Meghan’s the one I want to hear from on my birthday, but here’s why I know she won’t call: Just weeks from his 80th, a forlorn THOMAS MARKLE sees no hope of a reconciliation with his daughter

Turning 80 is a significant milestone in anyone’s life. But for Thomas Markle, his big day on July 18 will be tinged with regret and mixed emotions. ‘I never expected to make it to 80 because Markle men never do,’ he said last night. ‘My father died at 61.

‘I’ve had a good life and I am proud of what I’ve accomplished, but everything has been overshadowed by what has happened in the last six years.

‘I’ve never been one for birthdays, but I know the one person I most want to hear from, Meghan, won’t be in touch. I would love to meet my grandchildren, but I would be happy with a photograph at this stage.’

Thomas Markle with a young Meghan. He became estranged from her after he was unable to walk her down the aisle for her marriage to Prince Harry

Mr Markle became estranged from his youngest daughter, Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, in 2018 when he was unable to walk her down the aisle for her marriage to Prince Harry after he suffered two heart attacks on the eve of their wedding. The couple have not spoken to him since.

Mr Markle has never met his grandchildren Archie, five, and three-year-old Lilibet.

Speaking from his cliffside home in Rosarito, Mexico, just 250 miles from the Sussexes’ 16-bathroom home in Montecito, California, he remains perplexed that he has also never met his son-in-law.

‘When I reflect back on my life, as you do when you are approaching 80, that’s one of the questions I cannot find an answer for.

‘Why didn’t Harry ever come to meet me? He has the resources to fly around the world – and does – but why didn’t he come to see me, particularly when people in the royal household like Jason Knauf [Harry and Meghan’s former communications secretary] were urging him to do so? That has never made sense to me.

‘What man gets married without meeting his wife’s father?’

As he speaks, the effects of a serious stroke he suffered two years ago are apparent. At times he struggles to find words or stumbles over sentences. He endures the aches and pains of old age, including a bad knee and bad back, and is frustrated when he cannot remember names and places.

Mr Markle feels ‘deep empathy’ for King Charles, who is ‘in the same boat’ as far as not seeing his grandchildren is concerned.

‘I would love to speak to him because I am sure he has as many unanswered questions as I do. Neither of us deserves the treatment we’ve received.

‘He is going through cancer treatment and I’m not in the best of health. I’m not afraid of dying. It is what it is.

‘I have so many questions I’d like to ask Meghan and Harry. The main one being, why have they treated not only me but the Royal Family and the King so badly.’

Like millions around the globe, Mr Markle saw the stunning images from last weekend’s Trooping The Colour, which marked the first appearance of Catherine, Princess of Wales, since her cancer diagnosis.

But it was the sight of William and Catherine’s three children – George, Charlotte and Louis – on the Buckingham Palace balcony that particularly moved him.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex with Archie, five, and Lilibet, three. Mr Markle has never met either of his grandchildren

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex with Archie, five, and Lilibet, three. Mr Markle has never met either of his grandchildren

Mr Markle said: ‘It struck me as very sad that Meghan and Harry’s kids are being denied the right to know their cousins, who look like fantastic children.

‘The relationship between cousins is a special one. There’s a unique bond.

‘I feel sad that Lilibet and Archie don’t have the chance to get to know their cousins and take part in things like Trooping The Colour, which is their birthright.

‘They are getting to the age where they will start asking questions, as all kids do.

‘At some stage it’s inevitable that they will ask their parents why they have cut them off from both sides of the family?

‘They have two grandpas who want to see them, one of whom is the King of England. I never in my 80 years thought I’d be in the same boat as the King.

‘The decisions Meghan and Harry have made will affect their kids for the rest of their lives. I find myself wondering how Archie and Lilibet will feel in a few years time when they realise all the things they have missed out on.’

An Emmy-award winning Hollywood lighting director, Mr Markle’s long life has taken him from small-town Pennsylvania to the bright lights of Hollywood.

His father Gordon worked as a printer at Olmsted Air Force Base outside the family’s hometown of Newport, Pennsylvania, while his mother Doris ran the sweet counter at a ‘five-and-dime’ budget store.

Tom started working on theatre productions in high school and later joined a local theatre group, where his talent blossomed.

