The run-up to a wedding should be one of excitement and joy, as well as a few nerves, of course, for the bride and groom-to-be. Unfortunately, Prince Harry had to spend much of his final days as a free man dealing with his publicity-hungry father-in-law. And exactly what he said in one particular string of texts was later revealed in an official court document.
The content of Harry’s messages was made public just a week after he and Meghan courted yet more controversy with a strongly-worded letter to the tabloids. The Duke and Duchess of Sussex told editors of The Daily Mail, The Daily Express, The Sun and The Daily Mirror that they would no longer be engaging with them in any capacity. The pair also accused the British newspapers of printing reports that were “distorted, false or invasive beyond reason.”
Harry and Meghan did acknowledge the importance of a free press in a democracy. They stated that it can “shine light on dark places, telling stories that would otherwise go untold, standing up for what’s right, challenging power, and holding those who abuse the system to account.” But they didn’t believe that the tabloid press was adhering to these values.
A representative for the royals told The Guardian newspaper in April 2020, “There is a real human cost to this way of doing business and it affects every corner of society. The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have watched people they know – as well as complete strangers – have their lives completely pulled apart for no good reason, other than the fact that salacious gossip boosts advertising revenue.”
Meghan and Harry’s statement was delivered just a few months after they officially withdrew from their roles as senior royals. The pair shocked the world when they revealed they’d be spending half of their time in North America in bid to become more financially independent. They also claimed that they’d been pushed to their limits by the constant scrutinization of the tabloid press.
Of course, that didn’t stop the papers in question from continuing to report on Harry and Meghan’s every move. And much of the drama surrounding the pair has often stemmed from the Duchess’ relationship with her father. Indeed, Thomas Markle Sr. has barely stopped talking to the media since his daughter began dating the royal.
Thomas was first introduced to Doria Ragland, Meghan’s mother, at the end of the 1970s. “I like to think he was drawn to her sweet eyes and her Afro, plus their shared love of antiques,” the future Duchess wrote in a 2015 piece for Elle magazine. In 1981 the pair became parents to daughter Meghan, but unfortunately this family unit was soon torn apart.
Indeed, Thomas and Doria split when Meghan was just six years old. The youngster resided with her mother but still regularly saw her lighting director father. In a 2013 chat with Esquire magazine, Meghan said, “Every day after school for ten years, I was on the set of Married… with Children, which is a really funny and perverse place for a little girl in a Catholic school uniform to grow up.”
Meghan’s father also helped her to come to terms with her biracial identity. In her essay on the subject for Elle, the star referred to the time she was told by her English teacher to mark the Caucasian box on a census form. She wrote, “When I went home that night, I told my dad what had happened. He said the words that have always stayed with me: ‘If that happens again, you draw your own box.’”
Thomas then helped to pay for his daughter’s Catholic high-school tuition after winning the California State Lottery in 1990. While attending Los Angeles’ Immaculate Heart, Meghan developed the love of acting which would inform her early career. Her father even assisted in building the sets for the school’s theatrical productions.
The pair’s close relationship was tested when Meghan moved away from Los Angeles for her role in legal drama Suits. At the same time Thomas relocated further south to the city of Rosarito Beach. But the pair still stayed in touch and in 2016 she attempted to help her father financially after he was declared bankrupt.
During an appearance on British TV show Good Morning Britain, Thomas revealed how he learned that his daughter was dating a prince. He said, “Well, the first phone calls [about Prince Harry] were, ‘Daddy, I have a new boyfriend.’ And I said, ‘That’s really nice.’ And then the next call was like, ‘He’s British.’ And I said, ‘Well, that’s really nice.’ And eventually, the third time around was, ‘He’s a prince.’”
And Thomas was also more than happy to discuss how he learned of his daughter’s engagement. He told the same TV show how he’d been asked for Meghan’s hand in marriage by Harry before clarifying, “Actually, Meghan told me first and at that time – then a few times after that – Harry got on the phone with Meghan. They called me together and Harry asked for her hand over the phone.”
