For a bride and groom, the run-up to a wedding should be full of excitement and joy. There may have been a few nerves, too, for Prince Harry and Meghan Markle – not least because millions around the world would be watching the pair make their vows. But the royal had something else to contend with just days before he so publicly tied the knot: dealing with his estranged future father-in-law, Thomas Markle. And the heartrending messages that Harry exchanged to his bride-to-be’s dad would later be revealed in an official court document.
The contents of Harry’s texts were made public mere days after he and Meghan had sent a damning letter to the British tabloids. The Duke and Duchess of Sussex told editors of the Daily Mail, the Daily Express, The Sun and the Daily Mirror that they would no longer be engaging with them in any capacity. The pair also accused the newspapers of printing reports that were “distorted, false or invasive beyond reason.”
Yet Harry and Meghan did acknowledge the importance of a free press. The couple claimed that the media can “shine light on dark places, telling stories that would otherwise go untold, standing up for what’s right, challenging power and holding those who abuse the system to account.” Nevertheless, they didn’t believe that the tabloid press was adhering to these values.
In April 2020 a representative for the royals told The Guardian, “There is a real human cost to this way of doing business, and it affects every corner of society. The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have watched people they know – as well as complete strangers – have their lives completely pulled apart for no good reason other than the fact that salacious gossip boosts advertising revenue.”
And Meghan and Harry’s statement was delivered just a few months after they officially withdrew from their roles as senior royals. The pair shocked the world in January 2020 when they revealed that they’d be spending part of their lives in North America. It was also suggested at the time that they’d been pushed to their limits by the constant scrutiny of the tabloid press.
But, of course, that didn’t stop the papers in question from continuing to report on Harry and Meghan’s every move. And much of the drama surrounding the pair has often stemmed from the duchess’ relationship with her father. Indeed, Thomas Markle Sr. has often talked to the media since his daughter began dating the royal.
Thomas was first introduced to Doria Ragland, Meghan’s mother, at the end of the 1970s. “I like to think he was drawn to her sweet eyes and her afro plus their shared love of antiques,” Meghan claimed in a 2015 piece for Elle magazine. Then, in 1981, the pair became parents – although, in time, that family unit would ultimately disintegrate.
Sadly, Thomas and Doria split when Meghan was just six years old. But while the future actress resided with her mother following the divorce, she still regularly saw her lighting director father. In a 2013 chat with Esquire, Meghan said, “Every day after school for ten years, I was on the set of Married… with Children, which is a really funny and perverse place for a little girl in a Catholic school uniform to grow up.”
Apparently, Meghan’s father also helped her to come to terms with being biracial. In her essay on the subject for Elle, the star referred to the time when she was told by her English teacher to mark the Caucasian box on a census form. She continued, “When I went home that night, I told my dad what had happened. He said the words that have always stayed with me: ‘If that happens again, you draw your own box.’”
Thomas also helped to pay for his daughter’s Catholic high-school tuition after winning the California State Lottery in 1990. And while attending Los Angeles’ Immaculate Heart, Meghan developed the love of acting that would inform her early career. Her father even assisted in building the sets for the school’s plays.
The pair’s close relationship was tested, though, when Meghan moved away from Los Angeles for her role in legal drama Suits. At the same time, Thomas relocated further to the Mexican city of Rosarito Beach. But the pair still stayed in touch, and in 2016 Meghan allegedly attempted to help her dad financially after he was declared bankrupt.
Then, during a 2018 appearance on U.K. TV show Good Morning Britain, Thomas revealed how he had learned that his daughter was dating a prince. He explained, “Well, the first phone calls [from Meghan] were, ‘Daddy, I have a new boyfriend.’ And I said, ‘That’s really nice.’ And then the next call was like, ‘He’s British.’ And I said, ‘Well, that’s really nice.’ And eventually, the third time around was, ‘He’s a prince.’”
Thomas was also apparently more than happy to discuss how he had learned of his daughter’s engagement. On the same TV show, he divulged that Harry had requested Meghan’s hand in marriage before clarifying, “Actually, Meghan told me first, and at that time – then a few times after that – Harry got on the phone with Meghan. They called me together, and Harry asked for her hand over the phone.”
