TMZ first broke the story yesterday afternoon that Meghan Markle’s father, Thomas Markle Sr, who’d been confirmed to walk her down the aisle, was pulling out of the wedding because he was embarrassed about being busted for setting up his own pap shots. Which… I mean… it’s not like this is a new practice. Usually though, with celebrities and royals, the staging is a little more sophisticated. Thomas Markle, unfortunately, does not have the experience. And Samantha Markle does not have the savvy.  

Thomas was directly in touch with TMZ. And TMZ followed up with another story a few hours later – Thomas was having chest pains and considering checking himself into the hospital. Also, he told TMZ that he’d not yet heard from Meghan after TMZ broadcast to the world that he was no longer going to the wedding. And he said to TMZ that, "I've been popping Valium for the pain, especially when I hear about my oldest daughter." That would be Samantha Markle. We’ll get back to her in a minute. What’s clear here is that Thomas talks to TMZ more than he talks to Meghan. And that’s the problem. 

Because as I noted yesterday, Kensington Palace found out about Thomas bailing on the wedding when the entire world found out. That resulted in a scramble. As we all know, unpredictability is not the royals’ favourite word. KP ended releasing a statement:

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. 

So essentially a confirmation that Meghan’s rogue relatives had f-cked them over. And also a placeholder because, at that point, they still hadn’t decided what to do. As of post time, there is no word on how they’re moving forward. I’m told KP was in lockdown all night to try to sort this mess out. But it’s hard to figure out a plan when there are so many wildcards. Because, remember, Thomas Markle right now seems to be best friends with TMZ. Whatever they do, whatever new arrangements they try to make for him, they can’t be sure that Thomas won’t text Harvey Levin and put himself on blast… again. Which obviously compromises their ability to handle this sh-t discreetly. If discretion is even the goal. I mean it is for the royals, of course, but for Meghan’s rogue relatives, discretion doesn’t seem to be a priority. 

Samantha Markle is all over UK television defending her involvement in those Thomas Markle pap photos, arguing that she only encouraged her dad to do it because he was being portrayed in a negative light. This morning Piers Morgan called her a “little vulture”, accusing her of exploiting her connection to Meghan for the last two years. It’s true… but it’s also mortifying. Imagine having to explain all of this to the Queen? Walking into her chambers when she rings the bell all like, oh hey your Majesty, so we’ve learned hot off the presses from TMZ that Mr Markle doen’t want to come anymore and Meghan’s sister just got yelled at by Piers Morgan on morning television. How would you like your eggs done today? 

As mentioned, at post time, there’s been no update from Kensington Palace about any changes to the wedding plans. Word is Meghan still really wants her dad to be there with her but, clearly, they have to figure out how to better support him – and to make sure that he understands what the right kind of support is. 

As for the long-term ramifications of this mess – the royal family’s inclination, always, is to blame the media. Already, in that short statement, Harry’s directed his staff to ask for “understanding and respect”, words that he and William have used in the past when referring to the media’s treatment of their family. Harry and William both have talked about how they feel that they are a lot to take on. That anyone who comes into their orbit must endure a difficult and often traumatising spotlight. In this situation, Harry will undoubtedly take the position that if he wasn’t who he was, this wouldn’t be happening to Meghan and to her parents. So there’s no question that, right now, he will be Meghan’s fiercest ally. That said, he belongs to a family that abhors drama, that is disgusted by what they probably consider to be common and crass public humiliation. This, by the way, is why Princess Kate is so appreciated within the inner circle. When they get past this week then, there will inevitably be work to be done behind the scenes to ensure that the story around Meghan becomes as placid as Kate’s.