In the days leading up to her royal wedding to Prince Harry, Meghan Markle will be putting the final touches on her special day — including one very important introduction. Just days before her father, Thomas Markle, walks her down the aisle of St. George’s Chapel, Meghan will introduce her dad to her royal groom for the first time, Kensington Palace confirmed last week.
The news came just after Markle’s half-brother from her dad’s first marriage, Thomas Markle Jr., made headlines with a scathing letter published in the tabloid InTouch claiming that their dad had not received an invitation to the royal wedding and that Meghan had largely shut him out of her life.
A source close to the former Suits star refutes Markle Jr.’s claims. “Meghan loves her dad,” the insider tells PEOPLE. “Like any father-daughter relationship, there have been ups and downs over the years. But they are in a good place now.”
The former lighting director on TV shows such as Married…With Children and General Hospital, was married to Meghan’s mother, yoga instructor Doria Ragland, until they divorced in the ’80s. He currently lives a quiet life in Mexico, while Ragland lives in L.A.
When Meghan was a budding actress at Immaculate Heart school in L.A., “her dad was such a sweetheart,” a former classmate tells PEOPLE. “He did the sets for our plays, which was a huge thing for us, and he would volunteer his time even after Meghan graduated. She was close with her parents. They were affectionate.”
In response to Markle Jr.’s claims that Meghan left their dad in financial ruin after he supported her education and acting career, the insider says, “She’s been supportive of him in every way, including financially. She has paid many of her father’s bills over the years.”
Both of Meghan’s parents will arrive in the U.K. in the week leading up to the wedding, allowing time for Harry’s family — including the Queen, Prince Philip, Prince Charles, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall and Prince William and Kate Middleton —to spend time with them before the big day.
During Harry and Meghan’s engagement interview in November, the bride-to-be revealed that her dad and her royal fiancé had yet to meet, but that they had spoken over the phone. “Everybody was really happy. And he’s talked to my dad a few times, hasn’t been able to meet him just yet, but it’s all been, it’s all been worth every effort,” she said.
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Meghan’s mom has met Harry a few times — and was with the couple at the closing ceremony of the Invictus Games in Toronto in September.
After the couple’s engagement was announced, Meghan’s parents said they were “incredibly happy” about the news. “Our daughter has always been a kind and loving person,” they said in a joint statement. “To see her union with Harry, who shares the same qualities, is a source of great joy for us as parents.”
- With reporting by Aili Nahas, Simon Perry and Elizabeth Leonard