WINDSOR • Prince Charles, the heir to the British throne, will walk Ms Meghan Markle down the aisle at her glittering wedding to his son Prince Harry today, after her own father had to pull out because of ill health.
Her father, Mr Thomas Markle, told celebrity website TMZ he was not coming because he had had a heart operation days before the ceremony, in a family drama that has played out under the glare of global media attention.
"Meghan Markle has asked His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales to accompany her down the aisle of the Quire of St George's Chapel on her Wedding Day," Prince Harry's office at Kensington Palace said in a statement yesterday.
"The Prince of Wales is pleased to be able to welcome Ms Markle to The Royal Family in this way."
Outside the ancient stone walls of Windsor Castle, home to the British royal family for nearly 1,000 years, well-wishers mingled with tourists and swarms of television crews under swathes of British and American flags.
Prince Harry, 33, will marry Ms Markle, 36, who starred in American TV drama Suits, in the castle's 15th-century St George's Chapel in a ceremony today.
Ms Markle's African-American mother, Ms Doria Ragland, was due to have tea with Queen Elizabeth, Prince Harry's 92-year-old grandmother, yesterday.
Cinderella has met her prince. It could be anybody. That's what's so beautiful about it.
MS KATIE MERRITT, a 33-year-old nurse from Arizona, who is in London on her royal-themed vacation.
Ms Ragland, a yoga instructor, had earlier charmed her daughter's future father-in-law when they met on Wednesday, a source close to the royal family said.
Buckingham Palace confirmed that Queen Elizabeth's husband, Prince Philip, 96, will be at the wedding after rumours swirled that he may not attend as he is still recovering from hip replacement surgery last month.
Police are expecting more than 100,000 people to throng the streets outside the castle in the town of Windsor - the Queen's home located west of London and the oldest and largest inhabited fortress in the world - and have said there will be tight security for the event.
Preparations were shaken on Thursday when Ms Markle confirmed that her father would not travel from his Mexico home after undergoing heart surgery following a paparazzi scandal.
Mr Markle was originally reported to have pulled out from the wedding after allegedly posing for a set of staged photos which sold for a reported £100,000 (S$177,000) - in a breach of royal etiquette.
Despite the pre-ceremony fiasco, Ms Markle was smiling as she arrived for Thursday's dress rehearsal, which also saw military marches and a dry run of the carriage procession that will whisk the couple around Windsor to greet the crowds after their wedding.
A FATHER-IN-LAW'S WELCOME
The Prince of Wales is pleased to be able to welcome Ms Markle to The Royal Family in this way.
KENSINGTON PALACE, on Ms Meghan Markle's request for Prince Charles to walk her down the aisle.
The couple made a brief appearance, surprising crowds milling around the rehearsal route by pulling in to Windsor Castle via the famous Long Walk promenade.
Speculation is in overdrive over the design of Ms Markle's dress, which palace officials are determined to keep under wraps until she arrives for the ceremony.
Yesterday, Violet Bakery in east London was putting finishing touches to the "ethereal" lemon and elderflower wedding cake, which it said would be displayed in a special "installation".
Ingredients for the cake, which will be assembled at Windsor today include 200 Amalfi lemons, 500 eggs and 10 bottles of elderflower cordial.
It was love at first sight for Prince Harry, a former army officer and one-time royal wild child, and Ms Markle who met on a blind date in July 2016 after being set up through a mutual friend.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
UPSTAGED BY FAMILY
The relatives have become a bigger story than the event itself, which is tragic.
VETERAN ROYAL BIOGRAPHER PENNY JUNOR, on the circus surrounding Ms Markle's family ahead of her wedding.