Thomas Markle was making headlines again Monday, following an interview with Piers Morgan and Susanna Reid for Good Morning Britain.
He is the estranged father of Meghan Markle, AKA the Duchess of Sussex. He's also the source of endless tabloid drama. In the interview, he expressed his wish to be cared for and to make peace with his daughter and his dubious frustration that the only way he has to communicate with his daughter is through the press. Despite his persistence in exactly the behavior that will prevent him from ever making peace, it's easy to feel bad for him. He is old, ailing, lonely, and incurably pathetic. But there is no need for pity, because no one on Earth can possibly pity Thomas Markle as much as he pities himself.
Markle won $750,000 in the lottery in 1990, two years after his divorce from Doria Ragland—Meghan's mother. Meghan was eight at the time, and her father chose to spend a portion of his winnings to send her to a private school. Perhaps he saw that as an investment. He was pouring money into his daughter's education so that she could make something of herself and eventually pay him back. If so, it seems to have been his smartest investment—he went bankrupt in 2016—and despite his daughter cutting ties, he has found a novel way to get a return on the money he put in: He has made himself her perennial tabloid nemesis.
This is the advantage of sharing a last name and some genetics with one of the most famous women on Earth. While she may not love the intense scrutiny that is applied to her every post on social media, to every outfit she wears, and to her family's recent efforts to achieve some privacy and independence, the glow of that spotlight offers some warmth and attention for a lonely, pathetic man who seems to struggle with the concept that he is not the center of other people's lives. In the recently televised "documentary," Thomas Markle: My Story—little more than an extended airing of his imagined grievances—Thomas Markle said that Meghan, Prince Harry, and the royals owe him. "For what I've been through, I should be rewarded… it's time to look after daddy."
But what has he been through? Is his daughter responsible for his financial woes because he paid for her schooling when she was a child? Is that the extent of her debt, or does she also owe him for the cruelty he was subjected to by British tabloids that inevitably portrayed him as a drunken slob in the lead up to the royal wedding? That experience apparently made him so insecure and tapped into his insecurities so much that he ended up working with a photographer to stage his own paparazzi photos in an effort to improve his image—a plan that backfired dramatically. Is that why he has turned that same tabloid cruelty so potently against his daughter? Is that why he shared the private letter that she sent him—a letter in which she begged him to stay out of the tabloids—with the Daily Mail?
Despite his best efforts to harass them into compliance, his daughter and her husband continue to make choices for their own lives without first consulting Thomas Markle. Stepping back from their positions as senior members of the royal family, perhaps hoping to avoid some of the ire of the British media, was—in the opinion of a man who has been cut off from all contact—very disappointing. Because marrying a prince is "every girl's dream," and taking a step back is apparently the equivalent of "destroying" or cheapening" the royal family. He went on to say, "I think it's a misunderstanding that should be worked out not in front of cameras or the world." A fascinating take from a man who is building his life around occupying as much media attention as possible.
As things stand, many white Britons who resent Meghan Markle's ascension to royalty while still being a woman of color have found their standard bearer in Thomas Markle—the abandoned white father who doesn't see any racism in media coverage that has referred to Meghan's "exotic DNA" and claimed that she is "(Almost) Straight Outta Compton." After all, as Markle put it, "I think England is even more liberal in some ways than the United States," therefore racism is impossible. Likewise, anyone looking for a reason to believe that an American actress must necessarily lack the refinement to be a proper member of the royal family can find all the evidence they need in the messy, greedy drama that her father deals in. Love him or hate him, critics will find a way to turn it against Meghan Markle. Why?
By his own admission, Thomas and Meghan haven't been close since her college years. That was two decades ago. She hasn't spoken openly about how they grew distant, but she must have had her reasons. Nonetheless, she didn't fully cut him out of her life until he started inflicting media scandals on her already over-scrutinized family. She tried to be there for him in the limited way that she felt comfortable with, but he seemingly wasn't interested in anything less than as much as he wanted. If he won't be lavishly cared for by his daughter, then he'll see to it that he's lavishly cared for by the British press. They continue to pay him for his name and for the wild sense of self-importance that leads him to think that his opinions must be shared, and that he is in some way royalty himself: "I can use the British name as well now, because I'm tied in with that, and I have a grandson who's a royal."
That was his claim on Good Morning Britain, but it's not clear what he means. Is he going to change his name to Thomas of Windsor or Thomas, father of the Duchess of Sussex? Who knows. Whatever he does, it seems certain that he will continue placing his own interest above his daughter's. When Piers Morgan asked him if he was concerned, given his age and his multiple heart attacks, "that this may not get resolved before it's too late," Thomas removed any lingering doubts about his narcissism. Unable to contemplate the reality of his own looming death, he simply said, "It's possible," before redirecting to other hypotheticals. "Kobe was only 42, so anything can happen to anyone." Presumably the thought of Meghan and Harry dying in a similarly tragic accident was less upsetting to him than the thought of his own passing from heart problems in his mid-70s. Markle went on to opine, "I just think that this is kind of silly. It's gone on too long."
He's absolutely right. It's gone on far too long. People have been paying him to express his vulgar, asinine opinions on broad public platforms for too long. His insistence that he's "apologized several times" flies in the face of his continued thoughtless cruelty—his assertion, moments later, that Harry should "man up" and reconcile with him. An apology implies an acknowledgment of fault and an intention not to repeat the behavior that, according to your daughter's private letter, broke her heart "into a million pieces." A man so concerned with perceived sins against him that he would share that letter with the world is incapable of a true apology—of recognizing his own sins.
One of Markle's staged paparazzi pictures
In connection with that letter's publication, Meghan Markle is in the middle of suing The Daily Mail. In turn, they have arranged to use her own father as a witness against her. If that happens, it could be the first time since this drama began that Meghan and Thomas will be in the same room together. His strange role as her adversary will be official. Legal. Surely he knows that he will be throwing away any possibility of reconnecting or being her father again. It's time for the British media to recognize it too. They need to stop treating his complaints seriously—keep him away from their cameras and out of their headlines. Let him be truly estranged. Let him be just another stranger with vile opinions that aren't worth the paper to print them.
Included in the latest interview, Thomas Markle made a blatant threat to continue the drama: "After this interview, if I don't hear from someone in 30 days then I will try again. I don't want to sit in silence in my living room for the rest of my life waiting for someone to get back to me." It's a threat that only holds weight if the British media continue to give him a platform. They have a choice to leave him in that silence. They have 30 days to grow a conscience… Don't hold your breath.