Prince Harry and his fiancee Meghan Markle asked for “understanding” for the father of the American actress after the US celebrity news site TMZ reported on Monday (14 May) he would not attend the couple’s glittering wedding at Windsor Castle just four days before the ceremony on 19 May.
TMZ claimed Thomas Markle had decided to skip the marriage of his daughter because he did not wish to embarrass the royals after media reports that he had staged paparazzi photographs.
“This is a deeply personal moment for Ms Markle in the days before her wedding,” Kensington Palace said in a statement.
“She and Prince Harry ask again for understanding and respect to be extended to Mr Markle in this difficult situation.”
A spokeswoman for the prince declined to comment directly on the report or to say whether the statement meant Markle’s father would be at the wedding.
Markle had been due to walk his daughter down the aisle at St George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle, the queen’s home to the west of London, at a ceremony billed as the wedding of the year in the glare of the world’s media.
He had also been expected to meet the queen, her husband and the other senior members of the Windsor family this week according to an early schedule released by Kensington Palace.
Things began to unravel after The Mail on Sunday alleged that Markle had agreed to stage pictures with a photographer ahead of his trip and the images had been sold to media for more than $100,000 (£72,000).
TMZ claimed it had spoken to Markle and that he had said a paparazzi agency had approached him and offered him money, although the sum was not close to the reported figure.
He said he had agreed to the pictures because he hoped they would improve his image as previous paparazzi snaps had shown him buying beer and looking dishevelled, TMZ reported.
The website also said Markle had revealed he had suffered a heart attack six days ago but had checked himself out of hospital in order to attend the wedding.
Meghan’s parents are divorced and while Harry has been pictured with her mother Doria Ragland, there had been speculation about what role her 73-year-old father, a former lighting director for TV soaps and sitcoms, would play.
Harry’s Communications Secretary Jason Knauf had elaborated to reporters the significant roles Meghan’s parents would play at the nuptials last week stating they would fly over from the United States this week to be part of the couple’s big day.
“The first thing I would like to share is that Prince Harry and Ms. Markle are very much looking forward to welcoming Ms. Markle’s parents to Windsor for the wedding. 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.
“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,” he added.
Earlier on Monday, Kensington Palace said the bride-to-be and her mother would be staying at a luxurious hotel near Windsor the night before the ceremony. They are due to travel to the chapel together on Saturday.