Royal wedding turmoil as doubts swirl over Meghan Markle's father

Royal wedding turmoil as doubts swirl over Meghan Markle's father
PHOTO: AFP

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's wedding was in turmoil on Tuesday after a reported string of U-turns from her father over whether he will attend, just four days before the big occasion.

Thomas Markle had been due to walk his daughter down the aisle during the meticulously-planned ceremony at Windsor Castle's St. George's Chapel on Saturday.

He had decided against travelling from his home in Mexico to accompany his daughter due to his health -- and to spare her further embarrassment after a paparazzi scandal where he posed for staged pictures, according to celebrity news website TMZ.

Then on Tuesday, the site initially reported an about-face from Markle, who said he would try to attend after he had been contacted by his daughter via text -- before he revealed once more that his health was preventing him from attending.

"I hate the idea of missing one of the greatest moments in history and walking my daughter down the aisle," he told TMZ from hospital, where he was suffering chest pains, a week after reportedly suffering a heart attack.

The site later said Markle could not make the trip after all, thanks to a major operation scheduled for Wednesday to clear a blocked artery, repair coronary damage and put a stent in his heart to help keep the artery open.

Harry's Kensington Palace office issued a brief statement that did not mention Markle's heart drama, but said: "This is a deeply personal moment for Ms Markle in the days before her wedding.

"She and Prince Harry ask again for understanding and respect to be extended to Mr Markle in this difficult situation."

The palace could not be reached for further comment.

'Positive photos'

Thomas Markle told TMZ he had agreed to pose for a paparazzi photo shoot in a bid to rehabilitate his image, rather than for money, but that he now regretted the move.

The pictures -- in which he was being measured for a suit and admiring a photo of the future royal couple on his computer -- sold for $100,000 (83,000 euros), according to British tabloid the Daily Mirror.

TMZ said he had suffered a heart attack last week due to stress and that he was continuing to suffer from chest pains.

Markle senior said his ex-wife Doria Ragland would be a good choice to walk their daughter down the aisle in his place, according to the website.

Meanwhile, Meghan Markle's half-sister Samantha Grant, who has criticised the bride-to-be's relationship with her father's side of the family, revealed her dad was feeling "quite depressed" and had indeed suffered a heart attack.

"I don't know as of today what his plans are, but there's a very real concern," she told Britain's ITV television.

Whether he attends the wedding will be based on "whether or not it's safe" for him to go, said Grant.

She said her father had "suffered at the hands of the media" who had presented him "in the most horrible ways".

Staging the photos was intended to counter the way he had been "so unfairly presented in the media as being sort of shabby".

'Circus' in town

Kensington Palace's attempts to project a sense of serenity around the wedding preparations have been clouded by Markle's relatives, who have not been invited to Saturday's nuptials following stories of bust-ups, heavy drinking and an arrest.

Meghan's half-brother Thomas Markle Junior accused her of shunning the family in an open letter last month.

In what The Daily Telegraph newspaper called "the circus" surrounding the wedding, Tom Junior's ex-wife Tracy Dooley -- also not invited to the wedding -- rolled into London with her two sons Tyler and Thomas.

"We're here! Yay!" she said, posting pictures of London landmarks, after they were spotted pushing luggage through Heathrow Airport.

The Dooleys are reportedly appearing on ITV's Good Morning Britain programme as part of their royal wedding coverage.

US actress Markle, 36, grew up in Los Angeles and remains close with her parents, who divorced three decades ago.

Her 73-year-old father is an Emmy-winning Hollywood lighting director who retired to Mexico, while her mother, 61, is a yoga instructor and clinical therapist.

'Not so awful'

Ragland, who has reportedly already arrived in Britain, is expected to spend Friday night with her daughter in a plush hotel before travelling with her by car to Windsor Castle.

On Tuesday, Americans already in Windsor ahead of the wedding were sympathetic to their compatriot.

"It's disappointing for her," said Jean Rice, 48, from Orlando.

"But things happen. I hope they're happy."

Karen Yaney, 64, from Chicago, said she hoped Markle's father would attend.

"Staging those photos, that didn't seem so awful. I imagine she's on the phone with him trying to persuade him to come," she added.

Britain's Prince Harry to marry Meghan Markle

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    Britain's Prince Harry is to marry his US actress girlfriend Meghan Markle early next year it was announced Monday, with the Queen leading a chorus of approval and best wishes for the couple who got engaged in secret earlier this month.

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    "His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales is delighted to announce the engagement of Prince Harry to Ms Meghan Markle. The wedding will take place in Spring 2018," Clarence House, Prince Charles's office, said a statement.

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    The couple's engagement was sealed in London and the prince then informed his grandmother Queen Elizabeth II, close members of the royal family and had also sought the blessing of Markle's parents.

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    Britain's Prince Harry and his soon-to-be wife, American actress Meghan Markle.

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    The couple will live at Nottingham Cottage in London's Kensington Palace, where his brother William and his pregnant wife Kate live with their two children.

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    Harry's 36-year-old bride-to-be is best known for her role as a lawyer in the hit television show "Suits".

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    Reports that Markle, who is expected to become a duchess, was moving her two dogs -- Guy and Bogart -- to London further fuelled rumours of the first royal wedding since William and Kate in 2011.

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    The actress's parents Thomas Markle and Doria Ragland said in a statement they were "incredibly happy" and wished the couple "a lifetime of happiness."

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    "Our daughter has always been a kind and loving person," they said. "To see her union with Harry, who shares the same qualities, is a source of great joy for us as parents."

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    Prince Harry revealed Monday that he proposed to US actress Meghan Markle over roast chicken, and said she would be "unbelievably good" at her new royal role despite its pressures.

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    The couple said they were enjoying "a cosy night" at home in his cottage in the grounds of Kensington Palace earlier this month - "trying to roast a chicken" - when he got down on one knee.

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    "She didn't even let me finish, she said, 'can I say yes? can I say yes?' and then there were hugs," Harry said in the couple's first interview since the announcement of their engagement earlier Monday.

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    They revealed they knew little about each other when they were set up on a "blind date" by a mutual friend.

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    Harry said he had never heard of Markle, while the actress added she was largely ignorant about the British royal family and just asked of their friend, "is he nice?" The date went so well they immediately met up again before going camping together for five days in Botswana just a few weeks later.

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    "Then we were really by ourselves, which was crucial to me to make sure we had a chance to get to know each other," Prince Harry said.

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    They spent the first few months after that staying in, cooking dinner and watching television to avoid any public attention.

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    Bookmakers have already started taking wedding related bets, with Westminster Abbey a firm favourite to host the event and fashion label Alexander McQueen favourite to design the dress.

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