Like a wounded bear, Thomas Markle lurches between pain and anger. His only balm the tender words he reads over and over again. The familiar voice of his beloved daughter calling out from between the lines of her immaculate handwritten script.
‘Daddy, I don’t express as often as I should how much you mean to me,’ writes Meghan. ‘Everything you do for me has turned me into who I am and I am so grateful.’
In one of the last notes she sent, just months before she met Prince Harry, Meghan signed off: ‘I love you with all of my heart now and forever. Love Bean’ – her childhood nickname.
Prince Harry severely berated Mr Markle after he posed for photos before the royal wedding – contributing to their rift
Each heartfelt word reveals the true sentiments of a devoted daughter. Meghan’s love for Thomas Markle is as plain as day.
Yet today he is a pariah. At 74, in failing health in his twilight years, he is spending Christmas ostracised by his daughter. Heartbroken, cut off and cast out into the cold by an angry and indignant Meghan.
The irony will be lost on the new Duchess of Sussex, as she fine-tunes her favoured philanthropic causes, that charity, as the saying goes, should begin at home. But to her, Thomas has become an embarrassment and a rolling public humiliation.
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Unable to manage and control him, she has pulled up the drawbridge. Behind the castle walls she will not – cannot – be reached. While Thomas feels wounded, Meghan feels betrayed. She is unwilling to climb down from the battlements. Meghan’s Royal ambition is leaving a large and untidy wake.
She has in the past been accused of using people and then quickly moving on up the ladder, never looking back.
It may be harsh to say she’s ‘ghosting’ her father – the fashionable term used when someone cuts off all communication without warning or explanation. Thomas prefers to describe her behaviour as ‘acting up’. But what’s certain is that she has approached her new Royal life at full tilt, head down, powering through.
As Thomas says: ‘She was a control freak but never in a bad way – she was always sweet and kind.’
Mr Markle suffered two heart attacks, preventing him walking his daughter down the aisle at St George’s Chapel, Windsor when she married Prince Harry – who he is yet to meet
Meghan’s marriage to Prince Harry wasn’t simply falling in love – although that was the main impetus – it was a life transformation of unimaginable proportions.
A girl raised in a series of Los Angeles apartment blocks, who reinvented herself as a successful TV actress, is now reinventing herself as a princess.
Since joining the House of Windsor her personal style has got more regal and refined. She has made sure social issues are front and centre of her public persona, like her high-profile cookbook launch to help Grenfell survivors with mum Doria in tow. And, of course, she plays the Royal wife with aplomb, as we have seen on the couple’s dazzling tour to Australia and New Zealand. She is, as one source says, ‘putting everything into this’. And as Thomas observes, his perfectionist daughter has always liked to micro-manage her life.
Meghan knew her arrival in the Royal circle would be tricky. A divorcee, a woman with history, there was always the chance of a disgruntled ex speaking out.
What no one expected – and what has repeatedly wrong-footed Palace officials – is that it would be her immediate family who would prove to be the headache.
In a wide-ranging interview with Caroline Graham near his home in Mexico, Mr Markle revealed the anguish he feels at the thought of never seeing his daughter again
While Doria has been the personification of discretion, Meghan views her father’s meandering outbursts during this critical time as a reminder of where she came from – not where she’s going. And right now, she finds it unforgivable. A post she shared on her old lifestyle blog The Tig gives a telling insight into how she deals with such ‘negative experiences’.
She quoted Portuguese life coach José Micard Teixeira, who wrote: ‘I no longer have patience for certain things, not because I’ve become arrogant, but simply because I reached a point in my life where I do not want to waste more time with what displeases me or hurts me. I lost the will to please those who do not like me, to love those who do not love me and to smile at those who do not want to smile at me.’
This philosophy still drives Meghan’s thinking and has been firmly applied to her father’s behaviour.
