Inside the Palace's Problem With Meghan Markle's Dad

The trickiest part of the duchess' new life: leaving old problems behind.

By Sarah Grossbart Jul 17, 2018 10:00 AMTags
Meghan MarkleToby Melville - WPA Pool/Getty Images

Since becoming an official member of the royal family this May, Meghan Markle hasn't stepped one Aquazzura-clad foot out of line. 

Sure, a lot has been made of her so-called faux pas—her hesitation when climbing into a waiting sedan with Queen Elizabeth II, that time she briefly crossed her legs instead of her ankles and her ever-so-slight stumble when attending the wedding of Prince Harry's cousin. 

But by all accounts, the American-born former actress has gracefully slid into life in The Firm, studying up on local charities she'd like to work with, adopting a wardrobe of knee-length hems and fascinators and even perfecting an ever-so-slight British accent. She is, as husband Harry once predicted, "unbelievably good at the job part of it." 

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's Royal Wedding Day Photos

Her family, however, save for her exceptionally poised mother Doria Ragland, is leaving much to be desired. Once it became clear to Meghan that her romance with Harry would lead to a diamond, a title and life in Kensington Palace, her chief fear wasn't about giving up her Hollywood dream for a life of largesse. Nor was she particularly concerned with the intense scrutiny that would follow or abiding by a lengthy list of rules. Rather, she was most worried about "relatives who've screwed her over," a source told Us Weekly. "It's the one thing she's struggled with most since meeting Harry, especially after the engagement." 

After all, she had a half-sister—Florida-based Samantha Grant—who seemed intent on trashing her to the press, despite not having seen her in a decade. And Thomas Markle, Jr. spent the lead-up to the wedding alternating between penning open letters to Harry, urging him not to wed his younger half-sibling, and begging for an invite to the Windsor Castle affair. 


James Gourley/BPI/Shutterstock

Ultimately, though, it's been her father's actions that have proven most destructive. It's not that Meghan is to blame for Thomas Markle's increasingly hostile interviews, the latest of which came Sunday. One could argue having troublesome relatives only makes the non-blue-blooded American princess more relatable. But having to worry about when the former lighting director will launch into a diatribe next is just one more thing for the duchess to stress over as she embarks on her new, very taxing, very public role. 

Mostly, Imagining Diana author Diane Clehane wrote in an article for Best Life, Meghan remains flummoxed about why her father—the same man so determined to help her feel at ease as a girl that he created a custom doll set featuring "a black mom doll, a white dad doll, and a child in each color," she recalled in an essay for Elle UK—is making this transition so difficult. "Meghan does not understand why her father is doing all this," an unnamed friend told Clehane. "She is trying so hard to fit in and adapt to this very new way of life and she was once again blindsided by a father who supposedly cares about her and doesn't want to embarrass her." 


The first time was unpleasant, but ultimately forgivable. When Thomas copped to staging shots with paparazzi in an effort to clean up his image ahead of the wedding, Meghan was understandably disappointed or "hysterical" as one insider described her to Us Weekly, but she in no way rescinded her invite to have him walk her down the aisle at St. George's Chapel. As he stated his case to both Meghan and Harry and apologized for going rogue, "They were very forgiving," he would later reveal, and stressed again that they were prepared and excited for him to visit them at Kensington Palace and participate in their vows. 

Even after he continued to ring up TMZ, giving them quotes about each new twist and turn in the will-he-or-won't-he-attend saga, including the heart surgery that ultimately prevented him from making the trip across the Atlantic from his home in Rosarito, Mexico, Meghan was determined to let it go. The newly minted duchess phoned her dad up the day after her historic vows and there were rumblings she and Harry would soon be Mexico-bound so the prince could finally meet his father-in-law. 

DAVID HARTLEY/Shutterstock

And that could have been the end of it. But it seemed it wasn't enough for Thomas to have his daughter's approval, he was seeking affirmation from the whole world as well. 

So once again, he reached out to the press—this time Meghan's old pal Piers Morgan (according to Clehane they "had a casual friendship" while she was still on Suits) and his show Good Morning Britain. His aim, he stressed again during the June 18 appearance, was really just to clear his good name and do away with the image of him as a beer swilling, sweatshirt-wearing ne'er do well who was simply out to pocket some cash from willing photographers. 

