FIVE birthdays have come and gone for Thomas Markle since he last spoke to his daughter Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex. Today, July 18, he is the sixth. He is 78 years old, an age at which a man likes his affairs to be in order.
But for Markle, the break with the girl he used to bring to the Hollywood studios, where he rigged the lighting for some of network television’s most popular shows, runs deeper than ever.
Of all the broken relationships that have marked the lives of Meghan and Prince Harry since their separation from the Royal Family, the cruelest, surely, is how they discarded the Duchess’s father.
There hasn’t been a fancy palace operation or reassuring words to protect the elderly Tom Markle like, say, for Prince William or his father, King Charles. Markle has had to fend for himself.
Not surprisingly, his public outbursts over his treatment have been bitter. But there is a sadness in the bitterness, a regret for what might have been. Not only did he never meet his son-in-law, but he was also robbed of his role as Archie and Lilibet’s grandfather.
A little over a year ago today, Mr. Markle lay gravely ill, unable to speak after a stroke. This is how Richard Kay described the situation at the time.
A proud and protective Thomas Markle with his daughter, Meghan. The two seem to adore each other.
How different things could have been, not just for Thomas Markle but also for Prince Harry.
Away from home, having the kind figure of his father-in-law to turn to might have given Harry the stability he’s clearly lacked since he left his own family.
And who better than Mr. Markle to guide you through the realities of life in a mixed-race marriage. But none of this wisdom has been available to Harry. Instead, their relationship has been one of bitter mistrust.
It’s hardly helped that Markle has offered her own hard-line views on her daughter and her husband. Accusing Harry of being a ‘brat’ and a ‘jerk’ who is ‘spanked’ by Meghan would probably never endear him to her son-in-law.
Even so, this cannot excuse Harry’s own behavior. The roots of this unhappiness lie in the weeks leading up to Harry and Meghan’s royal wedding in 2018.
It was revealed that Markle collaborated with a paparazzi photographer to stage images of him preparing for the marriage ceremony, from reading up on British history to being measured for a wedding suit.
Prince Harry and new bride Meghan leave their 2018 wedding at St George’s Chapel, Windsor. His father, Thomas Markle, had 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 knew his grandfather, Thomas Markle
It was naive, silly even, but hardly intentional. The irony was that this act of invading his own privacy came at a time when Palace officials were sending out strict warnings to the media not to harass him.
In fact, it was hard not to escape the conclusion that the royal advisers hadn’t realized that this reclusive but utterly decent man would have a hard time dealing with the enormity of his daughter marrying into the British royal family.
It seemed then, and seems now, remarkable that adequate efforts were not made to prepare Markle for the news, providing an assistant to brief him, or, better yet, taking him to London and putting him up in a royal house where he could have done so. acclimatized before the wedding.
But perhaps the most baffling failure of all was Harry’s. Even now, four years later, it’s hard to understand why Harry didn’t meet the father of his girlfriend in person, as any future son-in-law would.
There must have been countless opportunities for Harry (and Meghan) to pay their father a private visit, long before he started giving interviews.
On the eve of the wedding, when Thomas revealed that he was not going to give away his daughter due to heart problems, the relationship between the two men was turning toxic.
Markle said that she had hung up on Harry during a heated phone call. Although he accepted that the Prince had every right to reprimand him for the staged photos, he described the timing of the call as “rude.”
While he admitted he had lied about the incident, he added: “There’s a time and a place to say what you said, but not when I’m in hospital after a heart attack.” She claimed that she had ended the call after telling the Prince, “Maybe it would be better for you if I were dead…then you could pretend to be sad.” The resentment had been bubbling for some time.
He claimed that when the couple’s engagement was revealed, two representatives from the British consulate in Los Angeles had visited the home of his ex-wife Doria Ragland, Meghan’s mother, to hand her a copy of the official scroll with the Queen’s announcement.
“No one came to my door in Mexico,” he complained. I also would have liked the engagement announcement.
Petulant perhaps but perfectly understandable.
Meghan and her parents, Tom and Doria, together in happier times
The Sussexes and the Cambridges showed unity after the death of Queen Elizabeth II. The relationship between the couples is badly fractured, but Thomas Markle has been completely removed.
The Duke and Duchess stand by the Wellington Arch as they attend Queen Elizabeth II’s state funeral.
However, at the time of the Duke and Duchess’s interview with Oprah Winfrey last year, Meghan described the episode of the fake photos as a “betrayal”.
She said that she had asked her father directly if he had spoken to the tabloids (about the photos) and he had replied: ‘No, absolutely not.’ She said that she told him that ‘if you tell me the truth we can help’. According to Meghan, her father “couldn’t do that” and described her refusal to respond as “so hard for me to reconcile.”
By the time of the interview, of course, the couple had already closed the door in Mr. Markle’s face.
Still, instead of seeking a reconciliation, the relationship fell further apart.
In December 2018, Thomas claimed that his daughter had “misled” him and that she had not responded to his countless attempts to contact her. The situation deteriorated further when The Mail on Sunday revealed the details of a handwritten letter she had sent him.
The Duchess sued the newspaper for reproducing “personal and private” parts of the letter and paid damages for infringing her copyright.
Even then a rapprochement might have been possible. Thomas longs to see his two grandchildren, Archie and Lilibet.
It’s not just three lives damaged by this escalating tragedy, there are now five torn apart by this bitter disagreement.
Harry has spoken about how sad it was that his mother Princess Diana never met Meghan. How much sadder will he be if he never gets to meet Meghan’s father.
Imagine how much you could learn about fatherhood from the man who displayed such 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 set of Barbie dolls, specially customized by Thomas to reflect her family: one black and one white doll.
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’ divorce in 1987, young Meghan lived with her mother but continued to spend time with her father, who often took her to the television studios where he worked.
When he won money in the California State Lottery in 1990, Thomas invested some, but he spent most of it on his children, Thomas Jr. and Samantha from a previous marriage, and paid for Meghan to attend a Catholic high school.
These were formative years for Meghan when she lived primarily with her father. Of course, Doria has been able to tell the Prince some of Meghan’s childhood, but a full picture must also involve her father.
Is it really too late for Harry to put the past behind him and get closer to Mr. Markle? I don’t think so, but if he doesn’t, I’m afraid he may regret it.