A betrayal no daughter could forgive: Meghan’s made mistakes. But after her father leaked her heartfelt letter, RICHARD KAY says the time may have come to cut him out of her life forever
Only the flintiest of hearts could not have sympathy for the Duchess of Sussex. For nine months she has had to endure in silence as her family have traded cheap shots at her expense.
Half-brother, half-sister, nieces, nephews and distant cousins have toiled away to come up with the most lurid of claims.
Yet with commendable grace, Meghan has largely managed to stand aside from many of these insults. But her estrangement from her father has been an altogether different matter.
One foolish act — his mistake in conniving with paparazzi photographers ahead of last May’s Royal wedding — was followed by another: informing Meghan he wouldn’t attend her wedding via the showbusiness website TMZ.
Now, trust has eroded to such an extent that there is an impossible chasm between father and daughter.
Trust has eroded to such an extent that there is an impossible chasm between father and daughter (pictured Meghan with her father Thomas Markle)
Time after time, Thomas Markle has used the platform of publicity through the media — both television and newspapers — to communicate with Meghan.
At first there was some fellow-feeling for this lonely divorcé who found himself drawn into the extraordinary world of the British Royal Family following Meghan’s engagement to Prince Harry.
There was sadness, too, when ill health forced him to pull out of the wedding after the fake photos scandal emerged.
But the leaking of the heart-breaking letter Meghan wrote to her father, one that revealed the depth of her despair over their rift, is a new low.
For this was much more than the private thoughts of a wounded young woman. It was a cry for help from someone adjusting to a bewildering new life many thousands of miles from home.
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At the moment there seems no end in sight to this painful tit for tat between father and daughter. We know Mr Markle decided to leak extracts from the letter in reaction to last week’s article in the U.S. celebrity magazine People, in which he felt he was unfairly maligned.
That article, apparently based on the testimony of five of Meghan’s friends, was a clumsy attempt to set the record straight about the former actress’s troubled relationship with her father, and to address criticism of her style as a duchess.
So clumsy, in fact, that seasoned royal watchers wonder if it was done without any input from the duchess at all. As I wrote on Thursday, I feared that if that was the case, Meghan was playing with fire as Diana had done before her.
One close friend — not one of the five — has since let it be known that Meghan was not, in fact, aware of what they were doing.
Unfortunately, the reaction from Mr Markle, at his modest home on the U.S.-Mexico border, has been to do what he has done throughout this whole sorry business: he delivered another broadside. This time he stirred hypocrisy into the pot, claiming that far from being a conciliatory gesture, her letter — written last August — had left him feeling ‘devastated’.
At first there was some fellow-feeling for this lonely divorcé who found himself drawn into the extraordinary world of the British Royal Family following Meghan’s engagement to Prince Harry (pictured)
In it, she blamed him for breaking her heart ‘into a million pieces’ by giving interviews to the Press, fabricating stories and attacking her new husband.
She also admonished him for siding with his elder daughter, Samantha, who has relentlessly attacked her half-sister in the media, while Meghan ‘silently suffered at the hand of her vicious lies’.
She went on to complain that Mr Markle had made no attempt to contact her — and chastised him for falsely claiming he is the one who has been shunned, a criticism he flatly denies.
Meghan also accused her father of rejecting her and Harry’s offers to help when he pulled out of attending their wedding following two heart attacks, and suggested he had been ungrateful for financial help she had given him. Naturally, the former Hollywood lighting director said he never intended to make the handwritten letter public ‘out of respect for Meghan’ — but said he had been obliged to do so because its contents have been falsely portrayed.
As contemptible as his retaliation undoubtedly is, one thing is clear: there is a pattern of betrayal in Mr Markle’s behaviour, and it has sparked the deep distrust his daughter now feels towards him.
This surely explains the carefully calibrated language Meghan uses in her letter. She knew, or at least those around her did, that there was every chance her father might make its contents public.
As contemptible as his retaliation undoubtedly is, one thing is clear: there is a pattern of betrayal in Mr Markle’s (pictured) behaviour, and it has sparked the deep distrust his daughter now feels towards him
What is perhaps more intriguing is that he has chosen not to release its full contents. One reason, I am told, is because the rest of the letter is more revealing about his bizarre behaviour and presents him in a less than flattering light. So what on earth will happen next? Is it too late to repair this rift, and is it time for the duchess to cut off all links with her father?
I, for one, fear that moment has arrived. There is no question that the matter could have been handled better. Few people now remember, but when Harry and Meghan’s engagement was announced, a joint statement was put out by Kensington Palace on behalf of her mother and father.
At that stage, Thomas Markle had not uttered a single word in public about his daughter, and it was clear he would willingly do whatever Meghan wished.
Quite what happened next has never been made clear. Mr Markle later complained that no one reached out to him as they did to his ex-wife, Doria Ragland, who has behaved with impeccable dignity since her daughter’s romance with Harry became public.
I understand that an official — believed to be from the British embassy in Mexico City — travelled to Mr Markle’s home in Rosarito. Mr Markle was also given contact details for Harry and Meghan’s palace staff.
Nine months on, exactly who did and said what hardly matters. The fact is that matters were not handled well, leaving one royal insider to observe that never before had George Bernard Shaw’s maxim about America and Britain being ‘two nations divided by a common language’ been more appropriate.
Meghan, too, cannot wholly escape blame. The fact she chose to invite only two family members to the wedding — her mother and father — was, of course, up to her.
Meghan, too, cannot wholly escape blame. The fact she chose to invite only two family members to the wedding (pictured) — her mother and father — was, of course, up to her
But the absence of her wider family was bound to provoke media interest — and resentment among her relatives. If they needed any spur to speak out, the wedding snub was just such encouragement.
For the Palace, how to handle the Markle clan was another problem. Their most recent experience of outsiders marrying into the royals had been the Duchess of Cambridge’s family, the Middletons. Kate’s parents, Michael and Carole, have barely put a foot wrong, the only black mark being the duchess’s lively uncle Gary Goldsmith. Yet compared with the Markles, Uncle Gary — who has never revealed any secrets about Kate — has been a saint.
All this still begs the question of why Harry and Meghan have never travelled to Mexico to see the duchess’s father. Their failure to do so has only added to the sense of isolation that Mr Markle feels.
Of course, the duchess has been on the sharpest of learning curves. She’s not just taking on a new nationality, a new religion (before the wedding she was baptised into the Anglican church) and a new husband, but she’s having to embrace a way of life.
She hasn’t always got it right — writing messages for sex workers on bananas might seem a little gauche — but it is surely just a matter of learning the ropes.
Meanwhile, her work with the Grenfell Tower survivors has been compassionate and genuine.
She has one other trump card: marriage to the most popular young member of the Royal Family. And, contrary to the views of those five friends who spoke to People magazine, Meghan is much liked by the British people.
But for now, the Duchess of Sussex has another more pressing matter. Does she make one final attempt at reconciliation with the father she clearly loves, or does she give him up as a lost cause?
After his latest stunt, many will feel the latter is rapidly becoming her only sensible option, if only to protect herself.
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