With the Royal Wedding only a few days away the build-up has been overshadowed by speculation about whether Meghan Markle’s father Thomas would be coming to give her away. Here’s the lowdown on the former ‘Suits’ star’s strained family relations.
What was Meghan’s early life like?
Like most fairy tales Meghan’s story starts in a land far, far away. She was born on the 4th August 1981 in Los Angeles to Thomas Markle, an Emmy-winning lighting director, and Doria Ragland, a social worker and yoga teacher.
Meghan has two older half-siblings from her father’s first marriage, Thomas Markle Jnr and Samantha Grant.
Like Prince Harry Meghan’s early years were tumultuous with her parents divorcing when she was just 6 years old.
Meghan attended a private primary school before studying at a girls’ Roman Catholic college.
Does Meghan get on with her family?
After graduating in 2003 from Northwestern University with a degree in theatre and international studies Meghan moved back to Los Angeles and began working as a model and actress.
The following year she met Hollywood producer Trevor Engelson whom she dated for 7 years before marrying in Jamaica in 2011, the same year she got her big break in US legal drama ‘Suits’. But the couple divorced in 2013 and Mr Engelson is now reported to be developing a sitcom about a man whose ex-wife and son move to England before marrying into the Royal Family.
Whilst it’s thought Meghan Markle is close to her mother, having taken her to a number of events it seems a rift has developed with the Markle side of the family. She’s estranged from her half-siblings having not seen elder sister Samantha for a decade. Her brother Thomas Jnr was arrested in January 2017 and charged with holding a gun to a woman's head during a drunken row.
How did the Markles react to the engagement news?
While Meghan’s father said he was excited about the wedding and proud of his daughter, her siblings, who didn’t receive invites, haven’t been as impressed.
Elder sister Samantha has given numerous TV interviews and posted Tweets criticising Meghan for not including the family in the celebrations. She’s even written a memoir called ‘The Diary of Princess Pushy’s Sister’.
Big brother Thomas Jnr hasn’t been supportive either, writing an open letter in April urging Prince Harry to call off the wedding describing her as a “jaded, shallow, conceited woman that will make a joke of you and the royal family heritage [sic]”.
What’s happened to the Markles with the media this week?
Over the past few weeks, photos started appearing in the media of Thomas Markle seemingly preparing for the role of father of the bride. We’ve seen him in a cafe reading up on British history, being measured for a suit, hiking with some weights to get in shape and even driving to ex-wife Doria’s house to leave some flowers as a peace offering.
At various points, Kensington Palace even intervened publicly telling the media to stop harassing Mr Markle.
But over the weekend reports appeared in the tabloids that these shots had been staged in a deal with a paparazzi photographer that may have benefitted Thomas Markle financially.
Thomas Markle then began speaking to the celebrity news website TMZ announcing he would not be coming to the wedding to save Meghan further embarrassment. He also claimed to have had a heart attack in the past few days.
This was highly upsetting for Meghan Markle and Kensington Palace seemed caught off guard when the story broke. They issued a holding statement which didn’t give away much but asked for “understanding” during what they called a “difficult time”.
On Tuesday Mr Markle spoke to TMZ again telling them that his daughter had reached out to him and that he now wanted to travel to give her away. But on Wednesday morning Thomas told the website that he needed to have a heart operation to clear a blockage and fit a stent meaning he’s unable to travel.
In a break with tradition Doria Ragland was set to accompany her daughter in the car from the hotel to St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle. Her father was then going to walk her down the aisle to give her away. Kensington Palace hasn’t given any update but it’s thought it will now be Doria who takes Meghan all the way to the altar.