- Meghan Markle reportedly cut ties with father, Thomas Markle Sr., after the royal wedding.
- Since then, he has repeatedly given incendiary interviews and slammed the royal family.
- Meghan addressed her family drama for the first time in an interview with Oprah Winfrey.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Meghan Markle has gone through a dramatic transformation since meeting and marrying Prince Harry – but according to her father, her transformation has been more of a nosedive. Thomas Markle Sr. has repeatedly criticized the royal family in interviews and even offered harsh criticism about the Duchess of Sussex herself.
On Sunday, Meghan addressed her father’s “betrayal” for the first time in an explosive interview with Oprah Winfrey.
Here’s a complete timeline of the drama caused by Thomas Sr., before and after the royal wedding.
November 2017: It was widely reported that Meghan’s father had become a ‘recluse’
Just one day after Meghan and Prince Harry announced their engagement, the Daily Mail ran a story with input from Meghan’s half-brother Thomas Jr., which described Meghan’s father as a “solitary man” who is “hiding in a seaside town” in Mexico.
“Dad never liked the limelight but since the news came out about Meghan and Harry he’s become a total recluse,” Thomas Jr. told the Daily Mail. “I haven’t seen him in years. He hates the attention Meghan’s romance has brought on to him. He loves her but hates the idea of being in the spotlight.”
Business Insider later reported that, after retiring from Hollywood in 2011, the former lighting director now lives in a cliff-top house in Rosarito Beach – around a 15-minute drive from the Mexican/US border.
Despite Thomas Jr.’s previous claims in January, it was also reported – and confirmed by Meghan in her first interview with Prince Harry – that Meghan’s father had not yet met Prince Harry.
December 6, 2017: British tabloids tracked down Meghan’s father in Mexico and photographed him carrying cigarettes and beer
Amid rumors that Meghan and her father had a strained relationship, British tabloids traveled to Mexico to catch a glimpse of Prince Harry’s future father-in-law. The Mirror managed to photograph Thomas Sr. leaving a store, carrying cigarettes and a four-pack of Heineken .
It was the first time photos had been published of Meghan’s father since news broke about her royal relationship.
Two days later, Meghan’s half-sister Samantha Grant hopped on Twitter to clarify that he bought those items to give to the security guards where he lives.
“He does not smoke or drink beer,” she wrote. “Nice ambush losers.”
December 8, 2017: Meghan’s father told The Mirror that he would ‘love’ to walk her down the aisle
The tabloid newspaper published a video online of Thomas Sr., appearing to go about his daily business in Rosarito Beach, before stopping him for a conversation.
-Daily Mirror (@DailyMirror) December 7, 2017
“I’m very pleased. I’m delighted,” he said, adding that he could not say anything more. “I’m sorry. You know I can’t talk.”
Four months later, Kensington Palace announced that both of Meghan’s parents would play “important roles” in the wedding ceremony and confirmed that Thomas was set to give Meghan away at the altar.
May 9, 2018: An anonymous insider claimed Meghan and her father are in a ‘good place’ despite their ‘ups and downs’
“Meghan loves her dad,” a source close to Meghan told People . “Like any father-daughter relationship, there have been ups and downs over the years. But they are in a good place now.”
The source also disputed claims that Meghan had largely shut her father out of her life and ignored his financial problems.
“She’s been supportive of him in every way, including financially. She has paid many of her father’s bills over the years,” the source said.
May 14, 2018: It was revealed that Meghan’s father had accepted money to stage photographs for the paparazzi
Although Thomas Sr. told TMZ that he had a heart attack six days prior, the site reported that the reason he dropped out was due to a “fallout” over claims that he staged paparazzi photos. One report from the Daily Mail included security camera footage from an internet café that appears to corroborate these claims.
-Neil Henderson (@hendopolis) May 12, 2018
“Thomas says the paparazzi agency approached him, offered him money … and he figured there was no harm in it and it would help recast his image,” TMZ reported.
The posed photos of Thomas supposedly getting ready for the wedding included him intently studying “Images of Great Britain: A Pictorial Tour Through History,” a very public tuxedo fitting, and a casual outdoor workout.
“He admits the pics look ‘stupid and hammy,'” TMZ reports. “He says he was just going along with the paparazzi agency, which he now deeply regrets.”
Thomas Sr. also told TMZ that he had been offered anywhere between $US50,000 ($AU67,598) and $US100,000 ($AU135,195) for interviews since the royal engagement but, so far, turned all of them down.
That same day, Grant defended hers and Meghan’s shared father and took the blame for his scandal. She told ITV’s “Loose Women” program she had suggested he stage endearing photos to cast him in a positive light and, ultimately, “to benefit him and the royal family.”
