Is Meghan about to cut all ties with her father? The Duchess of Sussex hasn’t spoken to Thomas Markle since THAT bombshell interview where he gave up details of private conversations with Prince Harry and now courtiers are at a loss over how to handle him
Of all the problems Meghan Markle anticipated in her transformation from actress to duchess after marrying into the Royal Family, this was surely the one she least expected.
So imagine what must go through her mind when she reaches for the telephone to call her father. Hardly a day goes past without a headline that seemingly emanates from the private thoughts of Thomas Markle.
Just this week we’ve had reports of his sadness at not receiving a Father’s Day card from his daughter and a bizarre outburst about Donald Trump’s meeting with the Queen next month. ‘If the Queen is willing to meet our arrogant and insensitive president,’ he was quoted as saying by the U.S. gossip website TMZ, ‘she has no excuse not to meet me, I’m nowhere near as bad.’
Meghan Markle, pictured with her father Thomas, is under pressure because of his constant outbursts on US media which have caused problems in London
All this has followed hot on the heels of his bombshell interview with ITV’s Good Morning Britain, in which he repeated private conversations he’d had with his new son-in-law Prince Harry and discussed Meghan’s desire to have children. It is, of course, an unwritten rule that the royals never discuss politics, yet here he was giving Harry’s views on Brexit and Donald Trump.
As upsetting as having such intimacies aired undoubtedly is for the Duchess of Sussex, she is also facing the accusation that she has now cut her father adrift.
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According to reliable sources close to 73-year-old Markle, the father of three has not spoken to either Meghan or Harry since his interview with Piers Morgan and Susanna Reid 12 days ago.
For his daughter there is understandable anxiety about whether she can call her father for fear that everything she says to him seems likely to appear somewhere or other in public.
It is a unique predicament for the royal family because, until now, in-laws have almost always been discreet — you need only to think of the sensibly silent Middleton family.
But discretion seems to be something that Thomas Markle either doesn’t understand or chooses not to understand. What an absurd, tawdry and decidedly unroyal mess the Markle affair has become.
Mr Markle, pictured, caused a scandal during an interview on Good Morning Britain
From the moment he announced he was pulling out of the wedding just days before he was due to walk his daughter down the aisle at St George’s Chapel, Windsor, the unworldly Thomas Markle has run rings round the so-called sophisticates of Buckingham Palace.
To begin with, there was nothing but sympathy for the retired Hollywood lighting director and his brutally honest explanation that after his collaboration with the paparazzi over staged photographs his presence at the wedding would be a distraction.
He admitted the collusion had been a ‘serious mistake’.
Then came the news that he had suffered a heart attack and was not well enough to travel to Britain even if he wanted to.
While this seemed a plausible — if convenient — excuse, there were the first stirrings of discomfort inside Kensington Palace regarding Markle’s habit of making his announcements via the media.
Meghan released a statement following her father’s heart attack that described the situation between the pair as ‘deeply personal’ claiming it was a ‘difficult situation’
They were soon to discover just how spectacularly he was wrong-footing them.
The furore over the fake photos, apparently designed to improve his public image, prompted an unprecedented official statement by Meghan. In it she described the situation between herself and her father as ‘deeply personal’.
She and Harry also asked for ‘understanding and respect’ to be extended to her father ‘in this difficult situation’.
So it was hardly surprising that Kensington Palace was kept in the dark about Markle’s TV interview to ensure he could not be persuaded to withdraw from it.
As for the man himself, he admitted he hadn’t warned his daughter or her new husband in advance but said he hoped that nothing he said would offend them and that the Royal Family would ‘understand my feelings as well’.
All in all it was an incendiary mix, and if it hadn’t already exposed Meghan to the icy displeasure of the royals towards anything which damages or undermines regal prestige, it was only a matter of time.
The extent of the interview, conducted live, left seasoned courtiers incredulous. The duchess, too, was said this week to have been completely ‘taken by surprise’ by his comments.
So what is going on, and what has happened to Markle and his relationship with his daughter after he spoke so openly?
In the shabby Mexican coastal community of San Antonio del Mar, a few miles south of the U.S. border with California, Markle has been telling friends of his disappointment about Kensington Palace’s silence.
One figure who speaks to him regularly told me: ‘He is feeling upset by that. Before the wedding there was a relationship.
‘He spoke to Harry a lot in the build-up, but since the interview, nothing. He feels shunned.
‘He thought they might have had plans to come out to see him by now but he hasn’t heard if there are. He doesn’t care if they don’t come for a while — he knows how busy they must be — he just wants to know they are coming.
‘At the moment he can’t go to them; the problems with his heart were real enough.’
