Can it be only a year ago that Thomas Markle Junior and I sat on the patio of a riverside restaurant in Oregon, bathed in spring sunshine, as he confidently predicted the guest list for his sister’s wedding?
Over what was — for him — a modest liquid lunch, he reeled off the family members who would be invited to ‘share Meg’s joy’, as he quaintly put it, assuming (for they were yet to announce their engagement) that she and Prince Harry would marry.
Her parents would, of course, be there, he told me, for both doted on Meghan, and his father, Thomas Senior, would be ‘the proudest man in the church’ when he gave her away.
Thomas Markle Junior who has been snubbed from his sister’s wedding
Undoubtedly, Meghan would also want her two adored nephews — his sons Tyler and Thomas — to enjoy the occasion, along with her various uncles and aunts. And, naturally, he would receive an RSVP from the Palace, for he had ‘always supported her, she knows that’, he said, recalling how he had taken Meghan to feed the ducks and babysat for her when she was little.
Oh yes — and there was bound to be ‘a plus-one for Darlene’, he added, glancing at his 36-year-old fiancée, perched at his burly shoulder and hanging on his every word.
‘I would love to meet the Royals. I’d buy the prettiest dress,’ chirruped Darlene Blount, having, apparently, forgiven Thomas for drawing a gun on her less than three months earlier, during one of their drunken, violent quarrels.
Fast forward 12 months and that two-hour conversation — which I listened to again yesterday on tape — sounds utterly surreal and, on reflection, rather sad. Events in the Royal Wedding drama are moving faster even than Thomas Jnr does when someone offers to buy a round of drinks at the Cedarwood Saloon, his local bar in Grants Pass, Oregon.
However, with 24 hours to go before Meghan and Harry tie the knot, the state of play is as follows: the bride’s father — shamed by the revelation that he colluded with a paparazzi photographer — now lies in a Mexican hospital, recovering from a heart operation made necessary, he claims, by his son’s bad-mouthing of Meghan.
Family at war: Meghan at 11 (far left) with her father, Samantha and nephews Tyler and Thomas
Meanwhile, Thomas Jnr’s sons, Thomas, 27, who runs a Domino’s Pizza franchise with his husband, and brother Tyler, 25, a cannabis farmer (it’s legal to grow the drug in Oregon) have indeed pitched up in London (with their glammed-up mother, Tracy Dooley, in tow).
Tyler plans to cash in on his association with Meghan by launching a super-strong strain of cannabis called Markle’s Sparkle.
They are here to watch the wedding as ‘pundits’ in an ITV studio. Or, at least, they were until yesterday when, wisely, we might think, executives at Good Morning Britain reportedly decided to drop them.
Meghan Markle’s half-brother Thomas Junior wrote a poisonous ‘open letter’ to Harry branding his sister ‘a jaded, shallow, conceited woman
Mr Markle Jr had recently penned an ‘open letter’ and told Harry: ‘As more time passes to your royal wedding, it became very clear that this is the biggest mistake in royal wedding history’
As for Meghan’s paternal uncles, Bishop Fred Markle and his brother Mick, a retired diplomat, these respectable septuagenarians will remain in America, along with various other snubbed relatives.
Among them is Meghan’s maternal uncle Joffre, a graphic designer, who is actually two years younger than Meghan and is the product of her late maternal grandfather Alvin’s second marriage, to a lady named Ava Burrows.
As he and Meghan are a similar age, and grew up in the same neighbourhood of Los Angeles, Joffre was genuinely close to her when they were children and resumed their friendship when she was an actress in Hollywood.
Though he has shown admirable discretion during the pre-wedding hoopla, declining many interview requests, he, too, has been overlooked, leaving his mother feeling understandably hurt.
Meghan Markle pictured as a baby being held by her father Thomas who will not attend the royal wedding following a heart operation
Meghan Markle (right) with her sister Samantha (left) who has been snubbed from the wedding on Saturday
Samantha Markle gave a bombshell interview to US media where she insisted she had ‘freedom of speech’ and the right to criticise her half-sister Meghan
‘I want everything to work out and wish them a great day,’ Ava Burrows told me this week. ‘Even though I might not be happy about how it has been handled as far as my son is concerned.’
The retired teacher added: ‘That’s my boy who’s been left out and I’m a momma bear!’
So, flying in the face of Meghan’s brother’s fanciful prediction last May, it seems — apart from her mother, Doria, who is expected to walk her up the aisle tomorrow — there will be no place in the chapel for anyone in the Markle family. The one thing Thomas Jnr got right when he contemplated the likely guest list, however, was that there would not be a pew for his sister, Samantha.
It wasn’t difficult to forecast her absence, though, because Samantha, 53, who suffers from multiple sclerosis and uses a wheelchair, had already portrayed Meghan as ‘narcissistic and selfish’ and claimed her half-sister had disowned her because of her disability.
Since then, her rants — delivered by the U.S. celebrity news website TMZ, which has also become the chosen mouthpiece for Thomas Markle Snr — have grown more wounding and bizarre by the day.
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle arrive at Windsor Castle ahead of their big day
Yesterday, hitting back at Meghan’s reported pleas for her to stop sniping, she even invoked the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, saying angrily: ‘She’s not going to tell me that I can’t speak about my life. I’m not going to take it. She’s way out of her league . . . there is something in this country called freedom of speech. Meghan doesn’t have a copyright on that.’
What, then, of Thomas Jnr? Having written a poisonous ‘open letter’ to Harry just over a fortnight ago, branding his sister ‘a jaded, shallow, conceited woman’ who would ‘make a joke’ of the Prince and the Royal Family and urging him to call off the ‘fake fairytale’ wedding, he appears to have had a truly Damascene conversion.
The 52-year-old jobbing glazier has been flown to Britain by a redtop tabloid — no doubt, in return for yet another fat pay cheque — and was yesterday photographed posing beside one of the Queen’s guardsmen at Windsor Castle,