“He told me, they have an obligation, an ethical obligation, to allow me to be portrayed as I am, living a healthy lifestyle, not caught in unflattering positions as media vultures had done,” Grant added the following day, during an interview with Good Morning Britain.
May 16, 2018: After changing his mind about attending the wedding, Thomas dropped out for the second time
In a third interview with TMZ, Thomas Sr. said he would have to skip the historic event due to unavoidable heart surgery that would prevent him from traveling.
Here are the three reversals, and when they happened. All were reported by TMZ, which appeared to be the only outlet Meghan’s father would speak to at the time:
- 10 a.m. on Monday, May 14: He said he would not attend the wedding to avoid embarrassing his daughter and the royals.
- 8 a.m. on Tuesday, May 15: He said he had changed his mind and would go to the wedding. He mentioned his heart problems, but did not seem to think they’d stop him from traveling.
- 2 p.m. on Tuesday, May 15: He changed his decision again, and said he would not attend the wedding due to urgent heart surgery.
The three reversals took place a total of 28 hours apart. Thomas Sr. reportedly underwent successful heart surgery later that day, during which he had a stent fitted.
“I’m OK. It will take a long time to heal. Staying in the hospital a few more days. Not allowed to get excited,” he told TMZ on the afternoon of May 16.
May 17, 2018: Meghan confirmed through an official statement that her father would not be attending the wedding
Meghan addressed her father’s absence two days before her nuptials. In an official statement distributed by Kensington Palace, the soon-to-be bride confirmed that Thomas Sr. would not attend her wedding.
“I have always cared for my father and hope he can be given the space he needs to focus on his health,” she wrote.
-Kensington Palace (@KensingtonRoyal) May 17, 2018
Meghan ultimately broke royal tradition by walking alone up the stairs and Nave of St. George’s Chapel. Prince Charles then joined her for the second half of the walk as she reached the Quire where the main royal guests were seated.
Meghan’s mother was her only family member in attendance. Thomas Sr. did not make a surprise appearance, as some suspected he might.
May 19, 2018: Meghan’s father told TMZ that he’s proud of his daughter and that he hopes his relatives will ‘shut up about everything’
Thomas Sr. told the website that he watched the royal wedding from his bed while recuperating from heart surgery, and that he “will always regret not being able to be there and not being able to hold my daughter’s hand.”
“My baby girl is a duchess and I love her so much,” he told TMZ. “When you watch your child get married, every thought goes through your mind, every memory from the first day she was born, the first time I held her.”
“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,” he said.
May 22, 2018: Grant chastised the decision not to present Meghan’s father with a royal coat of arms
Traditionally, the father of the bride is presented with a royal coat of arms – a heraldic design that formally recognizes that person as a member of the royal family – in the days preceding a royal wedding. Michael Middleton, for example, was given his own coat of arms before his daughter married Prince William in 2011.
Instead, Meghan was directly presented with her own coat of arms in a break from royal protocol – a decision that her half-sister called a “huge insult.”
“To exclude him off a coat of arms is really stripping him of an honor and it’s a huge insult,” Grant told The Sun. “After a heart attack that would be cruel and isolating.”
-Kensington Palace (@KensingtonRoyal) May 25, 2018
May 31, 2018: Thomas Sr. slammed reports that he asked Meghan for money and she refused
Meghan’s father told TMZ the rumor is “just plain bulls—.”
He claimed that his finances have never been a topic of conversation between the two because, as the website writes, “he leads a frugal life by choice and doesn’t need extra cash.”
“He says he’s got a decent retirement fund and doesn’t need his daughter’s help when it comes to money, but if he did he knows Meghan would help him out,” TMZ reported.
June 18, 2018: Meghan’s father sat down with ‘Good Morning Britain’ for his first broadcast interview
Thomas Sr. opened up about his daughter’s relationship and even a conversation he had with Prince Harry about President Donald Trump.
Thomas Sr. also claimed he made Prince Harry promise never to hit his daughter as a condition of securing his blessing for their marriage – although he confirmed that he still hasn’t met his son-in-law.
He also expressed regret for missing his daughter’s wedding and his affection for her new husband.
“I’m a footnote to the greatest moment in history rather than the dad who walked his daughter down the aisle. That upsets me somewhat,” Thomas Sr. said.
July 15, 2018: Meghan’s father pleaded with her to stop ignoring him
In an exclusive interview with The Sun, Thomas Sr. said he was worried he might die soon without patching things up with his daughter. He confirmed that he had not spoken to Meghan since a brief phone call after the wedding.
“I had a heart attack, doesn’t anybody care? I could actually die soon,” he said. “Does she want this to be the last thing we’ve said to each other? It is probably the longest time I have gone without speaking to her ever. I just want to clear the air and tell her how proud I am of her.”
