In the weeks leading up to the royal wedding, photos of Thomas Markle, Meghan Markle’s father (who is set to walk her down the aisle at her wedding to Prince Harry on Saturday), have been popping up. One set saw him reading a book about photos of Great Britain, another featured him clicking through a photo gallery of photos of his daughter and her fiancé at an internet cafe. There were even photographs of him getting fitted for his morning suit ahead of Meghan’s big day.
But a new report from the Mail on Sunday revealed that the photos weren’t coincidental — they were staged. Surveillance footage showed Thomas arriving at an internet cafe in Rosarito, Mexico, where he currently lives, and talking to a photographer before the photographer started snapping photos of Thomas reading stories about his daughter online.
It was quite the revelation — particularly considering the fact that Prince Harry had asked paparazzi photographers and the media to give Thomas space and privacy. But Meghan’s estranged half-sister, Samantha Markle (who is not invited to the ceremony) is taking the fall for the set-up, saying it was her idea. And she said that the motivation wasn’t financial, as the Mail on Sunday report implied, it was an effort to show the world how Thomas had been preparing for his daughter’s wedding day.
“I have to say I am entirely the culprit,” Samantha said during an appearance on British talk show Loose Women on Monday. “As we know the media can take very unflattering photographs of people on their casual days and blow it way out of proportion. I said, you know, the world has no idea you’re getting in shape, doing healthy things. They don’t photograph you buying vegetables and PH water. They photograph you as unflattering ways as they can.”
“So I said, really you need to show the world that you’re getting in shape and doing great healthy things,” she added. “So I suggested it. There’s a lot of scrutiny that it was money motivated, it was not. It was my suggestion that to benefit him and to benefit the royal family that everyone looked good and they depict you as you are – in shape and doing healthy things.”
Samantha also said she felt her father had been unfairly depicted in the media, and she wanted him to be seen in a more positive light.
“Let me clarify, he’s 73, which makes him a bit more fragile,” she said. He’s a quiet man. I feel that the media have unfairly preyed on him. He’s really been admirable about laying low and not speaking out, with all due respect. I merely wanted him to be seen in a respectable light. I didn’t feel that was being done so I suggested that the photographers show him as he is, doing positive things and that was never addressed.”
The palace, which had reiterated Harry’s appeals for Meghan’s parents’ privacy, had no comment.
Samantha and her brother Thomas Jr. (Meghan’s half-brother) will not be at the wedding on May 19. A source tells PEOPLE that Meghan is not close with her half-siblings.
“Meghan has no relationship with her half-siblings, nor has she ever had one,” the source says. “They were out of the house by the time she was born.”
Thomas Sr. will be walking his daughter down the aisle on Saturday. A source close to the former Suits star tells PEOPLE: “Meghan loves her dad. Like any father-daughter relationship, there have been ups and downs over the years. But they are in a good place now.”