Meghan Markle has never spoken publicly about her relationship with her father since entering royal life — but her father has frequently done the opposite.
In various interviews, Thomas Markle has claimed that he has no way to reach his daughter.
In this week’s PEOPLE cover story, Meghan’s best friends offer a very different perspective.
“He knows how to get in touch with her. Her telephone number hasn’t changed,” says a longtime friend. “He’s never called; he’s never texted. It’s super painful, because Meg was always so dutiful. I think she will always feel genuinely devastated by what he’s done. And at the same time, because she’s a daughter, she has a lot of sympathy for him.”
In the week before Meghan’s May 19 wedding to Prince Harry, Thomas decided not to attend after an arrangement with paparazzi to stage several photoshoots ahead of the big days was revealed.
Since then, Meghan’s half-sister Samantha, who claimed responsibility for arranging her father’s paparazzi photos before the wedding, has continued to speak critically of her to the U.K. tabloids.
After the paparazzi photos emerged, “Meg and Harry were still so focused on getting [Tom] to London,” says the close friend, one of five who spoke to PEOPLE for this week’s story. “At no point was there talk of ‘Now that we know he lied, he’s in trouble.’ Tom wouldn’t take her calls, wouldn’t take Harry’s calls.
“The next morning when the car got there [to take him to the airport], he wouldn’t get in. [Later] Meg heard he had a heart attack and she’s calling and texting, even up to the night before the wedding. It was like, ‘Please pick up. I love you, and I’m scared.’ It was endless.”
“After the wedding she wrote him a letter. She’s like, ‘Dad, I’m so heartbroken. I love you. I have one father. Please stop victimizing me through the media so we can repair our relationship.’ Because every time her team has to come to her and fact-check something [he has said], it’s an arrow to the heart. He writes her a really long letter in return, and he closes it by requesting a photo op with her. And she feels like, ‘That’s the opposite of what I’m saying. I’m telling you I don’t want to communicate through the media, and you’re asking me to communicate through the media. Did you hear anything I said?’ It’s almost like they’re ships passing.”
Meghan’s mom, Doria Ragland, and her dad, Thomas, split when she was 2 years old. Her half-siblings, Samantha and Thomas Markle Jr. (from Thomas’ previous marriage), were in their mid-to-late teens when Meg was born and “not a part of her life,” the friend continues.
“They’ve been made to appear as siblings who were very close and then they had this falling out, and that’s not the truth at all,” the friend says. “Fast way forward to Meghan dating Harry, and now Samantha is going by the last name Markle [after long using the name Grant]. And then she began this career capitalizing on Meg. Everyone who knows Meg knows that the two of them have no relationship.”