Thomas Sr. claimed that he had no working phone number or address to contact Meghan. He said he had texted a palace aide to ask about his daughter but received no reply.
“If I had one message for her it would be that I’m sorry for anything that went wrong. I’d like to put our differences behind us and get together,” he told The Sun. “If I had a message for Harry, it’s ‘get over it.’ I’m your new father-in-law.”
July 16, 2018: He expressed concern that Meghan is buckling under the pressure
In an exclusive interview with The Sun, Thomas Sr. criticized the royal family, said his daughter looked terrified in her new role and bemoaned their lack of contact.
“My thing about my daughter right now is that I think she is terrified,” he said. “I see it in her eyes, I see it in her face and I see it in her smile. I’ve seen her smile for years. I know her smile. I don’t like the one I’m seeing now. This one isn’t even a stage smile – this is a pained smile.”
“That might be just having a couple of bad days. I don’t know. It really worries me. I think she’s under too much pressure,” he continued. “There’s a high price to pay to be married to that family.”
-The Sun (@TheSun) July 16, 2018
Meghan’s father also slammed the British royal family for having an outdated dress code.
“Meghan seems like something out of an old movie,” he said. “Why in 2018 are we dressing like the 1930s? Why do they have to cover their knees?”
That same day, Thomas Sr. claimed he had warned his family members to “shut up” and “back off” with their public critiques of Meghan. He also told The Sun that he was considering flying to England to make peace with his daughter.
July 29, 2018: Thomas Sr. slammed Meghan and warned he was ‘about to unload’ on the royal family
Thomas Sr. spoke to the Daily Mail for nearly nine hours over the course of three days, voicing incendiary opinions about the royal family as well as about Meghan herself. He described his daughter as “cold” and even suggested that “it would be easier for Meghan if I died.”
“What riles me is Meghan’s sense of superiority. She’d be nothing without me. I made her the duchess she is today. Everything that Meghan is, I made her,” he told the Mail. “I was… making good money, and could afford to give her the best, with a good school, good education, good home.”
“She became the woman that she is today thanks to everything I did for her,” he continued. “And did I get any recognition for it? Any thanks? She doesn’t even speak to me now. How cold is that?”
Thomas Sr. heaped extra blame on the royal family, who he said has been trying to make him “just go away.”
“I tell you, I’ve just about reached my limit on Meghan and the royal family,” he said. “I’m about to unload on them. They want me to be silent, they want me to just go away. But I won’t be silenced. I refuse to stay quiet.”
Thomas Sr. doubled down on his claim that the royal family’s wardrobe and protocol is outdated – and even shared his thoughts on Prince Harry’s mother, the late Princess Diana. He suggested that, although Diana is often credited with modernizing the royal family, Meghan might actually “bring them into the 21st century, if they’ll let her.”
Thomas Sr. also said that Diana would not approve of the way the royal family has been limiting his communication with Meghan.
“They have Meghan treating her father in a way that Harry’s mother, Princess Diana, would have loathed,” he said. “That’s not what Diana stood for.”
August 1, 2018: Sources claimed Meghan is ‘deeply hurt’ by her father’s words
Meghan and Prince Harry are reportedly angry at her father for divulging details of their conversations. The Daily Mirror reported that the couple is especially offended that Thomas Sr. would mention Diana, citing anonymous inside sources.
“Meghan is deeply hurt by what is happening and everything is being done behind the scenes to make sure her welfare is at the top of the agenda,” the source told the Mirror, adding that it has become “an increasingly desperate situation.”
August 6, 2018: It was reported that the royal family has a plan to stop the drama surrounding Meghan’s father
Advisers to Meghan and Prince Harry were trying to reestablish relations with Thomas Sr. to “get dad on board,” The Sunday Times reported, citing a former royal adviser.
The plan was a direct result of Thomas Sr.’s recent media rampage and string of deeply personal interviews.
An attempt by the palace to bring Thomas Sr. into the fold, which brings its own risks, was said to be one of three solutions palace officials were considering, the Daily Mirror previously reported. The other two were severing all contact or having Meghan reach out to her father directly.
“It looks so bad not to be in contact with [Thomas Sr.] in some way. It’s simply not a very elegant solution to cut him off and ignore him,” a former royal aide told The Sunday Times. “It may be more important to show him some respect.”
August 12, 2018: Thomas Sr. said he hung up on Prince Harry after a heated phone call
In another interview with the Daily Mail, Meghan’s father claimed he hung up on the prince after a heated phone call before the royal wedding.
He also admitted that he lied to Prince Harry about staging paparazzi photos after his son-in-law advised him to stay away from the press: “He said, ‘They will eat you alive.’ He was right,” Thomas Sr. told the Daily Mail.
