Markle’s father overshadows U.K. royal wedding

Pool photo/Reuters

St. George’s Chapel Choir rehearses before the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle in Windsor, Britain, on Monday.

Reuters WINDSOR, England (Reuters) — Meghan Markle’s father overshadowed his daughter’s wedding to Prince Harry by sowing confusion about whether he would walk her down the aisle or snub the British royal family by pulling out of the intricately planned celebration at the last minute.

As royal fans convened on the genteel English town of Windsor where Harry is due to wed the American actress on Saturday, the role of her father, Thomas Markle, was still unclear after he issued a flurry of statements to an American news website.

On Monday, he was reported by the Los Angeles-based celebrity website to be unable to attend due to a heart attack and embarrassment over whether he had staged pictures with a paparazzi photographer. But the same website said Tuesday he had changed his mind and would go to be part of history.

TMZ later quoted him as saying the trip was off due to his need for immediate heart surgery.

TMZ on Wednesday reported that Markle was out of surgery. The website said it had spoken to Markle and that “he seemed alert and coherent, telling us doctors implanted stents in his blood vessels.” It was not known when he would be out of the hospital.

Markle, who lives in Mexico, had been due to walk his daughter down the aisle on Saturday at St. George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle in front of 600 guests, including all the senior British royals and a smattering of celebrities.

Britain’s Sun newspaper, the country’s best selling, had to scramble to update its front page to reflect what it called the “Royal Sensation” of Thomas Markle’s absence under the headline: “I’ve got heart op today.” It offered four pages of analysis.

“It must be heartbreaking for them, because her father can’t come because he is in poor health,” said 46-year-old Maria Scott, who had traveled from Newcastle to camp out in Windsor to get a glimpse of the couple on Saturday.

“It must be really upsetting, but I’m sure her mum will do a fine job,” Scott told Reuters.

Harry, grandson of Queen Elizabeth and sixth in line to the throne, and Markle, a star in the United States. TV drama “Suits,” will tie the knot at Windsor Castle, home to the British royal family for nearly 1,000 years.

On Windsor’s streets, hundreds of tourists and journalists mingled with dedicated royals fans — some draped with U.K. flags and holding photographs of Harry and Markle — while armed police patrolled.

Some fans are sleeping out on the street until the wedding, seeking to secure the best positions to see the couple.

“I want them to come through those gates. I want them to look at me, wave and smile,” Donna Werner, who flew 3,000 miles from New Fairfield, Conn., to be in Windsor, told Reuters.

“That will make it all worthwhile. It really will,” said Werner, 66, camped outside the castle, dressed head to toe in a mix of British and U.S. flag-themed attire, including a shirt that read “Prince Harry, I’m still available. Last chance!”

Windsor, which is dominated by the royal castle, was decorated with swathes of red, white and blue Union Jack flags. Stalls sold Harry and Meghan scarves for £15 ($20) and commemorative caps for £10.

More than 100,000 people are expected to descend on the town on Saturday. They will have to clear airport-style security before being allowed near the main venue, said Superintendent Jim Weems, the police’s tactical commander for the day.

Britain is on its second-highest threat level of severe, meaning an attack by militants is considered highly likely. Last year, 36 people died in four attacks. Despite the tight security, Weems said there was no particular threat against the wedding.

“There’s no intelligence to support that this event is going to be particularly targeted,” he told Reuters.

Details about the wedding have been closely controlled by Kensington Palace but reports of Thomas Markle’s intentions have thrown their intricate plans into flux. Kensington Palace declined to comment on Wednesday.Speech

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