The disaster that is the relationship between the royal family and Thomas Markle Sr., the father of the Duchess of Sussex, just keeps getting worse.
This week, the front page of the British tabloid the Daily Mirror reported that Markle Sr. fears his daughter will never speak to him again, telling friends, “I think they’re shot of me.”
Although Markle professed himself utterly mystified by this turn of events, one has to wonder if the Emmy-award winning former Hollywood lighting director is really quite the naif he portrays himself as when it comes to the media gossip complex.
If he really isn’t sure why his daughter and her beau are miffed, maybe someone could show him a timeline of his recent media interventions.
In reverse order: Last week, on June 26, he was positively seething with outrage when he told TMZ: “If the Queen is willing to meet our arrogant, ignorant, and insensitive president she has no excuse not to meet me, I’m nowhere near as bad.”
The anti-Trump angle is definitely becoming something of a theme.
The week before, on June 20, he took what has been described as “a few thousand pounds” to give a tell-all interview with U.K. TV show Good Morning Britain.
Incredibly, he divulged the content of private, politically tinged conversations with Prince Harry to host told Piers Morgan. “I was complaining I didn’t like Donald Trump. He said give Donald Trump a chance, I sort of disagreed with that,” Markle said, before adding, “I think he was open to the experiment (of Brexit).”
Had Prince Harry, clearly on his guard, not given such studiously inoffensive answers to Markle Sr.’s obviously leading questions, Meghan’s dad’s ill-considered interview could have provoked a major diplomatic incident.
Meghan was said to be devastated by her father’s TV interview. Needless to say, he had not told her he was doing it.
Why did he do it? Allegedly it was to put his side of the story, but, rewind a little further, and observers will recall Markle Sr. did nothing but put across his side of the story during the run-up to the wedding, when he provided a running commentary to the website TMZ on whether or not he would be attending the ceremony.
The site ran rings around Kensington Palace, as the august institution was forced to dance to the brash Hollywood site’s tune. TMZ appeared to have a text hotline open to Markle Sr. at all times. Why did he talk to them? Who knows. The site has insisted it did not pay him.
The question mark over whether or not he would attend, of course, was initially provoked by the revelation that in the weeks before the royal wedding, he co-operated with a paparazzi photographer to stage fake candid pictures of himself, which he profited from the resale of. He said he wasn’t going to go to avoid embarrassing his daughter. But by the time the wedding day arrived, he was, he said, recovering from heart surgery.
Meghan issued an oddly unemotional statement saying she had always “cared for” her father—not “loved,” as social media trolls were quick to note.
Clearly Meghan has now decided the only thing to do is to cut ties with another problematic family member, and she may not have been discouraged in this policy by the palace.
The great unspoken fear at the heart of the Thomas Markle Sr. debacle is that, as he has clearly been selling himself to the media all along—we know he took money from the pap set-up and was due a share of the profits because he admitted it, we know he took money to spill on GMB—he might not be above profiting out of any future meeting or phone calls with his daughter.
Indeed, one theory circulating on Fleet Street holds that the palace circulated its infamous letter appealing for publications not to run the “intrusive” pictures of Markle Sr. lifting weights, being measured for a suit, and reading a book about English history not in ignorance of the fact they had been set up, but because they guessed they had.
By stopping the U.K. papers from running them, this theory goes, they hoped to punish Markle Sr. by reducing the fiscal advantage that Markle Sr. might derive from them.
There are suspicions that the pictures of his “emotional reunion” with his son, Tom Markle Jr., taken last weekend, are not 100 percent kosher either.
Samantha Grant, Meghan’s estranged half sister, said as much in a Twitter post after pictures of the two meeting for the first time in four years in San Ysidro, California, began circulating this week, writing: “My brother did NOT reunite with my dad—it was a set up.”
An experienced paparazzi photographer told The Daily Beast that he “wouldn’t be surprised” if a photographer had been tipped off.
Undoubtedly the royal family has screwed up, well, royally, when it comes to managing, or reaching out to, Thomas Markle.
The irony is that all this seems to be about relatively small sums of money. Every man has his price, and Tom Markle Sr.’s appears to be pretty low.
It’s unlikely Markle Sr., who was made bankrupt over a $27,000 credit card debt in 2016, would have been leaking like a sieve to the press and TMZ had he been offered some practical and relatively inexpensive help before the engagement was announced; a modest house, perhaps, and a small monthly stipend.
Harry and William have private fortunes of at least £30 million (nearly $40 million) each, and it’s nonsense to say that such an arrangement has never been entered into with troubled family members before.
Prince William reportedly helped out his parents-in-law when they wanted to buy a secluded English country manor house and interior designer Annabel Elliot counts her brother-in-law, Prince Charles, as one of her best customers.
He may feel he was treated shabbily, but few in the corridors of Kensington Palace have any sympathy for Meghan’s father. Trust, like reputation, is collected in drops and lost in torrents, and it may now be too late for Meghan’s dad to ever regain that precious commodity.