Thomas continued, “I said [to Harry], ‘You’re a gentleman. Promise me you’ll never raise your hand against my daughter. And, of course, I give you my permission.” But the former lighting director soon discovered that being the father of a future duchess brings a whole lot of press intrusion. During a chat with The Mail on Sunday, he once claimed that paparazzi had been camped out at his home for an entire week.
Things started to go further awry in the lead-up to the wedding when Thomas was pictured in his hometown preparing for the ceremony. It was later discovered, moreover, that he’d teamed up with a paparazzo and staged the photos in order to bag a cool $150,000 from the ever-interested press. And Thomas was soon left regretting his get-rich-quick scheme.
Supposedly, Meghan’s father had initially told his future son-in-law that he hadn’t staged the photos after having been confronted about them during a phone call. And the royal had some wise words to add during the conversation. “Harry told me that I should never go to the press – that it would end in tears,” Thomas explained to the Daily Mail. “[Harry] said, ‘They will eat you alive.’ He was right.”
Then, not long after the paparazzi drama, reports emerged that Thomas had suffered a heart attack. As a result, speculation as to whether he’d be a no-show at his daughter’s wedding reached fever pitch. And yet while Thomas initially decided to steer clear of the ceremony for fear of embarrassing Meghan, he would go on to claim that he still had ambitions of accompanying her down the aisle.
The saga continued when Thomas revealed that an upcoming surgical procedure on his heart had scuppered his plans for good. And he later told Good Morning Britain that he’d had a tearful phone call with Meghan and Harry about his no-show. Thomas explained, “[Harry and Meghan] were disappointed, but they both said, ‘Take care of yourself. We are worried about you.’ They said the important thing is that I get better.”
According to Thomas, however, Harry had later told him that his heart problems may have been triggered by his courting of the press. The father of the bride then claimed that he had responded, “Maybe it would be better for you guys if I was dead… then you could pretend to be sad.” And while reflecting on the fraught conversation, Thomas later said to the Daily Mail, “I’m not mad at Harry. I’m not mad at Meghan. I love them. I wish them well. But as for the rest of it, f**k it. I’m done.”
Fortunately, the matter appeared to have been sorted once and for all when Meghan revealed in an official statement, “Sadly, my father will not be attending our wedding. I have always cared for my father and hope he can be given the space he needs to focus on his health. I would like to thank everyone who has offered generous messages of support.”
Meghan instead asked Prince Charles to walk her down the aisle – a role that the royal readily accepted. Thomas was also pleased with the choice of fill-in, telling TMZ that he was “honored” his daughter was being accompanied by the future King of England. He later revealed to Good Morning Britain, “I was jealous, I wish it had been me, but thank God [Charles] was there.”
So, like millions around the world, Thomas had to watch his daughter get hitched on the TV screen – although he was still able to get caught up in the moment. Meghan’s father added to TMZ, “My baby looks beautiful, and she looks very happy. I wish I were there, and I wish them all my love and all happiness.”
Thomas further expressed his joy at the occasion during a June 2018 chat with Good Morning Britain. He said, “[Meghan] was beautiful. I cried a little watching her. I was very proud, and I couldn’t see a better moment in my life. The unfortunate thing now is that I’m a footnote in one of the greatest moments in history instead of a dad walking his daughter down the aisle.”
That’s not all Thomas revealed during the interview, either. While speaking to the show, he also disclosed that Meghan was interested in becoming a mother and that Harry was willing to give both Donald Trump and Brexit a chance. Unsurprisingly, though, his daughter and new son-in-law didn’t appreciate some of their secrets being aired in public this way.
In fact, Thomas would admit to TMZ that following his morning TV appearance, his relationship with Meghan had soured. He said, “I was silent for a full year, and the press beat me up every day saying [that] I was a hermit hiding in Mexico, so I gave my story [to Good Morning Britain]. Apparently, that interview put the royal family in their silence mode… so I gave another interview to break the silence. All they have to do is speak to me.”
In a chat with The Mail on Sunday later that year, Thomas also revealed that he’d made numerous attempts to heal the rift with his daughter via text messages and letters. He explained, “Meghan and I never had any problems before this. If she would just speak to me, things could be different. I love Meghan very much. I want her and Harry to have a beautiful, healthy baby and a great life. But I want them to stop believing the lies.”
