Thomas Markle, who did not attend the royal wedding, spoke about his relationship with his son-in-law and the heart condition that nearly killed him, and also revealed the real reason why he didn’t walk his daughter down the aisle.
Meghan’s dad has never met Prince Harry
“We have yet to see each other face-to-face,” Thomas Markle told ITV’s Good Morning Britain, though he added: “We have had interesting conversations on the phone.”
They first spoke a few months before Prince Harry and Meghan announced their engagement in November last year, talking about how the prince and the former Suits actress met and “how happy they were with each other”.
“He’s quite easy to talk to, he’s a very comfortable person to talk to,” said Mr Markle. “I wasn’t nervous”.
Mr Markle described his daughter’s husband as a “great… interesting guy” and revealed they had talked about politics, including Donald Trump’s presidency, as well as Brexit.
Harry’s thoughts on Donald Trump and Brexit
“I was complaining about not liking Donald Trump; he said ‘give Donald Trump a chance’. I sort of disagreed with that, but I still like Harry,” said Mr Markle. “That was his politics, I have my politics.”
Asked if he thought the prince was a Trump supporter, he replied: “I would hope not, now. But at the time he might have been.”
On Brexit, he added: “It was just a loose conversation about something that we have to try. There is no real commitment to it.”
Pressed further, he added: “I think he was open to the experiment.”
Meghan’s dad was not ‘wowed’ by Prince Harry
When asked how he felt about the nuptials and whether he was “wowed” by the prospect of his daughter marrying into the British monarchy, he said: “This is my daughter. My daughter is certainly a prize for him as well.
“Yeah, he’s an interesting guy, he’s a prince, but my daughter has been a princess since the day she was born.”
Recalling the moment Harry asked for his blessing to marry Meghan, Mr Markle said: “Harry asked for her hand over the phone and I said: ‘You are a gentleman, promise me you will never raise your hand against my daughter and of course I will grant you my permission’.”
Meghan and her dad used code to keep Harry a secret
Mr Markle revealed he and his daughter would speak about Prince Harry in code to keep a lid on the fact they were dating.
Recounting the moment his daughter broke the news to him about her new relationship, he said: “The first phone calls were, ‘Daddy, I have a new boyfriend’, and I said, ‘that’s really nice’.
“The next call was like, ‘he’s British’… and eventually the third time around it was like, ‘he is a prince’, and at that point she said, ‘it’s Harry’. I said, ‘oh, Harry, okay’.
“She said ‘of course we’ll have to call him ‘H’ so no one knows’ that we are talking about Harry’. Eventually I spoke to him as well. A very nice man, a gentleman, very likeable.”
Mr Markle did not realise the enormity of his daughter’s marriage
Meghan told him first about the wedding, and a few times afterwards she and Prince Harry both called Mr Markle together to discuss their plans.
“My daughter is very intelligent. She knows how to choose who she wants to be with. She’s a smart girl, and she made a good pick, didn’t she,” said Mr Markle.
But he also said that at the time, he didn’t realise what his daughter was getting herself into and that she would become a global superstar overnight.
“I’m not even sure she realised that,” he said. “The royals are very complicated. It’s a whole different lifestyle, but I think my daughter is capable of anything, and she will certainly be a complement to the royal family.”
Meghan’s dad had no idea he would be thrust into the media spotlight
Asked if he was aware how much focus there would also be on him and the rest of his family, Mr Markle replied: “I had no idea. I had no idea.
“It was a total invasion for quite a while. Everyone said I was hiding in Mexico. That was not true, I have been living in Mexico for six years.”
He described first being snapped by photographers as he walked out of a store: “Suddenly they were flashing in my face and asking me questions.
“I run to my truck, jump in my truck and throw up a peace sign. I figured it was better than putting up half a peace sign. It’s been like that for about a year now.”
Harry and Meghan told Mr Markle not to speak to the press
Mr Markle revealed Prince Harry had offered him advice on how to deal with the media attention he was suddenly getting.
He said the couple advised him not to speak to the press and to “be careful”.
“They were very emphatic about not giving any information to the press because it just encourages them more,” said the 73-year-old.
“Having the press at my door and everywhere I go, that kind of becomes an invasion a bit… but it’s a compliment. My daughter is now seen all over the world as a duchess, so I’m very proud of her. I’ll adjust to this. I’ll get over this.”
Meghan’s dad was involved in setting up the paparazzi pictures of him
The former Hollywood lighting director admitted the photographs of him preparing for the wedding were staged.
“I didn’t do this for money, I did it to change my image,” he confessed. “For one whole year I was presented as a hermit living out in Mexico, but obviously it was a mistake and it went wrong.
“This was a presentation to me to change my image because for the last year, photographs of me were always derogatory. They would take pictures of me hand-grabbing a beer or pictures of me getting in my car, or taking the garbage out.
