Meghan Markle — who will wed Britain’s Prince Harry on Saturday — is not your typical princess (or princess-to-be). She’s an American. She’s a divorcee. She’s not white. She’s a feminist. The list goes on. For all of these things, she has received high praise from the media who are eager for Britain to welcome its first “vocally feminist princess” (Harper’s Bazaar). But now, in the days leading up to the wedding, something much juicer has eclipsed all that: the whiff of scandal. Because, while Meghan continues to carry herself with princess-worthy poise, the rest of us are wondering: what the heck is going on with her dad?
Let’s back up. The future royal is the daughter of Thomas Markle and Doria Ragland, who have been divorced since 1987. Thomas Markle is a former Hollywood lighting director who won a Daytime Emmy Award for his work on General Hospital. He currently lives in Mexico. Some sources say that Meghan and her father are close — Good Housekeeping reports that Meghan credits her dad with helping her feel at ease with her biracial identity — but the father and daughter have often been described as “estranged.” Either way, he was apparently all set to walk his daughter down the aisle until he became embroiled in allegations of staging paparazzi photos of himself.
In early May, photos of Markle surfaced that appeared to show him getting ready to attend his daughter’s wedding. The shots — which seemed to be candid images taken by paparazzi — showed Markle exercising, getting measured for his tux, looking at pictures of Harry and Meghan online, and sitting in a cafe looking at a book about Britain. The response was generally positive — Lisa Ryan, of The Cut, gushed that she was “madly, deeply obsessed” with the photos.
Meghan Markle's father, Thomas Markle, told American publication TMZ on Monday that he will not attend his daughter's wedding to Prince Harry.
— CNN International (@cnni) May 15, 2018
But then, last Sunday, Britain’s The Daily Mail published an article claiming that the photos were staged. The newspaper published images from security footage showing Markle arriving at the locations seen in the photos accompanied by a photographer the newspaper claims is paparazzo Jeff Rayner.
The Daily Mail also spoke to the “tailor” from the photos who turns out to be “17-year-old David Flores, a student who works part-time in a shop supplying tables, chairs and bunting for parties.” Apparently, the tailor shop Markle wanted to use was closed, so he asked Flores to help him out. Flores told The Daily Mail: “This big American guy got the measuring tape out of his pocket and he was saying things in English. I don’t speak good English but I understood what he wanted me to do. The photographer he was with stepped back to the street and started taking pictures.”
When the story broke, Meghan’s estranged half-sister, Samantha Markle — who has been milking every last drop of limelight out of her half-sister’s fame — went on British TV show Loose Women and revealed herself to be “entirely the culprit.” She said it was her hope that the photos would help endear her father to the world. Markle, for his part, admitted to gossip site TMZ that he did stage the photos because he’d been embarrassed by actual paparazzi shots that showed him looking “disheveled and reclusive.” Markle says he now sees that the photos were “stupid and hammy.”
In order to shield his daughter from further embarrassment, Markle said he would no longer attend the wedding. Samantha Markle — ever eager for more media attention — told Britain’s Good Morning Britain that the whole situation had made her father feel “depressed.”
— Good Morning Britain (@GMB) May 15, 2018
As all this was coming to light, Kensington Palace issued a rare public statement calling this a “deeply personal moment for Ms. Markle” and asking for “understanding and respect” for Meghan in this “difficult situation.”
Later that night Markle, complaining of chest pains, checked himself into a hospital. He told TMZ that he was “popping Valium for the pain.” But, while in the hospital, Markle had another change of heart: he will walk his daughter down the aisle! He told TMZ, “I hate the idea of missing one of the greatest moments in history and walking my daughter down the aisle.” All of this was contingent on his doctors allowing him to fly.
On Wednesday, Markle went into surgery to “clear blockage, repair damage and put a stent where it is needed.” When he came out he revealed that he would need to stay in the hospital for a few more days and that it would “take a long time to heal.”
Finally, on Thursday, Kensington Palace issued a statement from Meghan saying that her father “will not be attending our wedding.” Meghan said she has “always cared for” her father and she hopes he can be “given the space he needs to focus on his health.” Meghan also thanked her fans for their “messages of support” and expressed how much she was looking forward to “sharing our special day with you on Saturday.”
A statement from Ms. Meghan Markle: pic.twitter.com/TjBNarmuBU
— Kensington Palace (@KensingtonRoyal) May 17, 2018
So, who will walk Meghan down the aisle? In what CNN calls a “bold feminist statement,” Meghan will do it herself. “In an unprecedented step for a royal bride in the UK, Markle will walk unescorted down the aisle of the chapel nave, after being met at the West Door by a member of the clergy,” CNN reports. Apparently Harry’s father Prince Charles will meet her as she reaches the church’s Quire and walk with her to the foot of the altar but will stand back as she approaches Harry so as not to be seen as “giving her away.”
Apparently it was “always the intention” that Meghan would walk the first part of the aisle attended only by her bridesmaids and pageboys and that her father would meet her at the Quire as Prince Charles will now do. CNN says Meghan’s choice indicates that she is asserting herself as a “strong, independent woman who is prepared to challenge royal norms.”
Well, Meghan’s challenging royal norms, that’s for sure! The pair are set to wed on Saturday. Will there be any more drama? Who are we kidding? It’s a royal wedding! Who’s got the popcorn?