Just one snag: he neglected to mention his little chat to his daughter, once again violating the please-don't-talk-to-the-press guidelines she and Harry had previously laid out. In fact, The Daily Mail reported the pair, along with the hordes of palace officials who work to clear and vet such interviews, were deliberately left in the dark. Still, he told Morgan and his cohost Susanna Reid, he hoped they'd "understand my feelings as well." 

<i>Good Morning Britain</i>

Not so much. Fresh off the African honeymoon, the newlyweds felt blindsided by his decision to speak out. "They were not given advanced warning," a source told ET. "They understand he has been harassed by the paparazzi 24/7 but it's hard for them to accept his apology when he's again taking cash." The proper thing to do, an insider told Us Weekly, would have been to at least give them a heads up as he "already did damage before the wedding." 

But rather than take responsibility for yet another misstep, Thomas doubled down. A week later, he once again made contact with TMZ. And this time he wasn't offering up apologies for stepping out of line or gushing about how "proud" he was to watch his daughter become a royal. Instead, he thought it best to lash out at her new kin. 

How dare Queen Elizabeth sit down for tea with "our arrogant, ignorant, and insensitive president" Donald Trump, he surmised, while giving him the cold shoulder: "She has no excuse not to meet me, I'm nowhere near as bad."

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's Visit to Ireland

Her majesty may beg to differ. It's not only Thomas inability to remain silent that makes him a liability, it's the topics he's choosing to speak on. Amongst the royal family, talking politics is simply not the done thing. There's a reason Buckingham Palace rushed to refute a report that The Queen was backing Brexit—England's decision to extricate itself from the European Union. 

And yet there Thomas was, claiming Harry "was open to the experiment" of Brexit and defensive of Trump. Asserted Thomas, "He said, ‘Give Donald Trump a chance.'"

With those words he may have lost any benefit of the doubt afforded him by the royals. Clehane wrote that one insider told her the palace was upset because of the "potential political fallout" over Thomas' claims about Harry's supposed views. And while generally the royals adopt a silence is golden policy in regards to outrageous claims, said the insider, "this time, their hand might be forced to issue a statement." 


As of yet, they've remained silent on the issues. But unfortunately, Thomas hasn't followed suit. Frustrated that his daughter has seemingly cut him off in the wake of his incendiary interviews, he's taking his rhetoric up a notch. In his latest on-camera interview, this time with British newspaper The Sun, the former Married...with Children crew member claims to know his daughter is unhappy with her new gig, despite his admission that he hasn't spoken to her in nearly two months. 

"My thing about my daughter right now is that I think she is terrified," Thomas told the newspaper in an interview released Sunday. "I see it in her eyes, I see it in her face and I see it in her smile. I've seen her smile for years. I know her smile. I don't like the one I'm seeing now. This one isn't even a stage smile—this is a pained smile."

Though he acknowledged he might be inferring a bit too much from a series of photos, "It really worries me," he insisted. "I think she's under too much pressure. There's a high price to pay to be married to that family."

Dominic Lipinski/Pool Photo via AP

Among the concessions, he opined, was having to trade her old mini skirts and v-necks for modest hems and bateau necklines. "Why in 2018 are we dressing like the 1930s?" he said. "Why do they have to cover their knees?"

But his overall gripe was the perceived slight against him. He was being shut out, he believed, for daring voice his opinions. "Anyone who makes a profit off the royal family becomes shunned," he said. "The royal family is living by rules that are outdated. Half of Great Britain seems to make a fortune selling pictures of my daughter and her husband. Are they shunned?" 

Because while manufacturers are raking in cash on everything from commemorative coins to royal wedding-themed aprons, he can't even get his little girl on the line. "Since the interview, the phone number that I call doesn't work anymore," he told The Sun. "The, I guess, liaison with the royal family never answers back, and there's no address I can write to so I have no way of contacting my daughter."

Chris Jackson/Getty Images

But should she simply reach out or answer the door when he comes knocking (because, yes, he said, he's toying around with simply dropping in on her at Kensington Palace) all will be forgiven. 

"My message [to her] would be, 'I love you, I miss you, I'm sorry for anything that went wrong,'" he said. "And I want to be her [future] child's grandfather and I want to be near them. I want to be a part of their life. I'd like to put our differences behind us and get together."

Should she acquiesce on that last point, may we suggest keeping the details private?