He landed a job with WTTW public television in Chicago and spent more than a decade on a groundbreaking live music programme called Soundstage, a precursor to shows like Top Of The Pops, working with Aretha Franklin and Billy Joel.

After divorcing his first wife Rosalyn, the mother of his two oldest children Samantha and Tom Jr, he decided to try his luck in Hollywood. In Los Angeles, he initially worked in a motel, where he rubbed shoulders with prostitutes and an accused murderer, before landing his big break with ABC television.

‘I’ve had a colourful life,’ he said. ‘When I worked at the motel I was friends with a bodyguard called Gregory Diles.’

Diles, who died in 1997, was tried and acquitted for his involvement in a case known as the Wonderland Murders, in which four people were killed during a brutal robbery at a drug dealer’s house. The case remains unsolved.

Mr Markle said: ‘They were interesting times. I loved my career and enjoyed being behind the camera. I worked with some of the biggest stars in Hollywood, like Elizabeth Taylor, and covered the red carpet at the Oscars.’

Mr Markle became the lighting director on two popular shows, General Hospital and Married With Children.

He met Meghan’s mother Doria when she was a secretary working at the same studio and even though they divorced when Meghan was two, they remained close.

‘We had such an amicable divorce that after I retired to Mexico and had to go to LA, I would stay with Doria and she’d cook me dinner.

‘I always provided well for Meghan and Doria and was happy to do so. There was never any bad blood between us until Meghan met Harry.’

Meghan lived full-time with her father from the age of 11 when Doria launched an import and export business and travelled extensively. ‘Meghan grew up on TV sets that I was working on. I’d either collect her from school myself or would send a car to get her and bring her to the set.

‘Those are the happy times I look back on. Meghan had a great childhood and I felt lucky, as a father, to spend so much time with her.

‘She makes out she achieved everything on her own, but one of the directors of General Hospital, Owen Renfroe, gave her one line to read which helped her to get an actor’s union card. That was what started her career.’

His living room in Rosarito is filled with memories. A picture of Meghan graduating from the Little Red Schoolhouse kindergarten sits on the mantel above the fireplace.

Her graduation picture from Immaculate Heart High School is on another wall.

A picture of Tom taking Meghan to the Emmy Awards – television’s Oscars – when she was ten or 11 is on the wall above the sofa I am sitting on.

He says: ‘The one thing I never imagined was Meghan turning against me at this point in my life. I thought she would always be there for me.

‘Meghan was mad at me because I posed for some paparazzi pictures before the wedding. I was totally alone and being hounded. A photographer went to my daughter Samantha and convinced her that the pictures would improve my image.

‘It was a mistake and I have apologised for it repeatedly.

Mr Markle will celebrate his 80th birthday on July 18 but does not expect to hear from Meghan

Mr Markle will celebrate his 80th birthday on July 18 but does not expect to hear from Meghan

‘When you look at what Harry and Meghan have done since, like accusing the Royal Family of racism, it’s far worse than anything I’ve done. I don’t want pity and I don’t want this episode to define my life. I don’t want to be a footnote in history.

‘I never felt old in my mind, but it hit me a few years ago when people started standing up and offering me their chair.

‘When the drama started with Meghan and Harry I was already well into my 70s and, while I did not realise it at the time, I was vulnerable.’

Mr Markle wonders if the royals blame him for their issues with Meghan. ‘The person she’s become isn’t the girl I raised, but I wonder if they blame the Markle family for everything that has gone wrong.

‘She started to change when she lived in Canada filming Suits and was hanging out with the Soho House [an exclusive members’ club and hotel chain] crowd.

‘She began acting entitled. Things escalated after she met Harry.

‘It upsets me that the Markle name is now associated with negativity. People talk about being ‘Markled’ when they get dumped for no reason. That saddens me.’

Mr Markle will celebrate his birthday on July 18 with his son Tom Jr and will speak to his eldest daughter Samantha on the phone (she suffers from multiple sclerosis and is unable to travel from her home in Florida to be with him).

He has already started to receive wishes from friends and former colleagues ahead of his big day.

‘I don’t expect to hear from Meghan and Harry,’ he said. ‘I wish we could have worked this situation out. I was always ready and willing to do that.’

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