JUST one week ago I spoke to Thomas Markle, now fighting for his life in a California hospital. “I’ve just fallen,” he told me, from a pavement in Rosarito, his Mexican home. “Thankfully, some good people picked me up. I’m going to head home.”
During our friendly conversation, Markle, 77, spoke with unusual excitement about flying from San Diego to London for the jubilee celebrations.
“I’m coming to see the Queen,” he said with some pride. “We’ve got a lot to talk about.” Naturally, I did not disabuse of him about his fantasy of drinking a cup of tea with the monarch at Windsor.
More realistically, I mentioned he would be in the same city as his daughter and grandchildren.
Thomas has not spoken to Meghan since 16 May 2018, just three days before her glittering wedding. Since then, he has effectively been ghosted by both Meghan and Prince Harry.
Equally painful for Thomas is the fact he has not met his two grandchildren.
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The scenario of Thomas Markle being filmed by TV cameras standing outside Windsor Castle or near Buckingham Palace while Meghan, Harry and their children were just yards away was tantalising.
No TV station or newspaper across the world would have resisted the sight of a forlorn father trying to meet his daughter, a royal Duchess.
Especially because a TV company had agreed to pay for Thomas’s trip and had raised his hope of meeting the Queen and Meghan.
‘I’VE GOT AT BEST THREE YEARS TO LIVE’
The Markle family feud threatened to disrupt the Jubilee celebrations.
Now, with Thomas stuck in a Californian hospital, the Royal Family can certainly breath a sigh of relief. A major embarrassment has been avoided.
That is no comfort to Thomas Markle. Unable to speak because of a suspected stroke, he faces the prospect of living with permanent damage.
His life, already tough in an unattractive seashore bungalow in Mexico, is even more difficult.
“I’ve got at best three years to live,” he told me recently. “Markle men never live beyond 80.”
In a last ditch bid for reconciliation, he was desperate to fly to London this week.
But that of course begs the question. Meghan’s Montecito home is just over a four-hour drive to Thomas’ Mexican home. Now, her drive to the Californian hospital would take less time — just three hours.
The question is whether Meghan, who promotes herself as the champion of compassion, will bury her hatchet and dash to her father’s bedside.
“I love Bean,” Thomas told me when we first met, using the nickname he started using soon after Meghan’s birth. “Whatever she has done to me, don’t forget, she’s still my daughter.”
Fate, for Thomas, an award-winning former Hollywood lighting director, has an unfortunate way of repeating itself.
Emergency heart surgery prevented him flying to London to give his daughter away at her wedding in 2018.
Possibly, his health troubles were provoked by the pressure of the wedding itself.
But more likely he succumbed to the horror of the media’s exposure that he had secretly collaborated with a British photographer to stage snaps of himself preparing for his historic trip to London.
When his collaboration was exposed, Thomas denied the truth to Meghan. Once his lie was revealed, he repeatedly apologised to his daughter.
The last text messages between the daughter and her father in hospital seemed to suggest that Meghan accepted his sorrow. But just on the eve of her wedding, Meghan snapped.
Lying in the same hospital bed after surgery as now, Thomas suspected that in 2018 Harry and Meghan had not believed that he was really ill.
He believed they suspected he had staged his illness to avoid coming to Britain.
Their last telephone call ended acrimoniously. Hearing Meghan cry, Thomas had snapped: “Maybe it would be better for you guys if I was dead.”
In front of the world, and the Royal Family, Meghan cringed with embarrassment.
To show his illness was genuine, Thomas gave me his hospital records to prove why he could not fly to London for the wedding. But he also talked about his fury neither Harry nor Meghan asked about his health. “They didn’t seem to care,” he told me.
Then, over the following days and weeks after he left hospital, Thomas gradually came to a life-shattering conclusion. He believed Meghan was brutally spurning the man who had lovingly cared for her throughout her childhood and during her student years
The reason why her father’s telephone calls or text messages were not answered has never been properly explained.
Until her first marriage, to Trevor Engelson, a Hollywood film producer, Meghan repeatedly acknowledged Thomas’ financial and personal sacrifice to give her a secure home and pay for her good education.
That generosity was particularly pertinent because Meghan’s mother, Doria, was largely absent from Meghan’s life during her school years.
Meghan’s love for Thomas was recorded in endless letters and even Valentine’s cards she sent to her father.
Her bombardment of appreciation continued even during her 20s, as she struggled to become a Hollywood film star.
