I sym­pa­thise with Mr Markle – but this hasn’t helped palace’s plea for pri­vacy

The Irish Mail on Sunday - - ROYAL FAKE PHOTOS FURORE - By ROBERT JOB­SON ROYAL AU­THOR

‘A line has been crossed. Meghan has been sub­ject to a wave of abuse and ha­rass­ment... Her mother hav­ing to strug­gle past pho­tog­ra­phers to get to her front door... the bom­bard­ment of nearly ev­ery loved one in her life... Prince Harry is wor­ried about Ms Markle’s safety... It is not right that she should be sub­jected to such a storm.’ PALACE PLEA TO THE PRESS IN 2016 STATE­MENT

AS AN ex­pe­ri­enced royal ob­server, I have pro­found sym­pa­thy for Thomas Markle Snr, the reclu­sive fa­ther of Harry’s bride, Meghan. Af­ter all, he didn’t ask to be thrust into the me­dia spot­light.

Through­out months of in­tense pub­lic in­ter­est, Mr Markle has wisely cho­sen to re­main silent. He hasn’t yet met the roy­als. Rather, he has cho­sen to live in small-town Mex­ico, more than 5,000 miles away from St Ge­orge’s Chapel.

It must be daunt­ing to know that the world will be watch­ing as he walks his daugh­ter down the aisle. It is all the stranger, then, to learn that he has en­gaged in a se­quence of staged photo stunts in the build-up to the wed­ding.

The re­sult­ing pic­tures, sold and syn­di­cated around the world for large sums, ap­peared to give a can­did and amus­ing in­sight into his prepa­ra­tions for his daugh­ter’s big day. Some ob­servers thought them too good to be true – and so it has proved.

Mail on Sun­day en­quiries have shown be­yond doubt that, far from be­ing snapped in the street by chance as he went about his busi­ness, Mr Markle had posed de­lib­er­ately for a pa­parazzi agency – stunts that are best de­scribed as fake news. He even supplied his own props.

Was it a naive at­tempt to ‘man­age’ the me­dia in­ter­est in him? Did he do it in re­turn for money? Ei­ther way, the en­ter­prise has been a great mis­take on Mr Markle’s part.

It is un­ques­tion­ably a very dif­fi­cult time for any­one who feels the full glare of pub­lic­ity, and his friends say he has been stressed and dis­tressed by it. I sym­pa­thise. But col­lud­ing with the pa­parazzi does not help his case, how­ever sym­pa­thetic one is to an el­derly man on his own, par­tic­u­larly as the most fa­mous fa­ther of the bride who now has so much fo­cus on him.

Mr Markle’s ar­range­ment is the more trou­bling as the palace has gone out of its way to pro­tect him, send­ing let­ters to news­pa­per ed­i­tors in the past few weeks re­quest­ing in the strong­est terms that he and his fam­ily be given pri­vacy.

It was made clear that there would be no pic­ture op­por­tu­ni­ties with Meghan’s fa­ther be­cause he was a man who wanted to lead his life in peace. Now it seems that Mr Markle had an­other agenda – and one that will hardly fit with his fu­ture son-in-law Prince Harry, who is un­der­stand­ably sen­si­tive about press in­tru­sion.

It risks un­der­min­ing Harry’s pleas for pri­vacy. No one is sug­gest­ing this is a se­ri­ous of­fence. I, bet­ter than most, un­der­stand how dif­fi­cult the me­dia land­scape can be to ne­go­ti­ate. And I join with the watch­ing world in wish­ing Harry, Meghan and her par­ents the most joy­ful of days on Sat­ur­day. But I know I am not the only one to hope that this un­for­tu­nate lapse of judg­ment from her fa­ther is most def­i­nitely his last.

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