Meghan Markle’s father, Thomas Markle, is a lighting director who divorced her mother when Meghan was six. He was supposed to walk his daughter down the aisle but then said he was no longer attending the Royal Wedding after a staged photo controversy and a heart attack. After a confusing week of back-and-forth on the issue, he eventually said he wouldn’t be going because he needs heart surgery. Meghan’s father made positive comments after the wedding about his daughter, while saying he hoped his family would “shut up” about the new Duchess of Sussex.
Thomas Markle, who lives in Mexico, was accused in a Daily Mail expose of setting up photos with a photographer that were sold worldwide. They showed him lifting weights, supposedly getting measured for a suit, and perusing photos of his daughter and Prince Harry at an Internet cafe. He told TMZ he was no longer going to the wedding to save Meghan embarrassment. Daily Mail then reported that Meghan Markle was pleading with her father to change his mind, saying that she and Prince Harry both feel that Tom Markle has been under extreme pressure and stress. By May 15, Markle was saying he wanted to go to the wedding after all if his health permits, and he told TMZ that his daughter had texted him a loving message and tried to call him. Later that same day, though, came word that he needs heart surgery and the final decision: He would leave it to Prince Charles to walk his daughter down the aisle.
This is what he missed:
Doria Ragland is the mother of Meghan. Ragland was seen leaving her Los Angeles-area home for the airport, and she was a strong presence at the wedding.
Meghan has written emotionally about her parents and about what it is like being a biracial person, and she has described how her father helped her stand up to people who demanded she choose one identity. Her father is white, and her mother is black.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Thomas Markle Met Meghan’s Mother in California While Working on a Soap Opera & Meghan Says She Got Her Nose & Love of Club Sandwiches From Her Dad
Meghan wrote about her childhood in an essay in Elle Magazine. In it, she says that her parents met in the late Seventies when her father “was a lighting director for a soap opera and my mom was a temp at the studio. I like to think he was drawn to her sweet eyes and her Afro, plus their shared love of antiques. Whatever it was, they married and had me.”
They moved to a non-diverse area of LA, where Meghan laments that her mother would be mistaken for the nanny, according to Elle Magazine.
Meghan “spent time on film sets as a child because her father Thomas was a lighting director on the series Married with Children and General Hospital,” reports UK Express.
She has described her father as the “most hardworking father you can imagine” and said, “My father was the lighting director on two television shows as I was growing up,” UK Express reports.
Although earlier photos of Tom Markle are somewhat scarce in the public domain, Meghan has shared a few of them on Instagram.
On a father’s day photo in 2016, Meghan wrote, “Happy Father’s Day, daddy. I’m still your buckaroo, and to this day your hugs are still the very best in the whole wide world. Thanks for my work ethic, my love of Busby Berkeley films & club sandwiches, for teaching me the importance of handwritten thank you notes, and for giving me that signature Markle nose. I love you xo – Bean.”
According to Daily Mail, “Harry also asked Meghan’s parents Thomas Markle and Doria Ragland, who divorced when their daughter was six, for her hand in marriage before popping the question,” and Meghan’s parents said in a statement, “Our daughter has always been a kind and loving person. To see her union with Harry, who shares the same qualities, is a source of great joy for us as parents.”
2. Meghan Opened Up About Her Bi-Racial Identity in the Magazine Interview
Meghan has written openly about what it is like being bi-racial, especially growing up.
The moving essay for Elle Magazine includes many anecdotes about her parents. The article discusses “creating her identity and finding her voice as a mixed race woman.”
She wrote that her father, Thomas Markle, had grown up in Pennsylvania and described how he insisted “If that happens again, you draw your own box” when a teacher tried to make her check black or white in an English class census exercise.
She recalled how her dad once customized two Barbie doll sets, so that she could have a mixed race doll family. “On Christmas morning, swathed in glitter-flecked wrapping paper, there I found my Heart Family: a black mom doll, a white dad doll, and a child in each colour. My dad had taken the sets apart and customised my family,” she wrote for Elle.
In the article, Meghan explains how people repeatedly inquire “where she is from,” when she knows what they are really after: “My dad is Caucasian and my mom is African American. I’m half black and half white.”
She eloquently wrote, “Being biracial paints a blurred line that is equal parts staggering and illuminating.” However, the essay is uplifting. She concludes, “While my mixed heritage may have created a grey area surrounding my self-identification, keeping me with a foot on both sides of the fence, I have come to embrace that. To say who I am, to share where I’m from, to voice my pride in being a strong, confident mixed-race woman.”
You can read the full Elle essay here.
3. Meghan’s Father Has Other Children & Thomas Markle Struggled With Financial Problems
According to UK Daily Mail, both Meghan’s parents have filed for bankruptcy; her mother in 2002 “over a $52,750 credit card bill,” and Thomas more recently. Her father has lived in Mexico, reports Daily Mail.
