Amidst a flurry of happy news relating to the royal wedding and Harry and Meghan's first post-wedding engagement, the day has ended on a very different note. Just hours ago, Meghan's father told TMZ he would not be attending the wedding and walking his daughter down the aisle as planned.
'Meghan Markle's father will not be walking her down the aisle Saturday ... he isn't going to the wedding at all because of the fallout over selling photos of himself ... TMZ has learned.
Thomas Markle tells TMZ, he meant no harm to Meghan or the Royal Family when he made a deal to allow a photo agency to take pics of him getting ready for the wedding. He says he had a reason and it was not principally about money.
Markle tells us over the last year he's been ambushed by paparazzi who have photographed him in the most unflattering circumstances ... buying beer, looking disheveled and reclusive. He's especially upset that they made him look like a lush. Thomas says he doesn't even drink beer ... he was buying it for the guards at the place where he lives.
He says since his daughter started dating Prince Harry he's been offered anywhere between $50,000 and $100k for interviews and he's turned all of them down.
Thomas says the paparazzi agency approached him, offered him money -- though nowhere near the reported $100k -- and he figured there was no harm in it and it would help recast his image.
He admits the pics look "stupid and hammy." He says he was just going along with the paparazzi agency, which he now deeply regrets.
And, Thomas says, he suffered a heart attack 6 days ago but checked himself out of the hospital so he could attend the wedding. He's now decided not to go because he doesn't want to embarrass the Royal Family or his daughter.'
The news follows a Mail on Sunday story which broke over the weekend confirming Thomas Markle had worked withk and received payment from, a photo agency and had participated in staging a series of photos in recent months. His daughter Samantha Markle later confirmed she was complicit in this and encouraged her father to do so.
TMZ confirmed they spoke directly to Mr Markle:
It very much appears this came as a shock to Kensington Palace who scrambled to deal with the onslaught of media enquiries that followed. Minutes ago, Kensington Palace released this statement on Meghan's behalf: "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."
Earlier today, Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall were photographed landing at Kensington Palace. No doubt, the Royal family are rallying around Meghan and offering her support.
Vanity Fair reports:
'Palace insiders tell DailyMail.com that the royal family was blindsided by the news and had not been informed of Thomas' change of heart prior to the publication of his interview. We can reveal however that Meghan’s father did not seek medical attention on the day of his 'heart attack,' and was instead inside his clifftop home in Rosarito the entire day.'
More from Sky:
'Sky's Royal Correspondent Rhiannon Mills said Prince Harry and Meghan had been "concerned" about the pressure had been under ahead of the big day.
She explained: "It is unusual to have a statement released like this on such a personal matter.
"In recent days there has been more speculation about relations between Thomas Markle and the media. Prince Harry and Megan Markle have been concerned about the pressure he has been under.
"I understand that Thomas Markle is not here in the UK. I also understand that Meghan's mother is not here in the UK either - she is due in the coming days."
Vanity Fair suggests Meghan's mother Doria will now walk her down the aisle:
'Friends of Meghan’s say she’s utterly crushed, and that they expect her mother, Doria Ragland, to walk her down the aisle on Saturday.'
The story dominates tomorrow's papers.
I'm mindful of how sensitive and incredibly upsetting this situation must be for Meghan and don't wish to add to any speculation until there's further confirmation from Kensington Palace. I will say, however, this must be such painful news for her; it was her wish to have her father walk her down the aisle. She has endured unimaginable betrayal from numerous family members. and during a week which should be the happiest of her life, this is quite simply awful. Certainly, questions need to be asked in relation to the reckless platform given to the Markle family by the media. I would add, it is terribly unfortunate this news was revealed via TMZ rather than a planned, coordinated statement from the Palace. The statement clearly indicated Meghan is concerned for her father's wellbeing; it's all very sad.
As crazy as all this is now, Harry and Meghan have the unwavering support of the Royal family, Meghan's mother Doria, and a host of friends who will be there on Saturday, not to mention the enormous support of the British public and all those around the world who support the couple.
UPDATE: Thomas Markle spoke to TMZ again telling them "he's experiencing serious chest pains ... this after his heart attack 6 days ago. He says the pains have been triggered by emotional upset. He specifically mentioned his oldest daughter, Samantha Grant, who has been shading Meghan in the weeks leading up to the wedding. Thomas tells us, "I've been popping Valium for the pain, especially when I hear about my oldest daughter." He said he plans to go to the hospital. TMZ adds:
"Kensington Palace was caught flatfooted by TMZ's story that Meghan Markle's dad will not walk his daughter down the aisle ... because we found out the palace had made elaborate plans for him. Our palace sources say the plans included a security detail for Thomas Markle, along with accommodations and access to various events."
UPDATE2: It seems Thomas Markle might be attending the wedding after all. TMZ spoke to him again: "Thomas Markle just told us he's back in the hospital after experiencing serious chest pains and doctors are performing a battery of tests on him. He says the doctors told him his heart was "seriously damaged" after his heart attack a week ago.Thomas tells TMZ Meghan tried calling him Monday but he was not near his phone. She followed up with a text telling him she loved him and was concerned about his health. He says she harbors no ill feelings toward him for making a deal with a paparazzi agency to stage photos of him getting ready for the wedding. As for the Queen being upset with him, Thomas scoffed, saying, "I don't think the queen is thinking about what I'm doing." Thomas says he's thought about it and now believes what he did with the photos was not a serious transgression, although he calls it "stupid." He says he now wants to make the trek to England, telling us, "I hate the idea of missing one of the greatest moments in history and walking my daughter down the aisle."
UPDATE3: A very interesting video with TMZ representatives who talked to Meghan's father.
#RoyalWedding News Update: Harvey's Calling B.S. On Meghan Markle's Sister!! #TMZ pic.twitter.com/u22nAdU3vK— TMZ (@TMZ) May 15, 2018
UPDATE4: News outlets report Thomas Markle will undergo surgery and will not attend the wedding. TMZ writes: "Thomas Markle is not going to walk his daughter, Meghan, down the aisle Saturday, nor will he travel to England, because we've learned he's dealing with something far more serious ... major surgery. Thomas tells TMZ, he will go into surgery at 7:30 AM Wednesday. He tells us, "They [doctors] will go in and clear blockage, repair damage and put a stent where it is needed. Thomas also says he believes the open letter his son, Thomas Jr., wrote to Prince Harry discouraging him from marrying Meghan is what triggered his heart attack."