It is a charming black-and-white photograph taken by a proud father of the baby he called ‘Meggie’.
Framed and taking pride of place on the living room table, it sits close to another picture hanging on the wall, this one of an instantly recognisable young woman who is beaming with happiness as she snuggles up to her father at an American football game.
Both photographs are, says Thomas Markle, the estranged father of Meghan Markle, poignant daily reminders of the rift that now exists between himself, the daughter he loves and his son-in-law Prince Harry.
Cherished picture: Thomas Markle’s favourite photograph on an infant Meghan he calls ‘Meggie’
Warm memory: Meghan and her dad at a football game in her college days. She claims she paid her way through university – something Mr Markle disputes
Mr Markle’s sunny living room overlooking the Pacific Ocean in Rosarito, a small beach community just south of the US-Mexico border, is filled with pictures of all his children, including Meghan’s older half-siblings, Tom Jr and Samantha.
But only Meghan has her own commemorative mugs, displayed on Mr Markle’s mantelpiece, which celebrate her May 2018 wedding to Prince Harry and the birth of the couple’s son, Archie Harrison, born a year later – the grandson Mr Markle has yet to meet.
While Mr Markle has given only a handful of interviews and released brief statements to celebrate Meghan’s pregnancy and Archie’s birth, he says he is subjected to a ‘daily barrage’ of untrue stories about him.
Today, he is speaking out for the first time since Archie’s birth because he feels he is being unfairly vilified and cut out of his grandson’s life.
‘I would like them to send me a picture of Archie so I can frame it and put it on my wall beside the one of Meghan. Isn’t that what any grandfather would want? I’d love to know if he’s got the famous Markle nose.’
It was Meghan’s 38th birthday last month. ‘I sent her a card via her financial adviser in LA but received no acknowledgement,’ he says. ‘I have no idea if she got it.
Meghan pictured with baby Archie who Mr Markle has only ever seen a picture on on the internet
‘I’d like to do a piece saying the ten things people don’t know about me but there are way more than ten. What upsets me is when people who don’t know me say negative things about me. Until you know me, what gives you that right?’
He never received an official wedding invitation (he was forced to abandon plans to walk his daughter down the aisle after suffering two heart attacks) and, perhaps most sadly of all, he has only ever seen a picture of his new grandson on the internet.
‘Firstly, I love my daughter. She’s my baby and this is my favourite ever picture of her,’ says Mr Markle, as he looks at the cherished framed picture of Meghan, then aged two, which is published today for the first time.
‘I took that photograph and I always loved it because of the pensive look on her face. That was my Meggie.
‘We were so close. I would come home from work [he was an award-winning Hollywood lighting director] and I would hold her against my chest and we would walk around for hours and hours.
‘Anyone who knew me, the first question out of their mouth would be, “How’s Meg?” I talked about her all the time. I was so proud of her. I’m still proud of her.
‘Sometimes I get the feeling people think I don’t love my daughter. I do love her very much. I would love nothing more than to put a picture of Archie in a frame and place it beside the one of Meghan.’
Mr Markle never received an invitation to his daughter’s wedding and he was forced to abandon plans to walk his daughter down the aisle after suffering two heart attacks
He points out the picture of him with a 20-year-old beaming Meghan taken when she was a student at prestigious Northwestern University in Illinois.
Meghan secretly surprised her father, an American football fan, with tickets to see a game at Ryan Field stadium on the campus in Evanston, a suburb north of Chicago.
‘It was a freezing cold day and I had to keep running off to buy more clothes to keep us warm,’ he recalls. ‘The wind was blowing straight off Lake Michigan but Meghan and I had the best time.
‘I love that picture because that was such a happy day. I have so many happy memories like that.
‘There was never any problem between Meghan and me until recently. I’ve stayed quiet because Meghan was pregnant with Archie but I’m speaking out now because they and their PR people are continuing to ghost me out of her life.
‘Of course I’m disappointed not to see Archie. I had hoped becoming a mother would mellow Meghan and she would reach out.’
He takes issue with celebrity friends of Meghan and Harry launching personal attacks on him.
‘People who don’t know me make judgments,’ he says.
‘My daughter’s new A-list friends have no right to speak about me until they know me.’
Mr Markle said: ‘I always hoped that I would be as close to Meghan’s child as I was to her when she was a child’
Mr Markle says he has apologised repeatedly for staging photographs with the paparazzi, which appeared in this newspaper, just days before the wedding.
‘I was approached by a photo agency which said it would be a way to improve my image because the press were making me look like a homeless guy.
‘It was a huge mistake. I wanted to apologise to the Royal Family publicly but Meghan and Harry told me not to.
‘So I texted Jason Knauf, who was Harry and Meghan’s then press secretary, and he asked me what I’d like to say? I said I wanted to apologise to the Queen and the Royal Family and that I meant no harm. That apology never came out. I don’t know why.’
When he suffered two heart attacks and ended up in hospital, Mr Markle never heard afterwards from either his daughter or son-in-law and he was forced to cancel his flight across the Atlantic to the wedding on doctor’s orders.
‘All I’d like to ask people is, “How would you feel if your father had a heart attack?” I texted them [Harry and Meghan] from my hospital bed and told them where I was. I have the texts to prove it. Yet never once has Meghan ever asked me how I’m doing. Not then, not since.’