After each unsuccessful audition, Thomas consoled his daughter that rejection was not terrible, but part of the process. “I gave her money for her car,” he recalled, “I built a dark room for her because she wanted to do photography, and I gave money for her first wedding.”
Their relationship began to suffer after Meghan moved to Toronto in 2011 to star in TV drama Suits. Over the years, they spoke at most once a week, but met rarely.
Seven years later, after Meghan met Harry, Thomas no longer enjoyed the same close relationship with Meghan. Not surprisingly, his 34-year-old daughter was focused on her own life. But perhaps no one in Britain understood the real Meghan.
On her wedding day, few wanted to openly draw any malign conclusions that none of Meghan’s extended family were in St George’s chapel, or question why her mother Doria, sat silently alone.
Not even a friend had accompanied her from Los Angeles.
At the time, Samantha Markle, her half-sister, stated that the Royal Family would be treated in the same upsetting way by Meghan as she treated her own family.
Few wanted to believe that painful prediction of exclusion — Harry estranged from his own family.
Now, the world knows better — except that no one knows just what will happen once the Sussexes arrive in London next week.
Negotiating the Sussexes’ presence has been bizarre. In an unprecedented move, Harry sued in the High Court after his Scotland Yard security protection was withdrawn when he was in the UK.
Then he secretly met the Queen in Windsor, apparently to secure her agreement that he and Meghan would appear with the Royal Family on the balcony during the jubilee Trooping of the Colour.
He even promised to bring his children to meet their great-grandmother.
The Queen was undoubtedly thrilled by the prospect, but Princes Charles and William were suspicious, especially after Harry told an American TV interviewer that he had concerns whether the Queen is properly protected by her advisors — and, by extension, his own father and brother!
The final straw was Harry refusing to say whether he “missed” Charles and William.
Of course, all this was playing out in parallel with the Sussexes’ all-important contract with Netflix.
Finally, the Sussexes have admitted they are starring in a multi-part invasive Netflix documentary about their personal lives.
Netflix cameras have followed them to New York and Holland for the recent Invictus Games.
What’s missing are intimate shots of the Sussexes with the Queen. Hollywood surely needs that proximity to justify the huge budget.
And the Sussexes need the shots to boost their lucrative but waning status as royals.
So Harry and Meghan were no doubt shocked when the Palace announced the Sussexes would not be appearing on the balcony with the Queen, Charles and William.
THOMAS LIVES IN HOPE ‘BEAN’ WILL WALK IN
Just 18 minutes after Harry’s request was publicly rejected, the Sussexes rushed to accept the invitation to come to London for the celebrations.
The Sussexes and Palace officials are now engaged in frustrating negotiations. The Sussexes are likely demanding special treatment and prominent positions during all the events — separated from the rest of the VIPs.
They are also likely to demand the Queen’s introduction to her great-grandchildren should be filmed — no doubt exclusively by Netflix.
The American network CBS secured an exclusive three years ago when Meghan introduced baby Archie to the Queen. After Meghan’s interview on CBS’ Oprah Winfrey show, I doubt the Palace will agree to a Netflix exclusive.
So far, the Sussexes have been told they can attend the service of Thanksgiving in St Paul’s cathedral. Just where they will sit has not been revealed.
With trepidation, we can only wait for more battlefield reports about the Royal Family feud. In the meantime, the Markle family’s warfare remains unresolved.
Recovering in hospital, Thomas Markle has been dealt a cruel blow. Ever since Meghan married Harry, the friendly grandfather has felt humiliated by his daughter.
Now, breathing oxygen through a tube, Thomas undoubtedly lives in the hope that “Bean” will walk through the hospital door.
He dreams that before she flies to London, Meghan will suddenly appear, hold his hand, mop his brow and, while shedding a tear, whisper “I love you”.
Hollywood has a tradition of producing happy endings. But sadly, the Meghan Markle biopic is unlikely to end on a positive note.
Instead of driving south to her father’s bedside, Meghan flew on Thursday on a private jet to Texas.
She lay a bunch of white roses at a shrine for slaughtered schoolchildren in Uvalde. Among the throng of TV cameras, some will suspect, was a Netflix crew.
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The priorities of Meghan’s compassion are at best baffling. The mood music of Megxit is depressing and the credits are not ready to roll. This saga still has a long way to run.
Isolated and dismissed, Thomas is struggling for his life without Bean’s sympathy or support.