In Depth

Thomas Markle: who is he and what has he said now?

Prince Harry’s new father-in-law fears he may never see his daughter again

Meghan Markle’s father has said he fears he may never see his daughter again, and that the royal couple may now be “shot” of him after he breached royal protocol and revealed his new son-in-law’s views on Brexit and Donald Trump.

Thomas Markle has told friends he has not talked with his daughter or Prince Harry “in a long time” and is “heartbroken” at his growing estrangement from the couple since missing their fairytale wedding in May.

While increasingly distanced from Meghan, the retired lighting director met up with his son Tom Jnr for the first time in more than four years at the weekend.

The Daily Mirror says that the hour-long reunion “will pour even more pressure on the former actress to travel from Kensington Palace to Mexico to check on his health”.

Recently, Thomas voiced his irritation that Donald Trump will meet the Queen next week before he has had the chance to.

He said: “If the Queen is willing to meet our arrogant, ignorant, and insensitive president she has no excuse not to meet me, I’m nowhere near as bad.”

But it is the comments he made on ITV’s Good Morning Britain that appear to have most irked the royal couple and the palace.

What did he say?

Appearing on the morning breakfast show last month to give his first broadcast interview since his daughter married Prince Harry, Markle recalled the moment the sixth in line for the throne asked for his daughter’s hand in marriage.

“Harry asked for her hand over the phone and I said, ‘you are a gentleman, promise me you will never raise your hand against my daughter and of course I will grant you my permission’,” he said.

The former Hollywood lighting director was due to walk his daughter down the aisle, but pulled out of the wedding after becoming embroiled in a controversy over staged paparazzi pictures, eventually undergoing heart surgery.

Of the controversy, which dominated headlines in the run up to the wedding, Markle said he had spoken to the couple to apologise, adding “I realised it was a serious mistake. It’s hard to take it back.”

He added: “The unfortunate thing for me now is I’m a footnote in one of the greatest moments in history rather than the dad walking her down the aisle. That upsets me somewhat.”

He also hinted that his daughter was keen to start a family soon, saying she had wanted children for a “a long time”, and that “there’s got to be a child in the making somewhere soon”.

But in a break with royal protocol, Markle also revealed private conversations he had had with Prince Harry, including his views on Donald Trump and Brexit.

On Brexit, Markle said of Harry: “It was just a loose conversation... I think he was open to the experiment.”

He also claimed Prince Harry had told him to “give Donald Trump a chance” but speculated his new son-in-law might have changed his attitude towards the US president since the conversation.

Markle’s remarks “underline the controversy of Trump’s visit to the UK next month” says The Guardian, especially after the prospect of an awkward meeting between the president and the Queen was delayed when his invitation for an official state visit was postponed.

Buzzfeed says the 30-minute Good Morning Britain interview is expected to “ruffle the feathers of Kensington Palace”, especially the insights into apparently private phone calls with his new son-in-law.

So who is Thomas Markle?

Born in 1945, of Dutch-Irish descent, he grew up in Pennsylvania and met Meghan’s mother, Doria Ragland, in the late 1970s. He was a lighting director for a TV series called General Hospital, for which he later won two Daytime Emmys, and she was a temp at the studio.

“I like to think he was drawn to her sweet eyes and her Afro, plus their shared love of antiques,” wrote Meghan in an essay for ELLE UK on being mixed race.

The couple married in 1979 and Meghan was born on 4 August 1981, a half-sister to his two other children from a previous marriage: Samantha Markle and Thomas Markle Jr.

“They moved into a house in The Valley in LA, to a neighbourhood that was leafy and affordable. What it was not, however, was diverse. And there was my mom, caramel in complexion with her light-skinned baby in tow, being asked where my mother was since they assumed she was the nanny,” wrote Meghan in the 2015 essay.

They later divorced in 1987, but Meghan remembers how her parents “crafted the world around me to make me feel like I wasn’t different but special”. When a school teacher told her to tick the Caucasian box on a mandatory ethnicity census, he father told her: “If that happens again, you draw your own box.”

She credits her dad for inspiring her interest in acting and for supporting her when she was auditioning for roles. He reportedly scored a $750,000 lottery win when Meghan was nine, which helped jumpstart her career.

Thomas, who is spending his retirement in Mexico, met Prince Harry during a trip to Toronto, Canada, in 2016 and was apparently won over by the royal.

His son told the Daily Mail: “He’s pretty happy about Harry and he’s extremely proud of her. They have an amazing relationship, they’re very close and they always have been.”

Meghan has posted messages on social media about her father. She wrote on Instagram in 2016: “Happy Father’s Day, daddy. I’m still your buckaroo, and to this day your hugs are still the very best in the whole wide world.”

Why didn’t he walk Meghan down the aisle?

The weeks leading up to Harry and Meghan’s wedding were dominated by speculation about whether her father would or would not travel to Britain and walk her down the aisle.

Less than a week before the ceremony, he said he did not want to cause further embarrassment to his daughter or the royal family in the wake of a staged photo shoot fiasco.

It emerged that he had worked with the paparazzi to take photos of himself preparing for the wedding, including reading a book called Images of Britain and being measured for a suit.

The revelations were said to be deeply embarrassing for Kensington Palace, which had previously issued warnings to the media not to harass Meghan’s parents as they had no desire for publicity.

He then appeared to change his mind about attending the royal wedding after receiving messages from his daughter, but later confirmed that he would not be able to fly to the UK because of his heart problems.

In a statement issued by Kensington Palace before the wedding, Meghan said: “Sadly, my father will not be attending our wedding.

“I have always cared for my father and hope he can be given the space he needs to focus on his health.”

In the end, Prince Charles stepped in at the last moment to walk her down the aisle.

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