Thomas Markle admits to ‘stupid mistakes’, including posing for paparazzi pictures before the Royal Wedding, but says that being frozen out by Meghan and Harry ‘is a punishment which does not fit the crime’. He has apologised repeatedly for the pictures, which included one of him being measured for a wedding suit.
‘I was a fool. I was convinced to do these pictures to change my image. I was sick of seeing schlubby pictures of me buying beer which wasn’t even for me,’ he says.
‘I apologised to Harry on the phone and all he said was, “If you’d listened to me, none of this would have happened.” I did a few things wrong, said a few things I should not have said. But some of the Royals have done far worse things… There are convicts in prisons who have murdered and committed all kinds of horrible crimes, and their daughters still visit them.’
From day one she has appeared to play favourites with her parents – Doria got an official Palace scroll announcing their wedding, Thomas didn’t. Doria was formally invited to the nuptials, Thomas wasn’t. And he was very hurt when told he couldn’t make a speech at the reception.
In most family feuds, it takes a third party – a husband or partner – to intervene, break the entrenched positions and tactfully suggest the offer of an olive branch might be the best way forward.
Harry should have been that peacemaker. But headstrong, unworldly and in thrall to his starry, beautiful wife he did nothing to calm the brewing storm.
Rather than respectfully meeting his father-in-law face to face before the couple’s engagement was announced, he chose a quick chat on the phone. Harry – or rather his advisers – had the chance to bring Thomas into the Royal tent before the world even knew Meghan and Harry were a couple. It was a dropped ball that has led us to this point.
When, only days before the wedding, Thomas foolishly agreed to stunt some photographs, Harry was on the phone again, this time to severely berate him. Thomas, recovering from urgent heart surgery and deeply embarrassed by his actions, pulled out of his daughter’s big day. Some Royal insiders suggested he faked the surgery to find an excuse, but, as we reveal today, it actually saved his life.
For Meghan, the joy of her Windsor Castle wedding shared by the world was a chance to put all the unpleasantness behind her. She decided to take a ‘time out’ from her Dad, but neglected to communicate that to him properly. Once again, he felt hurt and slighted and reacted angrily in a live TV interview.
Right now it’s hard to see Meghan giving ground. Just in practical terms she is heavily pregnant, working with interior designers and armed with swatch fabric and paint samples, to redevelop the couple’s new home, Frogmore Cottage, in time for the spring birth. She won’t be jumping on a plane to Mexico to make peace with her father in those circumstances. But with Thomas in ailing health, Harry needs to man up and fix what he inadvertently set off in the first place by failing to show Meghan’s father the necessary respect. Only then will Meghan and her father be reunited.
They are the words of love from a daughter who clearly adores her father. In a Valentine’s card, Meghan writes: ‘Daddy, Everything you do for me has turned me into who I am and I am so grateful. ‘All I want to do is make you proud… and I promise, no matter what, I’ll do it. Thank you for everything daddy. I love you with all my heart now and forever. Love Bean’ – her childhood nickname
And in a Christmas card, left, showing a colourful llama, she writes: ‘Because you have always been so generous with me… it brings me so much joy to be able to give you this this Christmas. I love you to no end. Meg.’ Inside was a gift of $2,000 for a holiday
Time is a great healer – but time is also something that we can never have enough of. Harry and Prince William spoke movingly last year of how they are haunted by their last hurried phone call to their mother, Princess Diana, the evening before she died.
They were eager to get off the phone because they were having such a great time playing with their cousins at Balmoral. Harry said in an interview: ‘I can’t really necessarily remember what I said but all I do remember is probably regretting for the rest of my life how short the phone call was.’
It’s a sentiment we have all felt in one way or another. A visit we never made, a call not returned, and suddenly the chance to say what we wanted to say is gone for ever.
Meghan is at heart a good and generous woman who is ambitious and could be critical in the reinvention of the Royal Family for another generation.
But what she cannot be is forever cast as the cruelly unforgiving daughter of a heartbroken and lonely old man.
And Harry holds the key to making sure that doesn’t happen – before it’s too late.
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