Markle has a half sister, Samantha, through her father’s first marriage, who has criticized her in the press, accusing Meghan of mistreating their father and calling her “narcissistic and selfish,” UK Daily Mail reports. As the wedding approached, Samantha could be seen repeatedly trashing her sister on television.
The half-sister, Samantha Grant, is the product of Thomas Markle’s first marriage to Roslyn Markle, and, at age 52, is considerably older than Meghan. Meghan also has a half brother, Thomas Markle Jr., who has defended and then trashed Meghan, according to UK Daily Mail. Grant’s mother, Rosyln, defended Meghan and told The Daily Mail that Grant once referred to Meghan’s mother as the “maid” because she was black.
Daily Mail reports that Thomas Markle Jr. remained close to Meghan even though he was arrested after he was accused of a “drunken altercation with his girlfriend.” However, the relationship shattered as the Royal Wedding approached and the only members of Meghan’s family to receive invites to it were her mother and father, even though many Hollywood celebrities made the cut.
Meghan’s half brother told Daily Mail that their father had met Prince Harry in Toronto and has given his stamp of approval on the relationship. It then emerged that Tom Markle has not yet met Harry after all.
More controversy ensued shortly after Christmas when Prince Harry said that the Royal Family was the family that Meghan had never had. That led to Meghan’s half-sister, Samantha Grant, who has repeatedly criticized Meghan, to do so again. Harry said of Meghan’s adaption to the Royal Family’s traditions, “She’s done an absolutely amazing job, she’s getting in there and it’s the family that I suppose she’s never had.” Grant wrote on Twitter: “She has a large family. She always did. Our dad is amazing and completely self sacrificing. We made it so that she had two houses. How fun it was!”
Then came the staged photo controversy. Meghan’s half sister, Samantha, claimed she gave their dad the idea for the staged shots to create positive press for himself and to help the Royal Family.
4. Meghan’s Mom has a Master’s Degree in Social Work & Her Parents Are Divorced
In 2016, Meghan wrote a tribute to her mom on Instagram, complete with a photo of her mother in a graduation cap and gown.
“Always proud of this beautiful woman,” she wrote on Mother’s Day. “This was when she graduated from USC with a masters in social work. Honoring my mom, Doria, and all the amazing mamas in our lives.”
Doria’s Facebook page says she works in social work at Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services in California. She says she went to Fairfax High School and lives in Los Angeles. She is friends on Facebook with “Meghan Markle Engelson,” which was Meghan’s married name (Meghan Markle is divorced from Trevor Engelson). However, Doria has now quit her job, possibly to start her own practice.
She had a whirlwind few days in England for her daughter’s wedding, including meeting the Queen and Prince Philip for tea.
On another mother’s day, Meghan referred to her mother on Instagram as her “hot mama.”
Meghan’s mother and her father, Thomas Markle, divorced when she was six, according to UK Daily Mail. She is sometimes photographed with her mother on the red carpet. According to UK Express, Meghan’s parents married in 1979 but divorced in 1987.
According to Hello Magazine, “Meghan is a yoga devotee and began practising at the age of seven with her instructor mother Doria Radlan.” On Facebook, Meghan’s mother goes by the name Doria Ragland, but many news sites give her last name today as Radlan.
In December 2016, Meghan and her mother were photographed walking together in Toronto with yoga mats.
5. Thomas Markle Revealed He Had a Heart Attack After the Staged Photo Controversy & Now Wants His Family to ‘Shut Up’ About Meghan
After the wedding, Thomas Markle told TMZ that he watched the wedding on television, adding, “The service was beautiful and it’s history. I will always regret not being able to be there and not being able to hold my daughter’s hand.”
He added: “My baby girl is a duchess and I love her so much. Now I pray that Harry and Meghan can go on a nice honeymoon and rest and relax, and all of my relatives will just shut up about everything.”
Thomas Markle told TMZ “he meant no harm to Meghan or the Royal Family when he made a deal to allow a photo agency to take pics of him getting ready for the wedding. He says he had a reason and it was not principally about money.” He told the news site that photographers had taken unflattering photos of him, making him look badly in the past.
According to TMZ, Thomas Markle told the entertainment site that “he suffered a heart attack 6 days ago but checked himself out of the hospital so he could attend the wedding. He’s now decided not to go because he doesn’t want to embarrass the Royal Family or his daughter.”
The photos had circulated around the world because Thomas Markle is regarded as a reclusive person. Suddenly, he was seen in shots doing everything from exercising to getting measured by a tailor (who turned out to be a teen recruited for the task, according to an expose in UK Daily Mail.) Daily Mail then alleged that Markle set up the shots himself.
Prince Harry’s communications secretary initially confirmed that Tom Markle will walk his daughter down the aisle. “Both of the bride’s parents will have important roles in the wedding. On the morning of the wedding, Ms. Ragland will travel with Ms. Markle by car to Windsor Castle. Mr. Markle will walk his daughter down the aisle of St George’s Chapel. Ms. Markle is delighted to have her parents by her side on this important and happy occasion,” a statement, released May 4, read. That obviously didn’t happen.