He has been stung by critics, particularly those in the UK, who complain that he rarely sees his other grown-up grandchildren – Tyler and TJ, the sons of Tom Jr, and Noelle, Christopher and Ashleigh, the children of his eldest daughter Samantha.
In Meghan’s first major speech in Fiji last year (pictured), she claimed that she paid her own way through university
‘Brits don’t realise the scale of the distances between us,’ he says. ‘When American families move apart from each other there are thousands of miles between us.
‘We stay in touch but it’s not that easy. You can’t just jump in the car and go like you guys can. We stay in touch the best we can.’
Most upsetting, says Mr Markle, is the fact that his daughter, in her first major speech in Fiji last year, claimed that she paid her own way through university and would not have been able to afford the reported $200,000 tuition fees at Northwestern University without financial aid.
Speaking to a group of students at the University of the South Pacific, Meghan said: ‘The journey of higher education is an incredible, impactful and pivotal one.
‘I am also fully aware of the challenges of being able to afford this level of schooling for many people around the world, myself included.
‘It was with scholarships, financial aid programmes, and work study from my earnings from a job on campus that went directly towards my tuition that I was able to attend university, and without question it was worth every effort.’
Not true, says her father, who remained silent at the time because his daughter was pregnant.
‘I’m sorry but that is completely untrue. I paid every penny of her tuition and I have the bank statements to prove it.
‘I paid for her trips to Spain and England. I paid for her internship in Argentina.’
For his part, Mr Markle admits it was a ‘point of pride’ to pay off his daughter’s fees even after she became an independently wealthy woman. ‘I told Meg I would pay for her education and I did. It’s what any father would do.’
He has revealed the contents of a letter sent to Meghan’s mother Doria five days after the Duchess’s speech in Fiji.
Mr Markle says it was a ‘point of pride’ to pay off his daughter’s fees even after she became an independently wealthy woman
In it, he wrote: ‘Meghan is saying she wants nothing to do with me and she worked her way through college all by herself. I haven’t said anything about it, but I’m sure reporters are checking at Northwestern to see who paid her way through school. She cannot change history.’
Mr Markle is tired of waiting for his daughter and Prince Harry to forgive him. ‘I’m sick of the lies. I’m sick of being vilified and shut out of their lives.
‘I always upheld my responsibilities as a father. Meghan’s comments about paying her way through college are offensive to me.
‘I don’t want anything from Meghan or Harry but I’m not going to shut up until the whole truth is out there. I will continue to contradict anything said about me that isn’t true.
‘I have to stand up for myself. I’m going to carry on speaking and I’m not going to shut up,’ he added.
‘No father deserves this kind of abuse when he’s been that good to his daughter. Ask anyone who knows us both. I’ve been very kind and generous to my daughter.’
On Meghan’s old website Tig, a lifestyle blog which she took down after her engagement, she repeatedly credited her father for turning her into the woman she is today.
There was one famous post about how she was given a form at school and asked to identify her ethnicity.
Meghan didn’t know which box to chose because she didn’t want to offend either her mother or father.
She came home and asked her father who told her: ‘Draw your own box and say who you are and I will back you up.’
‘I told her I’d back her up because she was going to hand the form back to a teacher,’ he explained.
‘I wanted her to know I had her back. Those moments she cites which show her strength and independence, a lot of those came from me.
‘Everybody thinks I had nothing to do with her after Doria and I divorced. The truth is she lived with me most of the time until she went off to college.
‘I believe all family differences can be resolved and I believe that can still happen for me, Meghan and Harry.’
He pauses and looks again at the his favourite picture of his daughter. ‘I always hoped that I would be as close to Meghan’s child as I was to her when she was a child.’
- Mr Markle neither asked for nor received any payment for this article.
‘Private jets prove they’re hypocrites’
Thomas Markle has accused his daughter and Prince Harry of displaying the same ‘hypocritical’ approach to the environment as they have adopted with him.
Asked about recent stories criticising the couple for taking at least four private jets this summer while lecturing people on the need to save the planet, he told The Mail on Sunday: ‘I feel sorry for them in a way because they brought this on themselves. You can’t say one thing and do another.
‘Everyone raves about how gracious and wonderful they are, but they are not wonderful to their own family. That’s hypocritical.
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have attracted criticism for their use of private jets
‘You can’t portray yourself as being charitable and bringing people together and then ghost your own father and your entire family. Their treatment of me has left a lot to be desired.
‘I’ve still never met my son-in-law. Why couldn’t Prince Harry have got on a plane and flown to see me to ask for her hand? He obviously has no problem getting on private jets.
‘If he wants to come and see me on a private jet, there’s an airport near here in Tijuana, and San Diego is just over the border. There are dozens of commercial flights from England to San Diego and Los Angeles every day.’
The couple’s private jet flights include a trip to visit Sir Elton John at his home in the South of France and to Ibiza to celebrate Meghan’s birthday.
Sir Elton and other celebrity friends have defended Meghan and Harry.
George Clooney called negative stories ‘unjust’ and Sir Elton condemned the ‘distorted and malicious accounts’ of the couple’s holiday at his villa in Nice, saying he paid for their private jet.
Meghan’s best friend, stylist Jessica Mulroney, even called criticism of Meghan’s private jet jaunts ‘racist’.
But Mr Markle said: ‘I don’t think it’s racist. I think it’s a shame that Meghan and Harry say one thing and act another way. Whoever is advising them isn’t doing a great job.’