No wonder Meghan HASN’T invited them
The Mail’s DAVID JONES has spent months getting to know Meghan’s thoroughly dysfunctional, feuding family — led by her half-brother Thomas. His verdict . . .
Can it be only a year ago that Thomas Markle Junior and I sat on the patio of a riverside restaurant in Oregon, bathed in spring sunshine, as he confidently predicted the guest list for his sister’s wedding?
Over what was — for him — a modest liquid lunch, he reeled off the family members who would be invited to ‘share Meg’s joy’, as he quaintly put it, assuming (for they were yet to announce their engagement) that she and Prince Harry would marry.
Her parents would, of course, be there, he told me, for both doted on Meghan, and his father, Thomas Senior, would be ‘the proudest man in the church’ when he gave her away.
Undoubtedly, Meghan would also want her two adored nephews — his sons Tyler and Thomas — to enjoy the occasion, along with her various uncles and aunts. and, naturally, he would receive an RSVP from the Palace, for he had ‘always supported her, she knows that’, he said, recalling how he had taken Meghan to feed the ducks and babysat for her when she was little.
Oh yes — and there was bound to be ‘a plusone for Darlene’, he added, glancing at his 36-year-old fiancée, perched at his burly shoulder and hanging on his every word.
‘I would love to meet the Royals. I’d buy the prettiest dress,’ chirruped Darlene Blount, having, apparently, forgiven Thomas for drawing a gun on her less than three months earlier, during one of their drunken, violent quarrels.
Fast forward 12 months and that two-hour conversation — which I listened to again yesterday on tape — sounds utterly surreal and, on reflection, rather sad. Events in the Royal Wedding drama are moving faster even than Thomas Jnr does when someone offers to buy a round of drinks at the Cedarwood Saloon, his local bar in Grants Pass, Oregon.
However, with 24 hours to go before Meghan and Harry tie the knot, the state of play is as follows: the bride’s father — shamed by the revelation that he colluded with a paparazzi photographer — now lies in a Mexican hospital, recovering from a heart operation made necessary, he claims, by his son’s bad-mouthing of Meghan.
Meanwhile, Thomas Jnr’s sons, Thomas, 27, who runs a Domino’s Pizza franchise with his husband, and brother Tyler, 25, a cannabis farmer (it’s legal to grow the drug in Oregon) have indeed pitched up in London (with their glammed-up mother, Tracy Dooley, in tow).
Tyler plans to cash in on his association with Meghan by launching a super-strong strain of cannabis called Markle’s Sparkle.
They are here to watch the wedding as ‘pundits’ in an ITV studio. Or, at least, they were until yesterday when, wisely, we might think, executives at Good Morning Britain reportedly decided to drop them.
AS FOR Meghan’s paternal uncles, Bishop Fred Markle and his brother Mick, a retired diplomat, these respectable septuagenarians will remain in america, along with various other snubbed relatives.
among them is Meghan’s maternal uncle Joffre, a graphic designer, who is actually two years younger than Meghan and is the product of her late maternal grandfather alvin’s second marriage, to a lady named ava Burrows.
as he and Meghan are a similar age, and grew up in the same neighbourhood of Los angeles, Joffre was genuinely close to her when they were children and resumed their friendship when she was an actress in Hollywood.
Though he has shown admirable discretion during the pre-wedding hoopla, declining many interview requests, he, too, has been overlooked, leaving his mother feeling understandably hurt.
‘I want everything to work out and wish them a great day,’ ava Burrows told me this week. ‘Even though I might not be happy about how it has been handled as far as my son is concerned.’
The retired teacher added: ‘That’s my boy who’s been left out and I’m a momma bear!’
So, flying in the face of Meghan’s brother’s fanciful prediction last May, it seems — apart from her mother, Doria, who is expected to walk her up the aisle tomorrow — there will be no place in the chapel for anyone in the Markle family. The one thing Thomas Jnr got right when he contemplated the likely guest list, however, was that there would not be a pew for his sister, Samantha.
It wasn’t difficult to forecast her absence, though, because Samantha, 53, who suffers from multiple sclerosis and uses a wheelchair, had already portrayed Meghan as ‘narcissistic and selfish’ and claimed her half-sister had disowned her because of her disability.
Since then, her rants — delivered by the U.S. celebrity news website TMZ, which has also become the chosen mouthpiece for Thomas Markle Snr — have grown more wounding and bizarre by the day.
Yesterday, hitting back at Meghan’s reported pleas for her to stop sniping, she even invoked the First amendment of the U.S. Constitution, saying angrily: ‘She’s not going to tell me that I can’t speak about my life. I’m not going to take it. She’s way out of her league . . . there is something in this country called freedom of speech. Meghan doesn’t have a copyright on that.’
What, then, of Thomas Jnr? Having written a poisonous ‘open letter’ to Harry just over a fortnight ago, branding his sister ‘a jaded, shallow, conceited woman’ who would ‘make a joke’ of the Prince and the Royal Family and urging him to call off the ‘fake fairytale’ wedding, he appears to have had a truly Damascene conversion.
The 52-year-old jobbing glazier has been flown to Britain by a redtop tabloid — no doubt, in return for yet another fat pay cheque — and was yesterday photographed posing beside one of the Queen’s guardsmen at Windsor Castle, his bleary eyes filled with awe.
