Meghan Markle’s father will not attend the Royal wedding to walk her down the aisle, it has been claimed, after it emerged he had collaborated with the paparazzi on a series of photographs.
Thomas Markle, 73, said he would no longer be attending his daughter’s wedding to Prince Harry on Saturday, where he was supposed to be taking a starring role to support her.
Mr Markle told American website TMZ that he had suffered a heart attack six days ago, but had checked himself out of hospital and had been intending to fly to Britain.
He will no longer make the journey to meet his future son-in-law Prince Harry, he said, or keep planned appointments with the Queen, Prince Philip, Prince of Wales, Duchess of Cornwall and Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.
The extraordinary decision raises the question that Ms Markle's mother, Doria Ragland, may walk her down the aisle, or that she will be accompanied by a member of the Royal Family or choose to make the journey alone.
Kensington Palace did not confirm that Mr Markle would be missing the wedding, but issued a statement asking for understanding.
A spokesman said: "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."
Ms Markle is understood to be distressed and deeply worried about her father, who has been struggling to cope with being in the spotlight as a result of her engagement.
She is now being supported by Prince Harry as she contemplates her wedding going ahead without him.
Palace aides, who have been attempting to provide active help to Mr Markle in dealing with media interest, have previously expressed concern about the pressure he had been under.
TMZ, the celebrity gossip website, quoted Mr Markle as saying he meant no harm to Ms Markle or Prince Harry after taking part in an arranged photoshoot with a paparazzi agency.
He allegedly claimed he had not made the decision because of money, but in order to recast his image after a series of unflattering photographs were taken.
“He's now decided not to go [to the wedding] because he doesn't want to embarrass the Royal Family or his daughter,” TMZ reported.
Hours earlier, Meghan Markle's half-sister claimed responsibility for a setting up a controversial paparazzi photoshoot for her father.
Samantha Grant, who is no longer in contact with Ms Markle, said she had suggested their father pose for "positive" photographs "for the benefit of the Royal Family".
Instead, the images caused deep embarrassment, appearing to show Mr Markle colluding with photographers despite Kensington Palace's repeated insistence that he was a private individual who had no interest in working with the media.
Ms Grant, writing on Twitter, said: “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.”
Appearing on Loose Women on Monday, she elaborated to say that she was “entirely the culprit” in staging the photographs, convincing her father that it would be to his advantage to show himself in a positive light.
“It was my suggestion that to benefit him and to benefit the Royal Family and that everyone looked good, and they depict you as you are,” she said.
Pressed on whether he had been paid for his cooperation, Ms Grant said: “I have no idea but if he did I’m going to assume it was a pittance, because they don’t pay that much.
“It was really so that the world could see him doing the healthy things that he’s doing.”
Asked about the effect on Kensington Palace, after aides repeatedly insisted Mr Markle did not wish to be photographed, she conceded: “I can understand why it would be awkward.”
Her brother, also called Thomas, has said that Mr Markle "won’t saying anything publicly but he’ll apologise sincerely to Meg and the Royal Family".
Mr Markle has been receiving the support of Kensington Palace since news of Ms Markle's engagement brought him into the public eye, with a source saying aides would “continue to make interventions with the media out of concern for his safety and security”.
Kensington Palace has previously issued warnings to the media not to publish pictures of Mr Markle or Ms Markles mother, Doria Ragland, taken under circumstances of harassment, insisting they had no wish to take part in any personal publicity.
But a series of photographs, printed in the tabloid press, aroused suspicion after showing Mr Markle exercising in public, reading a book called “Images of Britain”, being measured for a suit, and looking up pictures of his daughter in an internet cafe.
This weekend, the Mail on Sunday published CCTV images appearance to show him collaborating with a photographer, walking into the cafe with him and setting up the best angle.
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