“They’d take pictures of me buying a toilet and making a big deal out of it. They’d take all kinds of pictures of me making me look negative, so I thought this would be a nice way of improving my look.
“Well, obviously that all went to hell, and I feel bad about it, I apologised for it, and that’s all I can do. I can’t do much beyond that. That was a mistake.
“I spoke to them both and I apologised. I realised it was a serious mistake. It’s hard to take it back. I just wanted to improve my look.
“Both Harry and Meghan were very forgiving about it.”
Mr Markle said the photos did not affect their plans for the wedding. They both still wanted him to attend and give his daughter away, he said.
“Meghan said, ‘everything is ready for you’. Harry said, ‘I have got one of my military friends to take care of you when you are here’.
“It was all set up. It was fine. Everything was booked.”
Mr Markle didn’t go to the wedding because he was embarrassed about staging the photos
“The truth is I couldn’t get over the fact that that had happened. All that stuff was working on me, I had a bit of a heart condition.
“This pushed me a little further to the part where I had heart palpitations. I had to drive at 2am to a hospital. They sent me to another little hospital and then they sent me to a bigger hospital and I had a heart attack.”
A day-and-a-half later he said he felt better and checked himself out against doctors’ wishes in a bid to make it to the wedding, but the heart palpitations returned when he got home to Mexico.
“At that time I started getting chest pains and I said I have to cancel because I didn’t take care of the heart problem before. I had a good friend take me back to a hospital across the border to the States where I was told that my condition was very bad and they had to operate, and I had heart surgery.”
It was always Meghan’s desire for her father to give her away
Mr Markle said he was determined to walk Meghan down the aisle and was “excited and ready for it”.
“It was all set in place for me to go,” he said. “I knew I could rise to the occasion. I’d be limping down the aisle, nonetheless I could walk my daughter down the aisle. I definitely wanted that – that was in the plan and that would have to be.”
He continued: “Meghan was putting together fittings for me. It was all done sort of secret. They arranged for me to show up in Los Angeles in Beverley Hills under a different name. One time I was there and bought a pair of pants and by mistake gave my credit card, so they got my real name, but nonetheless nobody knew what was going on.”
He said he did consider travelling to England for the wedding sooner, but changed his mind: “Those guys were busy. I think the last thing they needed was me popping in.”
Meghan ‘cried’ when her dad told her he wouldn’t make the wedding
Mr Markle said he told Meghan he was not going to be able to attend her wedding just before he underwent heart surgery for a blockage in his aorta.
“This is what doctors called the widow maker – it would have killed me,” he said.
Speaking about the moment when he told the couple, he said: “They were disappointed. Meghan cried, I’m sure, she did cry, and they both said, ‘take care of yourself, we are really worried about you’.”
He said Harry and Meghan discussed coming over to see him, but he insisted he would be fine.
“I couldn’t go, but I said worry about the wedding.”
Mr Markle was ‘jealous’ of Charles walking Meghan down the aisle
“I was honoured, I can’t think of a better replacement than someone like Prince Charles. He looked very handsome and my daughter looked beautiful with him.
“I was jealous. I wish I had been there. I wish it had been me. But thank God he was there, I thank him for that.
“It might have been a treat for him as well, because he doesn’t have a daughter.”
He watched the royal wedding at a B&B
Mr Markle said a friend found him a room at a bed and breakfast in California for him to stay in for a couple of days to recover after the operation.
“She was beautiful, It was incredible watching her,” he said. “I cried a little bit about it.
“She was so beautiful walking down that aisle. I was so proud. She was so gorgeous. I was very proud, I couldn’t have seen a better moment in my life.
“I was very upset that it wasn’t me but the whole world was watching my daughter. I was very happy about that.”
He continued: “The unfortunate thing for me now is I’m a footnote in one of the greatest moments in history rather than the dad walking her down the aisle. That upsets me somewhat.
“It was a very emotional moment, I cried about it, and I regretted it because I really wanted to walk my daughter down the aisle. I wanted that moment. But I’m thankful for everything the way it went.”
Meghan’s dad expects his daughter to get pregnant soon
“She’s wanted children for a long time and when she met Harry and she spoke how much she loves him, there’s got to be a child in the making, somewhere soon,” Mr Markle said.
He wants people to know he is a ‘normal guy’
Mr Markle said he hoped he had not offended his daughter and son-in-law by giving the interview and said he just wanted people to know he is a “normal guy”.
“Over the last few weeks, everybody has had different opinions; some people said I was faking my heart attack, some people said I was skipping out, all kinds of stories were coming out about me, negative ones,” he said.
“But I just want people to know I’m a normal guy, I’m a retired man and I was living a quiet little life and this happened, and lots of things happened around it, and I’ve tried to survive through that, but more than anything I don’t want my daughter or new son-in-law to be hurt by any of this.
“I want to have a nice, normal relationship with my royal family as well now.”