The 73-year-old father of Meghan Markle, 36, surprised the world on Monday when he gave his first televised interview via satellite on Good Morning Britain with Piers Morgan and Susanna Reid.
In the lengthy live interview, which lasted more than 30 minutes without interruption, Thomas opened up about a variety of topics, including his daughter’s romance with Prince Harry, him staging paparazzi photos and him missing the royal wedding due to heart surgery last month.
Thomas, who lives in Mexico, started off the interview explaining how the now Duchess of Sussex first told him she was dating the 33-year-old royal.
“First phone calls were, ‘Daddy, I have a new boyfriend.’ And I said, ‘That’s really nice.’ And the next call was like, ‘He’s British,’ and I said, ‘Well, that’s really nice,’” he recalled. “And the third time around was, ‘Well, he’s a prince.’ And at that point, she said, ‘It’s Harry,’ and I said, ‘Oh, Harry, OK.’ And she said, ‘Of course, we’ll have to call him H so no one knows.’ We talked about that and eventually I spoke to him as well, very nice man, gentleman.”
When asked if he was impressed to learn that Meghan was dating Harry, Thomas quickly replied, “My daughter’s certainly a prize for him as well. Yeah, he’s great. He’s an interesting guy, but my daughter’s been a princess since the day she was born.”
Thomas noted that he’s only ever spoken with Harry over the phone, and claimed the prince shared his personal thoughts on President Donald Trump and Brexit, which is the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union. In 2016, citizens voted to leave the E.U.
Thomas, who said he’s not personally a fan of the current president, noted that Harry urged him to give the U.S. administration “a chance” and said that the prince was willing to see how the Brexit “experiment” played out.
Meghan's father went on to recall how Harry asked for his daughter's hand in marriage before news of the couple's engagement broke last fall.
“Meghan told me first and then a few times after that, Harry got on the phone with Meghan,” he said. “They called me together and Harry asked for her hand over the phone. And I said, ‘You’re a gentleman. Promise me you’ll never raise your hand against my daughter, and, of course, I give you my permission.’”
He added that Meghan and Harry wanted him to walk her down the aisle “from the very start” and noted that Harry had given him advice on how to handle the encroaching press.
“For the most part it was always, ‘Don’t speak to the press.’ The rest of the things were, ‘Just be careful,’” he said. “But they were very emphatic about not giving information to the press because it just encourages them more.”
That advice wasn’t exactly followed when Thomas staged a paparazzi photo shoot of himself searching for images of Meghan and Harry online at an internet cafe. He insisted in his morning show interview that he received no money for the shoot, but rather it was done to “change my image.”
“I thought this would be a nice way of improving my look, but obviously that all went to hell. I feel bad about it,” he said. “I apologize for it and that’s all I can do. I can’t do much about it. That was a mistake.”
WORLD EXCLUSIVE: ‘I feel bad about it. I apologise for it’ - Mr Markle addresses the staged paparazzi photos leading up to the royal wedding #GMBpic.twitter.com/YrYFfVk7H1
After the story broke, Thomas said he apologized to both Harry and Meghan for his actions.
“Actually, it wasn’t [a difficult conversation]. They were very forgiving,” he said, adding that the couple still maintained they were looking forward to his involvement in the wedding. “Meghan said, ‘Everything is ready for you.’ Harry said, ‘I’ve got one of my military friends to take care of you when you’re here.’ It was all set up, it was fine.”
The scandal, however, had a lasting effect on Thomas’ health.
“I couldn’t get over the fact that that had happened. All of that stuff was working on me,” he said. “I’ve got a bit of a heart condition. This pushed me a little further to the point where I had heart palpitations. I had to drive at two in the morning into Rosarito to a hospital… I had a heart attack.”
A few days later, Thomas said he was stabilized by the hospital and checked out against their recommendations so he could attend the wedding. He claims as soon as the military personnel Harry had put in charge of his transport called to let him know it was time to go, things went south.
“At that time I started getting heart palpitations. I started getting chest pains. And I said, ‘I have to cancel,’” he said. “And that was because I didn’t take care of the heart problem before.”
WORLD EXCLUSIVE: Thomas Markle talks about his heart surgery and the moment he told Meghan he couldn’t attend the royal wedding #GMBpic.twitter.com/oIpPjPbd6u
Thomas told his daughter that he wouldn’t be able to make it for her big day, admitting the conversation was a difficult one.
“They were disappointed,” he said. “Meghan cried -- I’m sure -- she did cry. They both said, ‘Take care of yourself. We’re really worried about you.‘ They said the important thing is that I get better.”
Thomas noted that the couple talked about coming to visit him in the days before the wedding, but he told them to, “worry about the wedding and then please go on a honeymoon because they’ve been tied into this for months.”
Harry's dad, Prince Charles, stepped in to take Thomas’ place – a move that got the approval of the bride's father.
“I was honored. I can’t think of a better replacement than someone like Prince Charles,” he said. “He looked very handsome and my daughter looked beautiful with him. I was jealous. I wish I had been there. I wish it’d been me, but thank god he was there and thank him for that.”
Thomas admitted he “cried” watching his daughter’s special day on TV, adding, “I was very upset it wasn’t me, but the whole world was watching my daughter.”
In an emotional moment, Thomas said, “The unfortunate thing for me now is that I’m a footnote in one of the greatest moments in history rather than the dad walking her down the aisle. That really upsets me somewhat.”
The proud dad did tease that he expects the couple will announce a pregnancy very shortly.