have been among the handful of guests in attendance.
Welby was reportedly asked to lead the service by Markle, 36, with whom he has developing a close bond after providing guidance on the rites and sacraments of the Church in recent weeks.
As part of the ceremony, holy water from the River Jordan was poured on Markle’s head, the Mail reported.
It was not necessary for Markle — who attended a Roman Catholic high school but was brought up Protestant — to convert in order to marry Prince Harry, but she announced at the time of her engagement that she would do so anyway before their wedding in mid-May.
Lambeth Palace, the official London residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury, decline to comment Thursday when asked about the service.
Markle’s formal acceptance into the Anglican Church is the latest arrangement by the royal couple ahead of their wedding in St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle in May.
The move appears to be a mark of respect to the Queen Elizabeth II, who is the head of the Church of England.
Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge and wife of Harry’s brother, William, was confirmed shortly before her wedding in 2011. Neither William or Catherine were present on Tuesday evening, the Mail reported.
The decision to conduct the rite at the Chapel Royal at St James’s Palace will hold special importance for Prince Harry. His body of his mother, Diana, the late Princess of Wales, lay there for a week prior to her 1997 funeral. More recently, it was the chapel chosen to host the christening of Prince George in 2013.
On Thursday, Prince Harry and Markle will visit Birmingham to launch a project aimed at inspiring female students to mark International Women’s Day.
The pair hope to encourage young women to pursue STEM careers at an event hosted by social enterprise Stemettes.
The pair have made numerous public appearances since their engagement as well as spending a traditional Christmas with other members of the royal family including the Queen and her husband, Prince Philip.
They also appeared along side the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge — dubbed the “Fab Four” by the British press — earlier this month to speak about the future of the young royals’ charity, the Royal Foundation.
Markle admitted the next few months would be busy with wedding preparations, but said she planned to “hit the ground running” in her work to empower girls and women in the UK following her nuptials.
Public invited to big day
Earlier this month, Kensington Palace announced that more than 2,600 members of the public will be invited into the grounds of Windsor Castle to share in the royal couple’s wedding day.
The invitees will be able to watch the arrivals of the bride and groom and their guests at St. George’s Chapel and to watch the newlyweds depart the castle on a carriage procession through the town of Windsor.
Thousands of people without specific invitations are expected to line the procession route through the town of Windsor, which is about 40 km (25 miles) west of central London.
The wedding will take place at 12 p.m. GMT (7 a.m. ET) on May 19 and will be officiated by the Dean of Windsor, the Right Reverend David Conner and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Kensington Palace revealed last month.