Vanishing without trace can’t be easy in this all-seeing, information-driven age — particularly for a pivotal figure in the romance that has captured the world’s imagination.
Curiously, however, though more than a year has passed since Meghan Markle’s relationship with Prince Harry was revealed, there has been neither sight nor sound of her father, Thomas.
While we are becoming familiar with Meghan’s yoga-teacher mother, Doria Ragland, 61, who has already been photographed with the couple and is regularly seen strolling around her affluent Los Angeles neighbourhood, Mr Markle (whose 6ft 3in, 20st frame must make it difficult to melt into the background) has gone to inordinate lengths to avoid being traced.
Though more than a year has passed since Meghan Markle’s relationship with Prince Harry was revealed, there has been neither sight nor sound of her father, Thomas(pictured together when Meghan was a child)
The 73-year-old retired TV lighting director has changed his phone numbers, avoided using social media, concealed his address even from members of his family, and urged the handful of trusted friends who know where he is living not to betray his whereabouts.
Indeed, when Harry and Meghan gave their candid first TV interview this week, to mark their engagement, perhaps their most surprising admission was that the Prince has not come face to face with his future father-in-law.
‘He’s talked to my dad a few times; hasn’t been able to meet him just yet,’ said Meghan, a touch awkwardly, without explaining why her fiancé has yet to hop across the Atlantic to become acquainted with the father she adores and who has had such a major influence on her life.
The mystery deepened when it was revealed that Harry had asked Mrs Ragland for her daughter’s hand in person, but requested her father’s permission over the phone.
It gives rise to a number of intriguing questions. Where is the elusive Mr Markle? Why has this enigmatic man concealed his whereabouts so determinedly? After all, placed in his position, many fathers would be singing their joy from the rooftops.
More pertinently, can we expect Mr Markle, a once gregarious Hollywood partygoer who now shies away from social occasions (and has an aversion to wearing a collar and tie) to emerge from the shadows and walk Meghan down the aisle at St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle, next spring?
If we believe a ‘world exclusive’ story published in a racy Australian magazine, he has removed himself to Sayulita, a remote surfers’ paradise, midway down Mexico’s Pacific Coast.
Quoting a local businessman who claimed to have seen him in the resort a few days earlier, looking older and thinner than he appears in photographs, its reporter even claimed to have located the complex where he rents an apartment.
When Harry and Meghan gave their candid first TV interview this week, to mark their engagement, perhaps their most surprising admission was that the Prince has not come face to face with his future father-in-law. Pictured: The couple in Nottingham on Friday
Given that Meghan once waxed lyrical about this hippie outpost in her now-closed blog (‘Ah sweet Sayulita, with your beautiful beaches, relaxed surfer vibe, and boho-chic sensibility. You are Mexico meets Malibu.’), it seemed convincing.
However, according to Mr Markle’s 78-year-old brother, Michael, it isn’t true. Confirming my own research, he told the Mail that Meghan’s father is 1,400 miles north, in Rosarito Beach, the seaside town to which he decamped after retiring several years ago.
Meghan’s uncle Michael said he imagined Thomas had moved to Mexico ‘because the cost of living is better down there’. He was sure he still lived in Rosarito because he saw him only a few weeks ago, when Thomas drove hundreds of miles up the Pacific coast to visit him in Oregon.
Giving his first interview, Michael, a retired U.S. diplomat, said he last spoke to his brother shortly before the engagement was announced. ‘I think he’s very pleased with the way things are going,’ he said. ‘Who wouldn’t be? It has ensured the Markle name will go down in history. That’s for sure, isn’t it?’
Asked why Meghan’s father was going to such lengths to avoid being found, he gave a reply that will doubtless please the suits at the Palace: ‘Tom is trying to comply with the royal directive to keep a low profile, so that’s where he’s coming from. He doesn’t want to upset the Royal Family.’
We’ll explore Thomas Markle’s life in Mexican purdah shortly. To place his importance to Meghan in context, however, it is worth recalling the unbreakable bond they formed in her childhood.
To place his importance to Meghan in context, however, it is worth recalling the unbreakable bond they formed in her childhood
A bond Meghan movingly described in this Father’s Day tribute, from her shut-down blog: ‘I think of so many moments with my dad. Our club sandwich and fruit smoothie tradition post my tap & ballet class — classes, which by the way, he religiously took me to on Saturday mornings after working 75+ hours a week as a lighting director.
‘The fishing trips along the Kern River and Big Bear Lake to catch catfish or trout and cook it up for dinner, and the commitment he made to lighting my high school musicals so that they felt as grand as a Broadway Show.
‘The blood, sweat and tears this man (who came from so little in a small town in Pennsylvania, where Christmas stockings were filled with oranges, and dinners were potatoes and spam) invested in my future so that I could grow up and have so much.
‘He helped me turn my bathroom into a darkroom when I was 12 because I wanted to be a photographer … he put gas in my car when I went from audition to audition trying to make it as an actress. He is the person who believed in this grand dream of mine well before I could even see it as a possibility.
‘He taught me to write thank you notes, to always arrive early, to drink Arnold Palmers (a non-alcoholic cocktail of lemonade and iced tea popular in the U.S.), to find my light when I’m on camera . . . and beyond. And that, right there, is my point: my dad taught me to find my light.’
So Mr Markle was clearly a wonderful father to Meghan, or ‘Bean’ as he affectionately called her (another pet-name he used was ‘Buckaroo’, a Californian-Spanish word for cowboy).
Yet according to his first wife, Roslyn — who was married to him for seven years before he met Mrs Ragland in the early Seventies — he wasn’t nearly so attentive to their children, Samantha, now 53, and Thomas Junior, 51.
In those days, his career, and hectic showbiz social life, came first, she told me, adding: