Kensington Palace was said to be “blindsided” on Monday after the US celebrity website TMZ claimed that Thomas Markle Sr, 73, would not be attending his daughter’s wedding to Prince Harry because he was embarrassed about colluding with a photo agency over “staged” pictures of himself. He was also said to have suffered a heart attack last week.
But Markle Sr has now “had a change of heart” after his daughter managed to contact him by text, TMZ reported. However, he is said to be in hospital after experiencing serious chest pains and there is doubt over whether he will be fit to fly.
Meghan Markle is said to have tried to call the retired TV lighting director after TMZ broke the news on Monday that he was pulling out of the wedding, but he was not near his phone. “She followed up with a text telling him she loved him and was concerned about his health. He says she harbours no ill feelings toward him for making a deal with a paparazzi agency to stage photos of him getting ready for the wedding,” TMZ said.
Markle Sr reportedly told the website he believed he had not committed a serious transgression over the photographs, though he called his behaviour “stupid”. He now wished to travel to the UK, he said. “I hate the idea of missing one of the greatest moments in history and walking my daughter down the aisle,” the site reports him as saying. He is now reportedly trying to persuade doctors to discharge him in time.
His daughter is understood to be very concerned for his wellbeing. Both she and Harry issued a statement on Monday calling for “understanding and respect” towards her father and for him to be allowed space. Mr Markle is believed to feel under immense pressure and to be finding the situation difficult to cope with.
As preparations for the wedding enter the final few days, his welfare is said to be paramount to the couple, while any impact on the ceremony is seen as secondary.
Mr Markle’s decision to collude with the photo agency was taken while under huge pressure, and it is understood that the couple believe it was merely a reaction to that pressure.
Both of Markle’s parents have been continuously offered security advice and help by Kensington Palace officials since news of her relationship with Harry first broke, it is understood.
Until late last year, Markle Sr received little attention because very few people knew his address in Mexico. Once that became public, the attention is said to have become intolerable.
Markle’s estranged half-sister has blamed “atrocious and intrusive” media attention for threatening his health.
Samantha Markle, 53, told ITV’s Good Morning Britain: “He was living a very quiet peaceful life, not as a recluse. He’s a very intelligent man. He’s been gregarious and worked in entertainment for 40 years.”
She described him as being “stressed out” by paparazzi renting the house next to his beachside home in Rosarito, Mexico, and that he could not open his blinds or go anywhere without being followed. He had called her, “panicking on the freeway because he’s in a dangerous situation being followed by seven or eight cars”, she claimed.
“Really it’s quite atrocious and intrusive and I think it’s highly unethical,” she said.
Meanwhile, the uncertainty means palace officials will be making contingency plans for Saturday’s ceremony. One possibility could be that the bride’s mother, Doria Ragland, 61, walks her down the aisle if her father cannot make it.
Ragland, a yoga teacher and social worker, is already due to travel in the bridal car. Though unusual, it would not set at royal precedent. Queen Victoria accompanied two of her daughters to the altar after the death of Prince Albert.