Thomas Markle’s five birthdays have come and gone since the Duchess of Sussex last spoke to her daughter Meghan. Today is July 18th. He is 79, an age when a man likes to keep his affairs in order.
But for Mr. Markle the girl he used to bring to the Hollywood studios where he would light the most popular shows on network television is just as profound today.
Of all the broken relationships that have marked Meghan and Prince Harry’s lives since their split from the royal family, the cruelest, surely, is how they abandoned the Duchess’s father.
There are no sophisticated palace operations or soothing words to protect an aging Tom Markle like Prince William or his father King Charles. Mr Merkel has to cope alone.
No wonder his public outcry at his treatment was bitter. But there is a sadness to bitterness, a regret for what might have been. Not only did he meet his son-in-law, but he was also stripped of his role as Archie and Lilybet’s grandfather.
Today, it’s been over a year since Mr. Markle was seriously ill, unable to speak after suffering a stroke. This is how Richard Kay described the situation at the time.
Proud and protective Thomas Markle with his daughter Meghan. The two seem to be cheating on each other
How different things could have been for not only Thomas Markle but Prince Harry as well.
Far away from home, returning to the kindly personality of his in-laws provided Harry with the stability he had clearly lacked since abandoning his own family.
And who better to guide her through the realities of life in a mixed-race marriage than Mr Markle. But none of this wisdom was available to Harry. Instead their relationship has been one of sour mistrust.
It hardly helped that Mr Markle offered his own uncompromising views on his daughter and her husband. Accusing Harry of being ‘extraordinary’ and ‘stupid’ who Meghan ‘whipped’ was unlikely to endear him to his son-in-law.
Still, this could not excuse Harry’s own behavior. This unhappiness has its roots in the weeks leading up to Harry and Meghan’s royal wedding in 2018.
Mr Markle was revealed to have collaborated with a paparazzi photographer on stage preparing for his wedding ceremony, from reading British history to getting fitted for a wedding suit.
Prince Harry and bride Meghan leave their 2018 wedding at St George’s Chapel, Windsor. Her father, Thomas Markle, suffered a heart attack and was unable to attend
Harry and Meghan, Duke and Duchess of Sussex, wave from their carriage in a procession through Windsor after the ceremony
Harry and Meghan with their first child Archie Mountbatten. Archie never met his grandfather Thomas Markle
It was silly, silly but hardly intentional. Ironically, this invasion of her own privacy came at a time when palace officials were sending a stern warning to the media not to harass her.
Indeed, it was hard to escape the conclusion that royal advisers failed to realize that this reclusive but thoroughly decent man would struggle to cope with the enormity of his daughter marrying into Britain’s royal family.
It seemed then – and it seems now – remarkable that no proper effort was made to prepare Mr Markle for the news, providing an aide to brief him or, better still, flying him to London and arranging for him to stay in a royal home where he can stay Adjusted before marriage.
But perhaps the most surprising failure was Harry’s. Even now, four years later, it’s hard to understand why Harry didn’t meet his girlfriend’s father in person, as any potential son-in-law would.
Harry (and Meghan) certainly had numerous opportunities to have a personal visit with his father – long before he started giving interviews.
On the eve of the wedding, when Thomas revealed that he was backing out of giving away his daughter due to heart problems, the relationship between the two men was turning sour.
Mr Markle said he hung up on Harry during a heated telephone call. While she admitted that Yuvraj had every right to scold her for the staged photograph, she described the timing of the call as ‘rude’.
Admitting to lying about the incident, he added: ‘There’s a time and place to say what he said but not when I’m lying in hospital after a heart attack.’ She claimed she ended the call after telling the prince: ‘Maybe it would be better for you if I died… then you can pretend to be sad.’ The anger had been there for quite some time.
He claimed that when the couple’s engagement was announced, two representatives from the British Consulate in Los Angeles visited the home of his ex-wife Doria Ragland – Meghan’s mother – to present her with a copy of the official scroll announcing the Queen.
‘No one has come to my door in Mexico,’ he complains. ‘I loved the engagement announcement too.’
Petulant perhaps but perfectly understandable.
Meghan and her parents, Tom and Doria, are pictured in happy times together
Sussex and Cambridge show unity after Queen Elizabeth II’s death. The couple’s relationship has broken down badly – but Thomas Markle is completely over it.
The Duke and Duchess stand by Wellington Arch as they attend the state funeral of Queen Elizabeth II
Yet during the Duke and Duchess’ interview with Oprah Winfrey last year, Meghan described the fake photo episode as feeling ‘betrayed’.
She said she asked her father directly if he spoke to the tabloid newspaper (pictured) and he replied: ‘No, absolutely not.’ She said he told her that ‘if you tell me the truth we can help’. According to Meghan, her father ‘wasn’t able to do it’ and she described his refusal to answer as ‘so hard for me to reconcile’.
By the time of the interview, of course, the couple had already slammed the door in Mr Markle’s face.
Yet instead of seeking reconciliation, the relationship unravels further.
In December 2018, Thomas claimed that he had been ‘ghosted’ by his daughter and that she had not responded to countless attempts to contact him. The situation worsened when details of a handwritten letter he sent her were published in The Mail on Sunday.
The Duchess sued the newspaper for reproducing parts of the ‘personal and private’ letter and it paid damages for copyright infringement.
Even then, a reconciliation was possible. Thomas wants to see his two grandchildren, Archie and Lilybet.
Not only three lives have been lost in this escalating tragedy, now five have been shared in this bitter dispute.
Harry has spoken of how sad he is that his mother, Princess Diana, never knew Meghan. How sad it would be if he never knew Meghan’s father.
Just imagine how much he could learn about parenting from the man who demonstrated a unique approach to teaching his daughter about her mixed-race heritage. Meghan proudly recalled how one Christmas day she opened a gift containing a Barbie doll, specially customized by Thomas to reflect her family – one black doll and one white.
The Duchess and Duke of Sussex at the 2022 Invictus Games. They seem determined to move on without Thomas Markle in their lives
Meghan, her mother Doria and Harry celebrate Archie’s first birthday
After her parents divorced in 1987 young Meghan lived with her mother but continued to spend time with her father who often took her to the TV studio where he worked.
Thomas made some investments when he won money in the California state lottery in 1990 but spent most of it on his children — Thomas Jr. and Samantha by a previous marriage — and paying Meghan to attend a Catholic high school.
These were formative years for Meghan as she lived mainly with her father. Of course, Doria was able to tell the Prince something about Meghan’s childhood, but a fuller picture would have to involve her father as well.
Is it really too late for Harry to put his past behind him and reach out to Mr. Markle? I don’t think so—but I’m afraid she might regret it if she doesn’t.
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