Unfortunately, though, Thomas’ worst fears came true when he received a handwritten letter from his daughter expressing her disappointment at his conduct. This correspondence was later published without Meghan’s consent in The Mail on Sunday, and the reveal led the duchess to decide to take the British tabloid to court.
In the letter in question, Meghan revealed that her heart had been broken “into a million pieces” by her father’s constant interviews with the world’s media. She also called Thomas out for making up stories, criticizing Harry and taking the side of her half-sister. And referencing Samantha Markle’s constant press attacks, Meghan added that she had “silently suffered at the hands of her vicious lies.”
Then, during the court proceedings, Meghan decided that it was time she made some of her and Thomas’ correspondence public. In fact, the duchess revealed several messages in full that she and Harry had texted to her father before their wedding ceremony. This was done to prove that Associated Newspapers had misquoted the missives in a separate report and so had been instrumental in creating the family rift.
In the first disclosed message that Meghan sent to her father, she had written, “I’ve called and texted but haven’t heard back from you, so hoping you’re okay.” Then, the following day, she had contacted Thomas again after learning that he’d helped to stage paparazzi photos. A court document claimed that Meghan had been “trying to protect her father from heightened press intrusion and scrutiny and [suggesting] that he should keep a low profile until the wedding.”
Then, just a little over a week later, Thomas confirmed to Meghan in a text that he wouldn’t be making the wedding. And within approximately 30 minutes of that message being received, Harry attempted to phone his future father-in-law to no avail. After that, the prince texted, “Tom, it’s Harry, and I’m going to call you right now. Please pick up, thank you.”
A persistent Harry continued, “Tom, Harry again! Really need to speak to you. You do not need to apologize. We understand the circumstances, but “going public” will only make the situation worse. If you love Meg and want to make it right, please call me as there are two other options which don’t involve you having to speak to the media, who incidentally created this whole situation.”
Harry concluded the message by writing, “So, please call me so I can explain. Meg and I are not angry; we just need to speak to you. Thanks. Oh, any speaking to the press WILL backfire. Trust me, Tom. Only we can help you, as we have been trying from day one.”
However, a court document argued that The Mail on Sunday’s report about these text messages didn’t paint the full picture. Allegedly, the publication had failed to mention that both Meghan and Harry were trying to do their best to ensure that Thomas was both safe and well. The legal report also claimed that Thomas had been subjected to constant harassment by Associated Newspapers in particular.
But The Mail on Sunday justified publishing the letter at the center of the court case by claiming that doing so was in the public interest. The newspaper also implied that it was doing Meghan a favor, as the royals “rely on publicity about themselves and their lives in order to maintain the privileged positions they hold and promote themselves.”
The Mail on Sunday claimed, then, that Meghan didn’t have a “reasonable expectation of privacy that the contents of the letter were private and would remain so.” It was even argued that the duchess’ “elaborate handwriting” was proof that she knew others would read her words.
The resulting court hearing, which began in late April 2020, had to be conducted virtually as a result of recent global events. Reportedly, Harry and Meghan rose at 4:00 a.m. in Los Angeles in order to witness the first part of the case at the High Court in London. And many predict that the matter could evolve into a lengthy affair.
During the first day of proceedings, Associated Newspapers’ representative Antony White QC argued that Meghan had no grounds to claim that the press were being deliberately untruthful in the reporting of her letter to Thomas. He said, “It is extremely common for the media to summarize or edit documents when reporting current events, and that is not a basis for an allegation of dishonesty… There is no basis for her to allege that anyone working for the defendant was dishonest in the drafting and editing process.”
White also took issue with Meghan’s lack of direct communication with her father. He said, “In this context, it appears that the claimant has seen fit to put these allegations on the record without having spoken to Mr. Markle, verifying these allegations with him or obtaining his consent. She admits… that she has had no contact with him since the wedding.”
And while reflecting on the start of the court proceedings, royal commentator Camilla Tominey told NBC News that the duke and duchess may end up regretting taking legal action. She explained, “Harry and Meghan are going to have to give up more intimate details to prove their case, and therefore it does seem a bit self-defeating… The cat has already been let out of the bag.”