With Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding fast approaching, fans are already celebrating the American actress’s pending transformation into royalty. But as Windsor Castle prepares the final flourishes, rumors are circulating that the bride’s father, Thomas Markle, may break tradition in a major way, by not only declining to walk her down the aisle but also by missing the wedding entirely.
The news came from TMZ, which initially reported that Thomas had made the decision not to attend due to “fallout over selling photos” in which he appeared to be prepping for his daughter’s wedding. “He’s now decided not to go because he doesn’t want to embarrass the royal family or his daughter,” the website claimed. The staged photos in question were taken by photographer Jeff Rayner, who Thomas was spotted speaking with shortly before the shoot. The photos depict Thomas getting fitted for a suit, reading a book about Britain, and searching images of Prince Harry and his daughter at an internet cafe. According to the Daily Mail, the photos sold for approximately $135,000.
The incident was so stress-inducing that bride-to-be’s father reportedly suffered a heart attack, one that he may be still recovering from in the hospital. News that he was declining the invitation sparked debate on Twitter, with some suggesting the duty of walking her down the aisle would be taken up by her mom, Doria Ragland.
This royal wedding bombshell makes it likely Meghan’s mum Doria will walk her down the aisle, breaking with all royal tradition. However, no confirmation from the Palace as yet. https://t.co/7YmH1OE3UE
— Dan Wootton (@danwootton) May 14, 2018
Poor Meghan Markle.
What a mess.
I wonder if her mother will now walk her down the aisle?
— Piers Morgan (@piersmorgan) May 14, 2018
But the story took another turn Tuesday afternoon, when TMZ released a new report, claiming it had spoken to the father again and that he had reversed his decision. “Thomas says he’s thought about it and now believes what he did with the photos was not a serious transgression, although he calls it ‘stupid,'” TMZ writes. “He says he now wants to make the trek to England, telling us, ‘I hate the idea of missing one of the greatest moments in history and walking my daughter down the aisle.'”
— TMZ (@TMZ) May 15, 2018
Whether the father comes, though, seems to be up to doctors. According to TMZ, the heart attack he suffered may have “damaged” his heart, and he may not be out of the hospital in time. Predictably, Kensington Palace has remained largely silent on the issue, tweeting out a plea to respect Meghan and Harry’s privacy.
Latest: Kensington Palace issues response to TMZ story that Meghan Markle’s father will now not attend the #RoyalWedding following allegations he staged paparazzi photographs: @euronews pic.twitter.com/t2QRp0MHnd
— Vincent McAviney (@VinnyMcAv) May 14, 2018
In most royal weddings, according to the New York Times, mothers have played little to no role in their daughter’s weddings and are generally “upstaged” by the bride’s father. The tradition of the father walking the daughter down the aisle, while widely celebrated, dates back to the time of arranged marriages in which daughters were considered the property of their fathers and were essentially traded for money.
Given the archaic nature of the tradition, some have begun expressing hope on Twitter that Meghan Markle’s mom will be allowed to do the honors.
It's 2018 FFS. If Meghan Markle’s mom Doria Ragland is the most supportive person in her life & her dad won't be there, then her mother should walk her down the aisle. Wouldn't be the first mom to do so. Two beautiful ladies. ☺#RoyalWedding #MeghanMarkle pic.twitter.com/0komjl0Nm4
— nicki (@nickiknowsnada) May 14, 2018
In Iranian weddings and the Jewish weddings I’ve been to, the parents walk their child down the aisle which I think is so great. This is my way of saying I want Meghan Markle’s mom to walk her down the aisle. I know it won’t happen but I want it to.
— Yashar Ali (@yashar) May 15, 2018
With talk that Meghan Markle's mom may walk her down the aisle, reminds me that I had my Mom walk me down the aisle too.
It was my honor, and my mom more than earned it ❤️ pic.twitter.com/87ew2XOLYJ
— (((DuneMyThang™))) (@Kris_Sacrebleu) May 15, 2018
Meghan has already pushed the envelope with her mom, gaining approval from Kensington Palace to have her accompany the couple to the church in the wedding carriage. But having her walk the bride down the aisle would be a much larger break from tradition. That’s not to say it’s impossible. Harper’s Bazaar uncovered multiple instances of fathers being absent from a royal bride’s journey down the aisle, most notably Princess Beatrice in 1885, who was delivered to her groom by Queen Victoria herself.
And if it’s a role fit for the queen, then why not the mother of a soon-to-be duchess?
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