In the week before the royal wedding in May, an unexpected amount of attention ended up being paid to the bride’s family, as Meghan Markle’s father, Thomas Markle, who had been scheduled to walk her down the aisle, ended up not making the trip to the U.K. at all. Thomas Markle, a 74-year-old former lighting designer who had been, up until that point, largely withdrawn from the public eye, began giving seemingly daily interviews to TMZ, updating the Web site about his condition and perspective. He informed the U.S.-based tabloid that he had staged the widely circulated photos of himself “prepping” for the wedding, in order to try to make some money and improve his image, and he later explained that he had had a heart attack, which was the reason he couldn’t make the wedding.
Meanwhile, Samantha Markle, Meghan’s half-sister and Thomas’s daughter, who has not seen or spoken to Meghan in years, also began regularly speaking to the press—and she did not have many nice things to say. (Samantha is also writing a book, which was initially called The Diary of Princess Pushy’s Sister, but now is going by the title In the Shadows of the Duchess.)
It seemed possible that once the wedding itself actually took place, Thomas, Samantha, and the other Markles (Meghan’s half-brother has also given a few interviews, the thrust of one being that Meghan would make an awful member of the royal family) would begin to recede. But, if anything, they seem to have only been galvanized by Meghan’s royal status. Thomas has started giving televised interviews (one to Piers Morgan), and is now threatening to show up in London to find his daughter himself. (Meghan, according to Thomas, has iced him out, after Thomas’s repeated interviews about his daughter.) And Samantha is joining U.K.’s version of Celebrity Big Brother, on which she will surely be finding all sorts of unusual new ways to discuss Meghan. Thomas has said he will not stop discussing his daughter, and Samantha has spoken only about how she is conscious of her “cashing in” on her connection to Meghan.
So what is the royal family to do about all of this? At the moment, the Palace has continued, as it always seems to do, to remain silent on the matter. A recent Us Weekly report, though, claimed that Meghan is chafing a bit, without any sort of social-media accounts or channels with which to express her own feelings or to help mitigate the mess. Would there be any possibility that, given the intense nature of the particular, current dynamic, the Palace might figure out a way to address the Markle of it all?
The way Vanity Fair’s Katie Nicholl, author of Harry: Life, Loss, and Love, sees it, the Palace is unlikely to shift its “no comment is the best comment” strategy. “I think they will ride this one out,” Nicholl said, predicting that “eventually the Markles will run out of things to say.” That’s not to say she doesn’t think the situation is challenging—Nicholl reports, however, that Harry and Meghan have the Palace’s full backing. “It is damaging. It’s not the sort of narrative the royal family—particularly Harry and Meghan—wants, but I understand the Queen has been very supportive of Meghan’s situation. On top of everything else Meghan is having to cope with—getting to grips with her new life and her new role, for starters—it must be very painful and difficult for her to have to watch her dad sell her out to the tabloid press. I’m told she’s surprised and very disappointed. The one thing she always told her dad was not to talk to the press.”
At this point, Meghan does not feel comfortable speaking to her father, Nicholl says, though it is possible she will change her feelings about this in the future. “The strategy thus far has been to stay quiet, and not to dignify anything the Markles say with a response. It might be that at some point, the Palace reaches out to Thomas Markle to try and forge some sort of reconciliation, but they will only do that with Meghan’s blessing. At the moment, she is standing firm that she can’t speak to her father, for fear anything she says might be leaked.” The Meghan-Thomas relationship is, according to Nicholl, on extremely thin ice: “Their relationship is hanging by a thread. His actions hint at a desperate man who wants to make amends, and maybe Meghan will be able to forgive him in time and recover their relationship.“
While it is possible to imagine other curveball options—maybe Doria Ragland could give that long-rumored interview to Oprah and address some of Meghan’s concerns?—for now, it seems like Meghan is in a bit of a tough spot, from a P.R. standpoint. Nicholl says it is likely Meghan will begin speaking more at public engagements and forums, though, of course, she will not be referencing family matters on those occasions. The Palace could eventually let Meghan and Harry have their own Instagram accounts as well, though it’s highly unlikely (as effective as it could potentially be) that Meghan would be able to use those accounts to respond to family members or press reports.
The waiting strategy could ultimately end up working out pretty well, though. As Nicholl notes, at a certain point, Thomas and Samantha—especially as they are reportedly no longer in contact with Meghan—might just . . . no longer gain the same traction. “Thomas Markle is at risk of losing his currency . . . The more he says, the less impact what he’s saying has, and the fact that he’s estranged from Meghan dilutes his value further. I think he’s also at risk of losing credibility and, when that happens, people will care far less about what he’s saying.”
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