Markle was admitted to the Sharp Chula Vista Medical Centre, just a few miles north of the Mexican border at Tijuana, where a stent was fitted. The hospital has a specialist unit dedicated to heart and vascular care and proudly boasts a ‘history of medical firsts’.
It was here that a doctor told Meghan’s relieved father he had reached them just in time after a dye, which was fed into his body through his groin, revealed a critical blockage in an area of the artery known as the ‘widow maker’ to cardiologists.
According to the friend, the senior doctor told him he would have died had he attempted the gruelling transatlantic flight to make his daughter’s wedding.
Markle has been trying to follow doctors’ orders since being discharged from hospital with instructions to lose weight, rest and watch what he eats.
I understand he has largely given up meat and is eating fresh fish. He has quit smoking, too.
Mr Markle had been invited to attend the Royal Wedding but an ill-conceived stunt in the press and a heart attack prevented him from travelling across the Atlantic
Friends also say he is not the heavy drinker he has been portrayed as. ‘Those pictures of him coming out of convenience stores with six-packs of beer are misleading,’ says a neighbour. ‘He doesn’t drink beer, he buys them for the security guards who look after the development where he lives.
‘He has a glass of wine but only with dinner. He isn’t in good health and he needs to take exercise.’
Markle hoped the TV interview would ‘set the record straight’ and show the world that he is not a hermit.
‘Tom is well-read and well-travelled, he has been to Europe before, has an encyclopaedic knowledge of Hollywood and is knowledgeable about the royals,’ says an acquaintance.
‘And when he speaks about Meghan his eyes glow with pride. He’s got a 20-year-old Volvo and the back seat is covered with celebrity magazines with Meghan on the cover.’
Since the interview he has been inundated with big money offers from around the world.
‘He is considering what he’ll do next. Will he do another interview? He just might.’
The danger is that if he does it may be the death knell for his relationship with his beloved daughter.
Long before the wedding, Harry and Meghan tried to persuade him to come to London and meet the royals.
‘Meghan told him just to get on a plane, he didn’t even need to pack, everything would be provided for him,’ says a friend who speaks to him frequently.
‘He said he felt he would just get in the way and he would come nearer the time. Meghan arranged for suits to be made under a false name by a Beverly Hills tailor and shoes had been ordered from [luxury English shoe manufacturer] Crockett and Jones. He told me he had written his father-of–the-bride speech in good time.’
Markle also told friends that Prince Harry offered to arrange for an official from the British embassy to be a ‘liaison’ figure for him — an offer he had declined.
In London this week it was suggested that the royal strategy was to do nothing in the hope that the storm would die down. In fact, royal advisers have met to discuss what they can possibly do, and there is concern about his long-term health.
Insiders say that Meghan will be forced to distance herself from her father
One idea was to provide Markle with a property and an allowance, but it was discarded early on. ‘There are other Markles out there and it might encourage them to come out of the woodwork,’ seems to be the refrain.
Instead, what seems to be inevitable is that if he continues to speak out, Meghan will be forced to distance herself from her father even further.
‘She’s a royal now — a cultural gulf is opening up between them,’ says one figure who has observed the crisis at close hand.
With all their experience of welcoming new blood into the family, the approach to Meghan’s father does seem to border on careless. I understand one Palace aide communicated with Markle only by text message — although that is Thomas’s preferred method of conversing, even with his daughter.
‘This is new territory for the royals, to have an out-of-control in-law,’ says a former courtier. When Sophie Rhys-Jones married Prince Edward, the Queen went out of her way to welcome her parents into the family, something that continues to this day with the Countess of Wessex’s widowed father, Christopher Bournes Rhys-Jones.
The same can be said, up to a point, with the Duchess of Cambridge’s parents, Michael and Carole Middleton.
The idea behind royal thinking can be gauged from a remark Prince Philip once made. ‘It is much safer to unburden yourself to a member of the family rather than to just a friend,’ he declared. ‘You see, you are never quite sure. A small indiscretion can lead to all sorts of difficulties.’
The question is, why wasn’t more effort made with Tom Markle? Clearly distance, the seven-hour time difference and Markle’s stubborn refusal to accept help have been big contributory factors. ‘He’s actually not as short of money as has been suggested,’ says one Markle source in Mexico.
‘He has a decent pension because the studios where he worked are unionised and he did long service, plus he doesn’t have any hobbies — certainly not expensive ones.’
While Markle remains off-line with his daughter, his relationship with website TMZ flourishes.
‘They report his views uncut,’ says a friend, ‘that’s why he goes to them.’
As for royal sensitivities about his comments, his friend says: ‘He doesn’t understand the protocol, all he wants is to see his daughter and meet his son-in-law.
‘The way he sees it, he’s the only Markle that counts — and he should count to them.’
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