He now claims he hadn’t meant to hurt Meghan when he penned that cruel letter, published in a U.S. magazine, insisting he wrote it only because he and his family had been under intense pressure since the wedding was announced and he wanted to ‘shame the Palace’ into helping them.
audaciously, in his father’s absence, he is now trying to play the family’s elder statesman.
‘The fact Dad’s not well enough to travel makes me want more than ever to be as supportive as I can to Meg,’ he drawled. ‘all I want is to see Meg happy and I hope she has found that with Harry.’
Forgetting that he shared the family home with Meghan only briefly, when he was a teenager, and hasn’t spoken to his halfsister for many years, he added: ‘Knowing her as well as I do, and despite her job, there will be no acting on Saturday for sure. She’ll be unable to hide her happiness.’
Quite what Meghan must be feeling as she prepares for the biggest day of her life, knowing her troublesome brother and various members of his clan lurk not a million miles from St George’s Chapel, we can but imagine.
From the tranquillity of her home in the Californian desert — where I visited her last year — ava Burrows summed up the car crash events of recent days with customary sagacity: ‘Family dynamics can be trying under normal circumstances but, in this family, under these circumstances, they are just plain crazy.’
Weary of the hype, incidentally, Mrs Burrows has decided against getting up at 3am, West Coast time, to watch the wedding.
Indeed, though she will record the televised coverage for her invalid mother, who lives with her, she says she might never view it.
The same goes for Meghan’s Uncle Mick, the retired diplomat.
Puzzled and upset at being ignored (not least because he used
his influence to get Meghan an internship at the U.S. Embassy in Argentina after she graduated), the 78-year-old, who lives in Florida, five time zones back from London, has also decided against setting his alarm.
Whatever we might think of Meghan’s decision to exclude her family — be they blameless or otherwise — it means we can expect a scene of stark disparity in the chapel tomorrow.
The right-hand side, where the groom’s contingent traditionally sit, will be packed with Harry’s family members, close and distant. The left, reserved for the bride’s guests, is likely to be filled with her high-flown new circle of friends, such as tennis queen Serena Williams, Jessica Mulroney, daughter-in-law of the former Canadian prime minister, and her co-stars in the TV drama Suits.
On which side of the chapel David and Victoria Beckham will be seated, we can’t be sure. For those unacquainted with the Markle family’s chequered history, perhaps I should explain how this extraordinary state of affairs came about.
The Markles are divided by many long-standing feuds, but the most bitter is between Thomas Jnr and Samantha, who loathe one another with a vengeance.
The children of Meghan’s father’s first marriage, they were raised in Chicago — where Thomas Snr worked as a TV lighting technician — but when they were very young, their parents divorced and they moved to live in the backwoods of New Mexico with their mother, Roslyn.
Thomas Snr, meanwhile, decamped to Hollywood, working on the hit TV series Married With Children and marrying Meghan’s mother, Doria, 12 years his junior, who was temping at the studio.
When Samantha was in her early teens, with visions of forging an acting career, she went to live with them, followed by Thomas Jnr.
As I learned when researching Meghan’s life story, however, the arrangement was a disaster from the outset. By many accounts, Samantha was deeply jealous of her baby half-sister (though she strenuously denies this), feeling that Meghan was claiming all her father’s attention.
Matters worsened as Meghan grew older and her acting career began to blossom — while Samantha’s foundered.
According to Roslyn, 71, Samantha is ‘not a nice person’ and also resented Doria, allegedly telling friends her stepmother was ‘the maid because she is black’.
SAMANTHA has since had an unhappy life. She was first married to a lawyer from Virginia, but they split up and he took custody of their two children.
Her second marriage was also a failure, and her third child, daughter Noel, 19, despises her.
She claims to have been a model and actress, though, if we believe her brother, she only ever had one or two bit-parts, courtesy of her father, and one modelling assignment, for a jeans commercial.
Thomas Jnr says she also worked as a shop assistant, before joining the U.S. Air Force, but claims that she has sponged shamelessly off her father, contributing to his recent bankruptcy.
With a tell-all book about Meghan in the pipeline, Samantha now calls herself a writer and ‘mental health counsellor’. She was diagnosed with MS in 2008. Thomas Jnr’s life has been no less difficult. After working as a lowly-paid Hollywood propshifter (again, thanks to his father’s connections), he drifted from job to job, and woman to woman, before marrying Tracy.
Though they had two sons, Tyler and Thomas — or ‘TJ’, as he is known — he says the relationship was so fraught that they lived ‘as man and wife’ for only a few months. As Tracy is reportedly a recovering alcoholic, and he has long-standing problems with drink, this isn’t surprising.
In fairness, Tracy has sprung to her ex-husband’s defence in recent months, not least when he was arrested for threatening Darlene with a gun. But TJ is less forgiving, saying he feels humiliated by his father’s erratic behaviour, and his outbursts about Meghan, and that his father and aunt Samantha are both ‘crazy’.
Given the goings-on in recent days, we might think this something of an understatement — and you can bet your life there is plenty more embarrassment to come from the madcap Markles.
Perhaps Meghan is wondering whether she should have invited the whole sorry lot of them. After all, it might have been better to have these loose cannons inside the wedding hall, rather than taking pot shots from outside.
Loose cannon: Meghan’s brother Thomas Junior visits Windsor Castle on the eve of the Royal Wedding Family at war: Meghan at 11 (far left) with her dad, Samantha and nephews Tyler and Thomas. Above: Thomas Jnr with baby Meg