Photograph: Tolga Akmen/Pool/Reuters
Confusion prevailed on Tuesday over whether Meghan Markle’s father will walk his daughter down the aisle to marry Prince Harry at Windsor Castle on Saturday after reports said that he will not attend the royal wedding.
Thomas Markle, 73, was quoted by some US media as saying that he would not attend the royal wedding to avoid embarrassing his daughter and the royal family after paparazzi shots of him seemed to indicate he had been paid to pose for photographers.
“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,” a Kensington Palace statement said.
It had been announced earlier this month that Thomas, a retired Hollywood lighting engineer who lives in Mexico, would walk his daughter to the altar at St George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle, where the 36-year-old former actress is set to wed Prince Harry, 33, in front of 600 guests and an international television audience of millions on May 19.
Before the ceremony, Thomas was expected to perform the duty of the meeting of the in-laws some time this week, when he was to join ex-wife and the bride-to-be’s mother, Doria Ragland, at tea with Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Charles and Camilla.
Ragland, a social worker and yoga teacher who lives in Los Angeles, is to accompany her daughter in the bridal car.
The 61-year-old is now expected to step into her ex-husband’s shoes and walk her daughter down the aisle if he is missing from the ceremony.
According to US celebrity website TMZ, Thomas has given his ex-wife his blessing to perform the duty.
He claimed to have suffered a heart attack due to stress six days ago and plans to check himself back into hospital over chest pains.
Meghan has previously heaped her father with compliments for investing in her future.
She has been quoted as saying: “The blood, sweat and tears this man who came from so little in a small town of Pennsylvania, where Christmas stockings were filled with oranges, and dinners were potatoes and Spam invested in my future so that I could grow up to have so much.
“It’s safe to say I have always been a daddy’s girl -- he taught me how to fish, to appreciate Busby Berkeley films, write thank-you notes, and spend my weekends in Little Tokyo eating chicken teriyaki with vegetable tempura.”
Meghan’s half-sister, Samantha, has since claimed she hopes their father will attend if he is well enough. She said the media had “raked him over the coals” and “distorted his image”.
“He had a moral right to set the record straight and defend himself,” she said.
Prince Harry is yet to meet his future father-in-law.
Meanwhile, Meghan’s extended family has begun arriving in the UK despite not being on the guest list.
Tracy Dooley, who was married to and had children with Meghan’s half-brother Thomas Markle Jr, was pictured at Heathrow Airport with sons Tyler, 25, and Thomas, 26.
It will cause some embarrassment to Meghan, whose half-brother had written an open letter warning off fiancé Prince Harry from marrying his “jaded, shallow, conceited” sister.
Dooley is expected to cover the royal wedding for an American broadcasting network and said she “will be in the front row cheering them on” in Windsor.