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Behind Thomas Markle's special relationship with Meghan Markle

Posted May 15, 2018 11:40 p.m. EDT

— It's been a dizzying week of gossip and speculation for Meghan Markle's father days before one of the most anticipated weddings of the year.

The American actress will wed Prince Harry on Saturday at St. George's Chapel in Windsor Castle in a ceremony watched by millions around the world.

But while she's largely stayed out of the spotlight in the days leading up to the wedding, the father of the bride has been busy making headlines worldwide with one theme -- will he be there or won't he?

Thomas Markle has given multiple interviews to celebrity news site TMZ on whether he'll walk his famous daughter down the aisle -- saying in the latest that he won't.

At first, the former Hollywood lighting director was expected to play a key role on his daughter's big day, but it emerged Tuesday that he could miss the wedding because heart surgery.

The announcement marked the latest twist after accusations that he posed for wedding preparation photos for a paparazzi agency. After the revelation, he pulled out of the wedding, reportedly saying he doesn't want to embarrass the royal family or his daughter.

Close ties despite divorce

Whether or not he attends the wedding, the father and daughter share a close relationship by all accounts.

Meghan is said to be upset about the staged photos, but still wants her father to walk her down the aisle.

Markle divorced Meghan's mother, Doria Ragland, in the 1980s but has remained part of his daughter's life.

In a 2016 message titled "Happy Father's Day" posted on her now-deleted Instagram account, Meghan Markle paid tribute to him.

"Thanks for my work ethic, my love of Busby Berkeley films & club sandwiches, for teaching me the importance of handwritten thank you notes, and for giving me that signature Markle nose. I love you," she reportedly posted.

Meghan has said she spent most of her childhood hanging out at her father's job after school.

"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 told Esquire in 2013.

"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.' "

Those days on the set with her father shaped her career. In the interview, she said he'd call and offer her advice on lighting while she was on television show "Suits."

"... [M]y dad will be the first person to call me and say like, 'Why aren't you using this sort of lighting gel?' The crew guys know that it's where I grew up," she said.

Meghan said in the 2013 interview that her father had retired about six years earlier. She recalled watching the credits at the end of "Married .. with Children" episodes and giving the screen a kiss when she saw his name go by.

'Draw your own box'

Long before she turned into a Hollywood star, Meghan struggled with her biracial identity. She's said her father helped her realize she doesn't need to pick one race over the other.

When she was in seventh grade, her English teacher asked her to check the ethnicity box for Caucasian on a census, which made her feel like she was choosing one parent over another

When she told her father about the incident, he was angry.

'"If that happens again, you draw your own box," she said he told her, according to Elle UK.

The issue of race would be a confusing thread throughout Meghan's early years. When she was 7, she wanted a doll set that came in either an all-white or all-black family. Her father took apart the doll packages and mixed a black mom doll, a white dad doll and two children of both races, and gave them to her as a Christmas gift.

"My dad had taken the sets apart and customized my family," she wrote.

He lives in Mexico

Thomas Markle lives in the Mexican beach city of Rosarito, where he was photographed by a paparazzo in the apparently staged photos over the past few weeks.

Her half-sister Samantha Markle has added to the controversy by leaking details on their father even as Kensington Palace has requested that journalists respect his privacy.

The estranged sibling has said their father suffered a heart attack after reports emerged that Thomas Markle may not attend the royal wedding on Saturday.

While Samantha Markle has reportedly not spoken to her sister for several years, she has not been shy about making media rounds. She did not specify the timing of her father's heart attack, but told the "Good Morning Britain" program that while she's concerned for his health, she did not want him to miss out on the big day.

"I wanted to see him go. I didn't want him deprived of that. But clearly the propriety should be whether or not it is safe for him to do that," Markle added.

Samantha Markle has previously said she was the one who had encouraged their father to stage the photos in an ill-fated bid to improve his image.

He was to meet with the royal family

Both of Meghan's parents were due to fly into the UK in the days before the wedding. Once there, they are expected to spend time with the British royal family, including Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh.

Prince Harry has yet to meet his fiancée's father.