The Truth About Meghan Markle's Relationship With Her Father

Much like her Suits character Rachel Zane, Meghan Markle freed herself from her father's constraints thanks to her success as an independent woman. Meghan's father, Thomas Markle, however, did have a hand in her success. He helped Meghan navigate her complicated identity as the biracial daughter of a white man and African-American woman, supported her acting career from an early age, and even paid her college tuition.

Although her parents divorced when she was just 6 years old, Meghan did spend a fair amount of time with her father during the week, as she would spend nights at Thomas' place while attending private school. During this time, she also spent countless evenings helping her father, who was a lighting director and director of photography for a sitcom, with his craft. "Every day after school for 10 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," she said in a 2013 interview with Esquire

However, the real-life relationship between Meghan and her father is no longer as rosy as her character's. While Meghan and her father grew up quite close, their relationship has disintegrated in more recent years.

Meghan and Thomas Markle's rift began in recent years

While it's unclear who's to blame, their rift seems to have begun just prior to Meghan Markle and Prince Harry's wedding when Thomas Markle staged his own paparazzi photos, according to The Daily Mail. It is unknown whether Thomas took money in exchange for the photos, but the stunt did unravel after Harry's repeated requests from the media to respect his father-in-law's privacy. Thomas was meant to walk Meghan down the aisle just a few days later, but he was ultimately unable to attend his daughter's ceremony after a heart attack and chest pains forced him to undergo heart surgery (via TMZ).

"Sadly, my father will not be attending our wedding," Meghan announced in a statement at the time. "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." However, rumor has it that Thomas planned to skip his own daughter's wedding regardless out of embarrassment.

Whatever the reason, however, his absence reportedly made Meghan cry right before her wedding, according to Vanity Fair. And although texts show that Meghan and Harry both attempted to reach Thomas in the days leading up to the wedding, there was pin-drop silence on his end, another Vanity Affair report suggested.

Meghan Markle's personal letter to Thomas Markle, revealed

To make matters worse, Thomas Markle only seemed to fan the flames when he went to the media with personal details about himself and his daughter Meghan Markle. The whole affair, and his subsequent run-ins with the media, were discouraged by the couple, as text messages show. A series of texts reported by E! News show that the couple requested Thomas refrain from going public with family problems. "Tom, Harry again!," one of the messages read. "Really need to speak to u. U do not need to apologize, we understand the circumstances but 'going public' will only make the situation worse. If u love Meg and want to make it right please call me as there are two other options which don't involve u having to speak to the media, who incidentally created this whole situation."

However, the couple's repeated requests fell on empty ears when Thomas went to the media with a personal letter exchange between Meghan and himself. The letter shows Meghan pleading with her father to stop spreading lies about their relationship that spun Meghan in a negative light, including claims that Meghan never financially aided her dad. "Your actions have broken my heart into a million pieces — not simply because you have manufactured such unnecessary and unwarranted pain, but by making the choice not to tell the truth as you are puppeteered in this," she wrote to him. But was the media truly at fault?

Did the media make Thomas Markle's situation worse?

Going public with the letter was not the end of the affair either. Thomas Markle repeatedly gave interviews with various outlets. He shared personal details about daughter Meghan Markle and Prince Harry, including their longing to have a baby and Harry's political views on Brexit and Donald Trump. 

In a 2020 lawsuit the couple filed against the tabloid media, Meghan and Harry claim that Thomas and his daughter's "very close relationship" fractured in large part due to intrusive coverage, according to The Sun. The two became distanced, she claimed, when Thomas was "targeted three years ago." However, media groups maintain that the letter was only published with explicit permission from Thomas. That's a probable claim, considering Thomas has repeatedly gone to the media to exercise "the right to defend myself," according to The Daily Mail

While Thomas maintains that he still loves and misses her daughter, he released a documentary series earlier this year called Thomas Markle: My Story in a seeming attempt to capitalize on their rift. "I'm going to defend myself," he said in the documentary, according to Cosmopolitan. "And I'm going to be paid for it. I'm not going to refuse to get paid for it. I'll do future things and be paid for it, I think. I don't care. At this point, they owe me. The royals owe me. Harry owes me. Meghan owes me. What I have been through, I should be rewarded for."