After it was revealed Thomas Sr. had colluded with the paparazzi, Meghan and Prince Harry called him. Thomas Sr. said that Prince Harry told him, “if you had listened to me this would never have happened.”
He said he replied to Prince Harry: “Maybe it would be better for you guys if I was dead … then you could pretend to be sad. Then I hung up.”
Thomas Sr. told the website that, in hindsight, Prince Harry was “absolutely right” to criticize his decisions.
“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— it. I’m done,” he said.
He also told the Daily Mail that Meghan wouldn’t let him make a wedding speech and never sent him an invitation
In an excerpt of the same interview posted later on the Daily Mail website, Thomas Sr. claimed he never received a wedding invitation.
“At first I thought, ‘That’s OK, because I’m part of the wedding,’ but I would have loved to have had an invitation to put in a frame,” he told the Daily Mail.
He also claimed that he asked Meghan to invite his family members as a “nice gesture,” but “of course that didn’t happen.”
Although Thomas Sr. previously said he harbored no resentment towards either Prince Harry or his daughter, he said he was “hurt” that he would have been unable to make a speech at the royal wedding. According to Thomas Sr., Meghan said there would be “no room” in the ceremony.
“Like any father I wanted to say a few words,” he said. “I was going to thank the royal family for welcoming my beautiful daughter into their family. But it was a speech that I was never going to be allowed to give. That hurt.”
August 18, 2018: He compared the ‘cult-like’ royal family to Scientologists and ‘the Stepford family’
In another interview with The Sun, Thomas Sr. claimed the royal family is like “The Stepford Wives,” a 1975 horror film where women have been replaced with robots to be subservient to their husbands.
“They are either like Scientologists or the Stepford family,” he said. “If they hear anybody say anything they just lock the doors. They need to speak up!“
-The Sun (@TheSun) August 19, 2018
He added: “They are cult-like – like Scientology – because they are secretive. They close the door, pull the shades down and put their fingers in their ears so they don’t have to hear. Maybe they have a secret handshake too!
“You cannot ask a question of them – as they won’t answer,” he concluded.
August 20, 2018: It was reported that Meghan has no plans to ‘set the record straight’ on her relationship with her father
The Duchess of Sussex is “not going to engage” with her father, and has decided not to make public her attempts to offer him support, The Sunday Times reported.
“Meghan doesn’t think it’s a fair game between her father and the media so she’s not going to engage in it or instruct anyone on her behalf to set the record straight,” an anonymous source told the Times.
“There have always been fears over his vulnerability. Now he’s got himself into a cycle of talking publicly. It’s very sad,” the source added.
March 2021: Meghan addressed her father’s ‘betrayal’ for the first time
After stepping back from royal life in 2020, Meghan and Prince Harry sat down for an interview with Oprah Winfrey that aired on March 7, 2021.
In the two-hour CBS special, Meghan said she had been “silenced” by the royal family and incorrectly believed she would be protected from false reports and smear campaigns.
She also said everyone in her life, including her parents, had been directed “to always say ‘no comment.'”
The following day, CBS released additional footage from the interview, including a clip that shows Meghan discussing her father.
-CBS This Morning (@CBSThisMorning) March 8, 2021
She said there was an “obsession” with finding her parents after her relationship with Prince Harry became public, and slammed the British tabloids for hunting him down and “descending” on his life.
“I did everything I could to protect both of them in that media frenzy,” she said.
Winfrey asked if Meghan felt betrayed when she discovered her father had been staging photos with the tabloids.
“If we’re going to use the word ‘betrayal,’ it’s because … we called my dad and I asked him, and he said, ‘No. Absolutely not,” she replied.
“I said, ‘You know, the institution has never intervened with anything for us. But they can try to go in and kill this story. But if they do this once, we’re not going to be able to use this leverage to protect our own kids one day,'” she told Winfrey. “And I said, ‘So I just need you to tell me. And if you tell me the truth, we can help.’ And he wasn’t able to do that. And that for me has really resonated, especially now as a mother.”
“Not being willing to protect you,” Winfrey offered, to which Meghan nodded.
She also said it’s difficult for her to “reconcile” her father’s actions because she “genuinely can’t imagine doing anything to intentionally cause pain” to her son, Archie.
“Look, they’ve hunted my mom down,” Meghan said. “And you’ve never heard her say a word. She’s remained in silent dignity for four years, watching me go through this.”
She also briefly addressed her talkative half-sister and said they don’t know each other, nor did they grow up together.
“This is a very different situation than my dad. When you talk about betrayal, betrayal comes from someone that you have a relationship with,” Meghan said. “She changed her last name back to Markle … only when I started dating Harry. So I think that says enough.”