Royal Wedding: will raucous US in-laws out-sparkle Markle?

Britain's Prince Harry and his fiancée US actress Meghan Markle pose for a photograph in the Sunken Garden at Kensington Palace in west London on November 27, 2017, following the announcement of their engagement.
PHOTO: AFP

As Meghan Markle's gown undergoes final adjustments for her wedding to Prince Harry, her gaffe-prone American family has been sending royal courtiers into a spin by airing its dirty laundry in public.

The bride-to-be remains close with divorced parents Tom Markle and Doria Ragland but other relatives have been barred from the May 19 nuptials amid unwelcome stories of bust-ups, heavy drinking -- and even an arrest.

Markle, who grew up in the Los Angeles suburb of Woodland Hills, will be walked up the aisle by Tom, 73, an Emmy-winning Hollywood lighting director of Dutch-Irish descent who is enjoying retired life in Mexico.

Around the turn of the century, the future Duchess of Sussex was filmed as an aspiring teen actress by childhood friend Ninaki Priddy discussing her relationship with her father as they drove across LA.

"We aren't going to go there," she says on the video -- posted to YouTube last year -- as they near Tom's Los Angeles home, before adding: "We aren't on the best of terms."

There has been a detente in the intervening years, however, with Markle publicly expressing her love for her father in an Instagram message in 2016 and declaring, "Your hugs are still the very best in the whole wide world."

Markle's introduction to Hollywood came thanks to her father, who would bring her daily to the set of ABC's "General Hospital" and Fox sit-com "Married... with Children."

'Blurred line'

"There I was, behind the scenes of a glossy soap opera and a TV sitcom, surrounded by famous actors and their glam teams, multi-million dollar budgets, and crew lunches that always included filet mignon," Meghan wrote on her now-defunct blog, The Tig.

Tom reportedly put Markle through Hollywood's most exclusive schools and the private Northwestern University in Illinois after winning $750,000 in the state lottery in 1990.

He met Harry in Toronto in mid-2016 and took to the prince immediately, describing him on a video obtained by British tabloid The Sun as "a gentleman."

Markle's mother, a 61-year-old African American yoga instructor and clinical therapist, met Tom while working as an assistant make-up artist at "General Hospital."

The Ohio native has been through her own financial woes, according to the Daily Mail, which reported that she filed for bankruptcy in 2002 with assets of just $10,400 and credit card debts of $58,000.

"While my mixed heritage may have created a grey area surrounding my self-identification, keeping me with a foot on both sides of the fence, I have come to embrace that," Markle wrote in a 2015 essay for Elle magazine about being biracial.

She and Prince Harry revealed in an interview with BBC they'd spent much time with Ragland ahead of their engagement. "Her mum's amazing!" enthused Harry, who is sixth in line to the British throne.

There was speculation that Markle's father would be left off the guest list after the American star barred estranged half-siblings Tom Jr and Samantha, Tom Snr's children from a previous marriage.

Tom Jr, 51, who lives in Oregon, was arrested in January on suspicion of holding a gun to his girlfriend's head while drunk, although the charges were dropped and the couple got engaged.

'Princess Pushy'

The twice-divorced father-of-two says he and Meghan haven't been close since she moved from LA to Toronto in 2011 to start work on legal drama "Suits."

Relations are unlikely to have improved since Tom Jr sent Prince Harry a letter to call off the "fake fairytale wedding," arguing that his half-sister was "obviously not the right woman" for the royal.

"As more time passes to your royal wedding, it became very clear that this is the biggest mistake in royal wedding history," he said in the April 26 missive, which he shared with In Touch magazine.

He professed to be bored with Markle -- "like a below C average Hollywood actress" -- playing the part of princess and accused her of draining their father's money until he went bankrupt in 2016.

Samantha, 53 -- who lives in Florida and recently changed her surname from Grant to Markle -- is said to have angered the Markle clan with the announcement that she was planning a tell-all book called "The Diary of Princess Pushy's Sister."

Other members of the extended family include Thomas Jr's sons, Tyler, 27, and Thomas Markle III, who has berated his "crazy" father and aunt for their public feuding.

There is another half-nephew and an uncle, Tom Snr's older brother Frederick, who runs a Florida chapel that reportedly has little or no congregation.

Britain's Prince Harry to marry Meghan Markle

  • 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.
  • "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.
  • 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.
  • "The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh are delighted for the couple and wish them every happiness," said a message on the monarch's official Twitter page.
  • 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.
  • Harry's 36-year-old bride-to-be is best known for her role as a lawyer in the hit television show "Suits".
  • 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.
  • 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."
  • "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."
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • "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.
  • They revealed they knew little about each other when they were set up on a "blind date" by a mutual friend.
  • 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.
  • "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.
  • They spent the first few months after that staying in, cooking dinner and watching television to avoid any public attention.
  • 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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