Thomas Markle: 9 Things to Know About Meghan Markle’s Father
By Tina Smithers Peckham and Antoinette Bueno
Meghan Markle's father, Thomas Markle, has dominated headlines leading up to her and Prince Harry's royal wedding on May 19, thanks to a paparazzi photo scandal that has left it up in the air as to whether or not he will walk Meghan down the aisle as originally planned.
On Tuesday, TMZ reported that Thomas has had a change of heart after initially telling the outlet on Monday that he would no longer be walking Meghan down the aisle as planned following his recent photo controversy -- in which the Daily Mail reported he was caught staging paparazzi photos of himself getting ready for the wedding -- because he doesn't want to embarrass his daughter or the royal family. TMZ reported that Thomas said he changed his mind after Meghan contacted him to say that she still loves him, and had no ill feelings toward him with regard to the paparazzi scandal.
However, according to the outlet, Thomas is still unsure he will make it to the May 19 wedding since he's back in the hospital due to serious chest pains after suffering a heart attack a week ago.
"This is a deeply personal moment for Ms. Markle in the days before her wedding," Kensington Palace said in a statement to ET. "She and Prince Harry ask again for understanding and respect to be extended to Mr. Markle in this difficult situation."
Read on for more on Thomas:
1. He’s a retired lighting director.
According to his IMDb page (yes, he has his own Internet Movie Database profile!), Thomas was a lighting director and cinematographer for several years, working on television sitcoms like Married… with Children and The Facts of Life. He also lent his lighting expertise to the daytime soap opera General Hospital, where he was often credited as “Tom Markle.”
During an interview with Esquire, Meghan recalled visiting her dad on set when she was just a pre-teen. "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. "There were a lot of times my dad would say, 'Meg, why don't you go and help with the craft services room over there? This is just a little off-color for your 11-year-old eyes.'"
2. He’s won two Daytime Emmy Awards.
Speaking of General Hospital, Thomas won two Daytime Emmy Awards for his work on the long-running drama series -- one in 1982 for Outstanding Achievement in Design Excellence for a Daytime Drama Series and another in 2011 for Outstanding Achievement in Lighting Direction for a Drama Series. He was also nominated for seven other Daytime Emmys for his work on General Hospital and garnered a Primetime Emmy nomination for his production assistance on the 58th Annual Academy Awards in 1986.
3. He lives a relatively secluded life in a quiet Mexican seaside town.
The former cinematographer is enjoying a peaceful life of retirement in Rosarito, Mexico, where he resides in a small beachfront house overlooking the Pacific Ocean. He reportedly keeps many of his belongings in storage, shops for groceries at Walmart and drives a silver Volvo S70 and a red Ford Escape. While the proud dad loves to chat with friends about his daughter, he refuses to speak with the media “out of respect” for his family.
4. He’s from Pennsylvania.
Thomas grew up in Newport, Pennsylvania, a town that Meghan characterized as a “homogeneous community,” as well as a “small-sized (and, perhaps, small-minded) town” in a 2016 editorial she wrote for Elle UK about growing up biracial. (Meghan’s dad is Caucasian and her mom is African-American.)
5. He won the lottery (literally).
In Andrew Morton’s unauthorized biography Meghan: A Hollywood Princess, it was revealed that Thomas won the California State Lottery in 1990, “scooping $750,000 with five numbers, which included Meghan’s birth date.” While he eventually wound up filing for bankruptcy, Thomas did use some of it to pay for Meghan’s Catholic school tuition at the time.
6. He’s been married (and divorced) twice.
Thomas was first married to a woman named Roslyn Loveless in Chicago, where he worked in lighting for PBS television station Channel 11. Shortly after they split, he moved to the West Coast and met Meghan’s mom, Doria Ragland, while working on the set of General Hospital. “It was the late '70s when my parents met. My dad was a lighting director for a soap opera, and my mom was a temp at the studio,” the former Suits star shared with Elle UK. “I like to think he was drawn to her sweet eyes and her Afro, plus their shared love of antiques.” Thomas and Doria got married in 1979 and divorced in 1988, when Meghan was 6 years old.
7. He tried to shield Meghan from racial ignorance.
Meghan recalled to Elle UK that her parents often did what they could to keep her from feeling “different” due to having a biracial family. “When I was about 7, I had been fawning over a boxed set of Barbie dolls. It was called The Heart Family and included a mom doll, a dad doll, and two children,” she remembered. “This perfect nuclear family was only sold in sets of white dolls or black dolls. I don't remember coveting one over the other, I just wanted one. On Christmas morning, swathed in glitter-flecked wrapping paper, there I found my Heart Family: a black mom doll, a white dad doll, and a child in each color. My dad had taken the sets apart and customized my family.”
8. He has two other children, who are Meghan’s half-siblings.
Before he married Doria, Thomas and Roslyn had two children -- Samantha Grant and Thomas Markle Jr. According to royal expert Katie Nicholl, Meghan is reportedly estranged from both Samantha, 52, and Thomas Jr., 51, and will not be inviting them to the wedding. "Well, I think in terms of who Meghan's inviting from her family, it may well just be her mother and her father," the royal expert told ET. "My sources tell me she's very much estranged from her half-brother and her half-sister. I think if you've spoken publicly, you're not gonna make that wedding list."
On Monday, Samantha claimed while on the British talk show Loose Women that she was behind the photos that were allegedly staged of Thomas, and said her intention was to "benefit the royal family that everyone looked good and they depict you as you are."
“Let me clarify, he’s 73, which makes him a bit more fragile,” she said of her father. "He’s a quiet man. I feel that the media have unfairly preyed on him. He’s really been admirable about laying low and not speaking out, with all due respect. I merely wanted him to be seen in a respectable light. I didn’t feel that was being done so I suggested that the photographers show him as he is, doing positive things and that was never addressed.”
Last December, a source described Samantha as a "wild card," and said that she and Meghan have had a "strained" relationship in the past. Samantha is also publishing a book about Meghan titled, The Diary of Princess Pushy’s Sister.
"She has no filter and she’s not afraid of the repercussions of speaking her mind," the source told ET of Samantha.
9. He’s been brushing up on his British history!
Earlier this month, Thomas was spotted sitting quietly at a Starbucks in Rosarito. His reading material of choice while sipping a hot beverage? A book entitled Images of Britain: A Pictorial Journey Through History. He was clearly putting in his prep work before his daughter’s big day!
Watch the video below for more on the Markle family.