Thomas continued, “I said, ‘You’re a gentleman. Promise me you’ll never raise your hand against my daughter and of course, I give you my permission.” However, Thomas soon discovered that being the father of a future Duchess brings a whole lot of press intrusion. He once claimed that seven paparazzi had been camped out on his doorstep for an entire week in a chat with The Mail on Sunday.
Things started to go further awry leading up to the wedding when Thomas was pictured preparing for the ceremony in his hometown. It was later discovered that he’d staged the photos in conjunction with a paparazzi photographer in order to bag a cool $150,000 from the ever-interested press. But he was soon left regretting his get-rich-quick scheme.
Thomas revealed that he initially told his future son-in-law that he hadn’t staged the photos after being confronted about them in a phone call. And the royal had some wise words to add, too. “Harry told me that I should never go to the press,” Thomas told The Daily Mail. “That it would end in tears. He said, ‘They will eat you alive.’ He was right.”
Shortly after the paparazzi drama, reports emerged that Thomas had suffered a heart attack. As a result speculation about whether he’d be a no-show at his daughter’s wedding continued to reach fever pitch. Thomas initially decided to steer clear for fear of embarrassing his daughter. But just days later he claimed he still had ambitions of walking her down the aisle.
The saga continued when Thomas revealed that scheduled heart surgery had scuppered his plans for good. He later told Good Morning Britain that he’d had a tearful phone call with the newlyweds-to-be about his no-show. He said, “They were disappointed, but they both said, ‘take care of yourself, we are worried about you.’ They said the important thing is that I get better.”
However, according to Thomas, Harry later told him that his heart problems may have been triggered by his courting of the press. Thomas responded, “Maybe it would be better for you guys if I was dead… then you could pretend to be sad,” before hanging up. He told The Daily Mail, “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.”
The matter appeared to have been sorted once and for all when Meghan revealed in an official statement, “Sadly, my father will not be attending our wedding. I have always cared for my father and hope he can be given the space he needs to focus on his health. I would like to thank everyone who has offered generous messages of support.”
Meghan instead asked Prince Charles to walk her down the aisle, a role he readily accepted. Thomas was also pleased at the choice of fill-in, telling TMZ he was “honored” that his daughter was being accompanied by the future King of England. He later revealed to Good Morning Britain, “I was jealous, I wish it had been me but thank God [Prince Charles] was there.”
Indeed, like the millions of us around the world, Thomas had to watch his daughter get hitched on the TV screen. But he was still able to get caught up in the moment. He told TMZ, “My baby looks beautiful and she looks very happy. I wish I were there and I wish them all my love and all happiness.”
Thomas further expressed his joy at the occasion in his chat with Good Morning Britain. He said, “She was beautiful. I cried a little watching her. I was very proud and I couldn’t see a better moment in my life. The unfortunate thing now is that I’m a footnote in one of the greatest moments in history instead of a dad walking his daughter down the aisle.”
That’s not all that Thomas revealed during the interview. He also disclosed that Meghan was interested in becoming a mother and that Harry was willing to give both Donald Trump and Brexit a chance. Unsurprisingly, his daughter and new son-in-law didn’t appreciate some of their secrets being aired in public this way.
Indeed, Thomas admitted to TMZ that his relationship with Meghan had soured due to his morning TV appearance. He said, “I was silent for a full year and the press beat me up every day saying I was a hermit hiding in Mexico, so I gave my story [to Good Morning Britain] Apparently that interview put the royal family in their silence mode… so I gave another interview to break the silence. All they have to do is speak to me.”
In a chat with The Mail on Sunday later that year, Thomas revealed he’d made numerous attempts to heal the rift with his daughter via texts and letters. He said, “Meghan and I never had any problems before this. If she would just speak to me, things could be different. I love Meghan very much. I want her and Harry to have a beautiful, healthy baby and a great life. But I want them to stop believing the lies.”
