There’s always some level of family drama before a wedding, but when you’re a major American celebrity about to marry into the British royal family, the stakes are levels of magnitude higher than normal.
The last week has been a hellscape of speculation and accusations for Meghan Markle, 36, who is days away from marrying Prince Harry in Windsor Castle.
Markle’s father, Thomas Markle, was supposed to walk his daughter down the aisle, but a series of puzzling revelations and apparent health issues have led to him bowing out of the event. At the same time, Markle’s half-sister Samantha Markle has been leaking information about their father and offering her own commentary about the Markle family’s situation.
Here’s a breakdown of how everything unfolded, and where it stands now.
April and early May
Photos of Thomas Markle are published that appear to show him preparing for his daughter’s wedding: exercising, getting fitted for a suit, and reading about British culture and tourism. They appear to be taken at various locations around Rosarito, Mexico, where he lives.
Sunday, May 13
Britain’s Daily Mail claims the paparazzi shots of Thomas Markle preparing for the wedding were staged. It publishes security footage it says shows Thomas Markle arriving at the site of one of the photos in the company of a photographer.
The next 48 hours are a flurry of activity, with Thomas Markle speaking exclusively to American entertainment outlet TMZ about his decision whether or not to attend the wedding.
Meghan’s half-sister Samantha Markle, meanwhile, makes various appearances on international news outlets, including a British morning show and a British talk show.
Monday, May 14
In London: Samantha Markle makes a remote appearance on ITV’s show “Loose Women” to talk about her father’s staged photos. She says she is “entirely the culprit” and wanted the world to see her father in a positive light before the wedding.
In Mexico: TMZ reports Thomas Markle has decided not to attend the wedding in light of the revelation he had worked with a photo agency to stage the positive wedding prep scenes. He also tells TMZ he had a heart attack six days prior to the interview.
Meanwhile: In a very unusual move, Kensington Palace releases a statement asking the public for privacy following the roller coaster reports of Thomas Markle’s status: “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.”
The news that Thomas Markle may not attend the wedding sparks a flurry of speculation over who might walk Meghan Markle down the aisle during Saturday’s ceremony.
That evening: TMZ reports Thomas Markle is having chest pains and is planning on checking himself in to a hospital.
That night: According to TMZ’s Tuesday conversations with Thomas Markle, Meghan tries to call him on Monday evening, but he wasn’t able to answer the phone. He also said his daughter texted him, expressing her love and concern.
Tuesday, May 15
In London: Samantha Markle tells “Good Morning Britain” her father suffered a heart attack, but doesn’t specify when. She says he was “quite depressed over the unbelievable series of events involving the media.”
In Mexico: Thomas Markle apparently changes his mind about not attending, in part because of his Monday night conversations with Meghan. He tells TMZ he decided he wanted to attend the wedding and walk his daughter down the aisle.
Hours later, TMZ reports Thomas Markle is in the hospital and undergoing what TMZ calls a “battery of tests.” He tells the outlet he will again not be attending the wedding: “I hate the idea of missing one of the greatest moments in history and walking my daughter down the aisle.”
Wednesday, May 16
That morning: Thomas Markle tells TMZ he is scheduled to have heart surgery on Wednesday, potentially ruling out the possibility of him attending the wedding. Markle told TMZ that doctors will “go in and clear blockage, repair damage and put a stent where it is needed.”
That afternoon: Thomas Markle tells TMZ he’s out of surgery and will be staying in the hospital for a few more days. “I’m OK. It will take a long time to heal.
Thursday, May 17
That morning: Meghan Markle confirms her dad won’t 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.”
Friday, May 18
That morning: Kensington Palace says Prince Charles will walk Meghan Markle down the aisle. Charles, who’s Prince Harry’s father and Meghan’s future father-in-law, has experience stepping in to assist brides on their big day. In 2016, he walked Alexandra Knatchbull – a goddaughter of the late Princess Diana – down the aisle when she wed Thomas Hooper, as her estranged father watched from the pews.