Meghan Markle’s parents, Thomas Markle Sr. and Doria Ragland, have been thrust into the public eye by virtue of their daughter’s marriage to Prince Harry. Whereas Ragland has kept a low profile and stayed out of the press, Thomas Markle Sr. has become the epicenter of controversy.
Thomas Markle’s two children by his first wife – Meghan’s half siblings – have repeatedly criticized Meghan in the news media. Now Thomas Markle, 73, has found himself in the midst of a photo staging scandal and has backed out of attending the Royal Wedding, where he was set to walk Meghan down the aisle, TMZ reports. 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.
“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,” Kensington Palace said in a statement. By May 15, Markle was saying he wants 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. However, later in the same day, he revealed he can’t go because he now needs heart surgery. It was all a lot of drama in the days leading up to his daughter’s nuptials.
This is what Tom Markle missed:
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Kensington Palace Said Thomas Markle Would Walk His Daughter Down the Aisle but He Says He’s Not Going
Before he was caught up in a photo staging scandal, Thomas Markle was headed to the Royal Wedding – to walk his daughter down the aisle. In early May 2018, Kensington Palace released a statement confirming that both of Meghan’s parents were going to the wedding and would play prominent roles in it.
“Prince Harry and Ms. Markle are very much looking forward to welcoming Ms. Markle’s parents to Windsor for the wedding,” the statement read. “Mr. Thomas Markle and Ms. Doria Ragland will be arriving in the UK in the week of the wedding, allowing time for Prince Harry’s family, including The Queen, The Duke of Edinburgh, The Prince of Wales, The Duchess of Cornwall, and The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, to spend time with them before the big day.”
The statement continued: “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.”
However, then, photos of the reclusive Thomas Markle, who is retired and living in Mexico, surfaced across the world. They showed him seemingly getting ready for the wedding by getting measured at a store, lifting weights on the beach, and staring at a photo of Meghan and Prince Harry in an Internet Cafe. The UK Daily Mail then revealed, however, that Thomas Markle appeared to have worked with a photographer to stage the photos. The next day, Thomas Markle announced he wasn’t going to the wedding after all.
Thomas Markle told TMZ that “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.” He also told TMZ the pictures are “stupid and hammy” looking and that he regrets the whole thing but was trying to change his image for the better.
Meghan’s half sister Samantha Grant Markle – Thomas’ daughter with his first wife – then remarked on Twitter: “The bad press over my father doing staged photos is my fault. The media was unfairly making him look bad so I suggested he do positive photos for his benefit and the benefit of the royal family. We had no idea he would be taken advantage of. It was not for money.”
In contrast, Doria Ragland has retained a low profile, although paparazzi pics sometimes surface of her doing mundane activities like arriving home with groceries or carrying yoga mats.
After the report about Thomas Markle not going to the wedding, TMZ posted another story stating that Thomas Markle had told the entertainment site that “he’s experiencing serious chest pains … this after his heart attack 6 days ago. He says the pains have been triggered by emotional upset. He specifically mentioned his oldest daughter, Samantha Grant, who has been shading Meghan in the weeks leading up to the wedding.”
Thomas told TMZ, “I’ve been popping Valium for the pain, especially when I hear about my oldest daughter.” According to TMZ, he said he hadn’t heard from Meghan and that his ex-wife Doria Ragland would be a good choice to accompany her down the aisle.
2. Meghan’s Dad Was a Lighting Director for a Soap Opera & She Wrote That He Was Drawn to Her Mom’s ‘Sweet Eyes & Her Afro’
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.
She wrote in Elle 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.
Markle 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.
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.
3. Doria Ragland Is a Yoga Instructor Who Divorced Tom Markle When Meghan Was 6
Both Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are children of divorce, which might be one shared experience that helps cement their bond. Doria Ragland, who has worked as a yoga instructor, was divorced from Thomas Markle when Meghan was 6-years-old, according to The Sun. It was Tom Markle’s second marriage, and he had two children – Samantha Grant Markle and Tom Markle Jr. – with his first wife. Both half siblings have been sharply critical of Meghan at times.
Doria Ragland is black and Thomas Markle is white; Meghan Markle has written publicly about her bi-racial heritage. “I was home in LA on a college break when my mom was called the ‘N’ word. We were leaving a concert and she wasn’t pulling out of a parking space quickly enough for another driver,” Meghan wrote in Elle Magazine in a poignant essay.
She added in the essay: “Being biracial paints a blurred line that is equal parts staggering and illuminating. 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.”
Prince Harry once caused controversy when he 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.” Meghan’s half-sister, Samantha Grant Markle, then retorted 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!”
4. Meghan Called Her Mom ‘Free-Spirited’ & Her Dad ‘Thoughtful’
The royal wedding has obviously caused a lot of stress to Meghan’s parents. However, she has spoken positively about both of them in the past, labeling her mother as “free-spirited” and her father as “thoughtful” and “caring.”
“Both my parents came from little, so they made a choice to give a lot,” Meghan also once said.
She told Glamour magazine of her mom: “We can just have so much fun together, and yet I’ll still find so much solace in her support. That duality coexists the same way it would in a best friend.” She wrote on her lifestyle blog that her mom refers to her as “flower.”
Meghan said on her mom to Glamour: “My mom’s a yoga instructor, but she does social work, as well, and she works specifically with the geriatric community. For me to watch this level of life-long sensitivity to nurturing and caregiving, but at the same time my mom has always been a free spirit. She’s got dread locks and a nose ring. She just ran the LA Marathon.”
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.”
5. Meghan’s Mom Doria Was Working as a Social Worker But Recently Quit Her Job
Doria Ragland was working as a social worker in the Los Angeles area, but, with the Royal Wedding looming, she has quit her job to start her own practice, according to US Weekly.
“Doria is no longer working at the mental health clinic in the Los Angeles area. It was Doria’s decision to leave,” a source told US Weekly. “She has talked about starting her own private practice, focusing on working with elderly patients.”
On Facebook, Doria Ragland writes that she works at Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services and Wise And Healthy Aging, went to Fairfax High School, and lives in Los Angeles, California.