Unfortunately, Thomas’ worst fears came true when he received a handwritten letter from his daughter expressing her disappointment at his conduct. This particular form of correspondence was also later published without Meghan’s consent in The Mail on Sunday. As a result, the Duchess decided to take the British tabloid to court.
In the letter in question, Meghan revealed her heart had been broken “into a million pieces” by her father’s constant interviews with the world’s media. She also called Thomas out for making up stories, criticizing husband Harry and taking the side of her half-sister. Referencing Samantha Markle’s constant press attacks, Meghan remarked that she “silently suffered at the hands of her vicious lies.”
During the court proceedings, Meghan decided it was time that she made some of her and Thomas’ correspondence public. The Duchess revealed several messages in full that she and Harry had texted to her father before their wedding ceremony. This was to prove that Associated Newspapers had misquoted them in a separate report and been instrumental in creating the family rift.
In the first disclosed text Meghan sent to her father, she said, “I’ve called and texted but haven’t heard back from you so hoping you’re okay.” The following day, she messaged Thomas again after learning that he’d helped to stage paparazzi photos of him getting ready for the ceremony. A court document stated that she’d been “trying to protect her father from heightened press intrusion and scrutiny and that he should keep a low profile until the wedding.”
Just a little over a week later, Thomas confirmed to Meghan in a text that he wouldn’t be making the wedding. Within approximately 30 minutes, Harry attempted to phone his future father-in-law to no avail. He then texted him, “Tom, it’s Harry and I’m going to call you right now. Please pick up, thank you.”
A persistent Harry continued, “Tom, Harry again! Really need to speak to you. You do not need to apologize, we understand the circumstances but “going public” will only make the situation worse. If you love Meg and want to make it right please call me as there are two other options which don’t involve you having to speak to the media, who incidentally created this whole situation.”
Harry concluded the message with, “So please call me so I can explain. Meg and I are not angry, we just need to speak to you. Thanks. Oh any speaking to the press WILL backfire, trust me Tom. Only we can help you, as we have been trying from day one.”
Court documents argued that the tabloid’s report about these text messages didn’t paint the full picture. The Sussexes allege that the newspaper failed to mention that both Meghan and Harry were trying to do their best to ensure that Thomas was both safe and well. The document also claimed that Thomas had been subjected to constant harassment by Associated Newspapers, in particular.
The Mail on Sunday justified publishing the letter at the center of the court case by claiming it was in the public interest. The paper also implied that it was doing Meghan a favor. It added that the royals “rely on publicity about themselves and their lives in order to maintain the privileged positions they hold and promote themselves.”
Meghan didn’t have a “reasonable expectation of privacy that the contents of the letter were private and would remain so,” according to the paper’s defense. In fact, it argues that she seemed prepared for the letter to go public due to the letter’s presentation. Meghan’s “elaborate handwriting” was deemed to be proof that she knew a wider audience would read it.
The initial court hearing had to be conducted virtually due to recent global events. Harry and Meghan woke up in their adopted Los Angeles hometown at 4 a.m. in order to witness the largely procedural first part of the hearing held at the High Court in London. Many predict that the case could evolve into a lengthy court battle.
Associated Newspapers’ representative, Antony White QC, argued that Meghan had no grounds to claim that the press were being deliberately untruthful in the reporting of her letter to Thomas. He said, “It is extremely common for the media to summarize or edit documents when reporting current events, and that is not a basis for an allegation of dishonesty… There is no basis for her to allege that anyone working for the defendant was dishonest in the drafting and editing process.”
White also took issue with Meghan’s lack of direct communication with her father. He said, “In this context it appears that the claimant has seen fit to put these allegations on the record without having spoken to Mr Markle, verifying these allegations with him or obtaining his consent. (She admits… that she has had no contact with him since the wedding).”
Camilla Tominey, a royal commentator, told TV channel NBC News that the Duke and Duchess may end up regretting taking legal action. She said, “Harry and Meghan are going to have to give up more intimate details to prove their case and therefore it does seem a bit self-defeating… The cat has already been let out of the bag.”