Paparazzi scandal pitches UK royal wedding into crisis

A cardboard cutout of Prince Harry and Ms Meghan Markle overlooking a selection of royal wedding merchandise in Ye Olde Kings Head gift shop in Santa Monica, California. The couple are due to be married on Saturday at Windsor Castle in England.
A cardboard cutout of Prince Harry and Ms Meghan Markle overlooking a selection of royal wedding merchandise in Ye Olde Kings Head gift shop in Santa Monica, California. The couple are due to be married on Saturday at Windsor Castle in England.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

WINDSOR (United Kingdom) • Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's wedding this weekend was yesterday overshadowed by reports that her father may not attend the ceremony following a paparazzi scandal, rocking the royal family's meticulous planning for the landmark occasion.

Kensington Palace, the official residence of the couple, pleaded in a statement for "understanding and respect" during a "difficult situation" as United States media reported that Mr Thomas Markle had suffered a heart attack after fallout from allegedly staging paparazzi photos of himself.

According to celebrity news website TMZ, he decided against travelling from his home in Mexico to accompany his daughter down the aisle at Windsor Castle due to his health - and to spare her further embarrassment.

Kensington Palace did not confirm whether Mr Markle had pulled out of the wedding, but issued a statement hinting that all was not well. "This is a deeply personal moment for Ms Markle in the days before her wedding," it said. "She and Prince Harry ask again for understanding and respect to be extended to Mr Markle in this difficult situation."

Mr Markle, 73, told TMZ that he had agreed to pose for a paparazzi photo shoot in a bid to rehabilitate his image, rather than for money, but that he now regretted the move.

It said he had suffered a heart attack last week due to stress following the episode and that he was continuing to suffer from chest pains.

CALL FOR UNDERSTANDING

This is a deeply personal moment for Ms Markle in the days before her wedding. She and Prince Harry ask again for understanding and respect to be extended to Mr Markle in this difficult situation.

'' KENSINGTON PALACE, in a statement, following reports that the bride-to-be's father, Mr Thomas Markle, suffered a heart attack following a paparazzi scandal and may not attend the wedding.

Mr Markle said he had not heard from his daughter since the revelations broke, and that her mother and his former wife, Ms Doria Ragland, would be a good choice to walk her down the aisle in his place, according to TMZ.

Meanwhile, Ms Markle's half-sister Samantha Grant, who has criticised the bride-to-be's relationship with her father's side of the family, reportedly tweeted that it was her suggestion that Mr Markle pose in the photoshoot.

She said the "positive photos" were intended to combat his "bad" portrayal in the press, and reiterated it was not done for money.

The images, showing him being measured for a suit and admiring a photo of the future royal couple on his computer, sold for US$100,000 (S$134,000), according to British tabloid the Daily Mirror.

Kensington Palace had been at pains to project a sense of serenity around preparations for the big day, regularly announcing minor planning details - from the type of carriage the royal couple will ride to who will bake their wedding cake.

But they have been overshadowed by Ms Markle's relatives on her father's side, who have been barred from Saturday's nuptials following unwelcome stories of bust-ups, heavy drinking - and even an arrest.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 16, 2018, with the headline 'Paparazzi scandal pitches UK royal wedding into crisis'. Print Edition | Subscribe