The days leading up to Meghan Markle’s royal wedding should be filled with last minute details for the big day, instead, she had to deal with unexpected family drama. First, her father, Thomas Markle, was set to walk her down the aisle. Then, he decided not to attend the wedding after his arrangement with a paparazzi to stage several photoshoots ahead of the big day was revealed. The next day, he said that he would attend the wedding — only if doctors signed off on him traveling after he reportedly suffered a heart attack. Two days before the wedding, Meghan confirmed in an official statement that her father would not walk her down the aisle due to health problems.
And that’s not even beginning to mention the drama that’s been stirred up in the past year by Meghan’s half-siblings and cousins — all of whom are not invited to the big day itself. Here’s a breakdown of everything you need to know about the Markle family, and who you can expect to see at St. George’s Chapel on Saturday.
1. The original intention was that Meghan’s father, Thomas Markle, would walk her down the aisle.
Kensington Palace announced he would be doing so on May 4. “Both of the bride’s parents will have important roles in the wedding,” the palace said in a statement. “On the morning of the wedding, Ms. Ragland will travel with Ms. Markle by car to Windsor Castle. Mr. Markle will walk his daughter down the aisle of St George’s Chapel. Ms. Markle is delighted to have her parents by her side on this important and happy occasion.”
2. Then it was revealed that Thomas had conspired with paparazzi.
A report from the Mail on Sunday revealed that Thomas, who lives in Mexico, had staged several photoshoots with a paparazzi photographer. This comes after the palace had issued multiple pleas to the media to leave Thomas alone and give him privacy.
3. Meghan’s half-sister, Samantha Markle, says she’s behind the posed photos.
In an interview with ITV’s Loose Women, Samantha said that she had given her father the idea to pose for photographs to take control of the way he was being presented in the media. She said that Thomas had not been pleased with the photos of him that had been published, and felt they had painted him in a negative light. Contrary to many reports that said Thomas had been paid a generous sum for the photos, Samantha said he was not financially motivated.
“I have to say I am entirely the culprit,” she said. “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.”
4. On Monday, Thomas Markle backed out of the wedding.
On the heels of the revelation that Thomas had staged photographs in cooperation with a paparazzi, Thomas told TMZ that he was bowing out of attending the royal wedding in an effort to avoid embarrassing Meghan or the royal family. He argued that he posed for the photos in hopes of seeing a better portrayal of himself in the media, and that he did not do so to make a profit. Thomas also said that he was recovering from a heart attack, but had checked out of the hospital in order to travel to London for the wedding.
5. On Tuesday, he changed his mind again — after reportedly receiving a call and texts from Meghan.
Thomas Markle walked back on his earlier proclamation on Tuesday, telling TMZ that if he was healthy enough, he was still hoping to walk his daughter down the aisle. “I hate the idea of missing one of the greatest moments in history and walking my daughter down the aisle,” he said. “Of course I’d walk her down the aisle. This is a historic moment. I’d like to be a part of history.”
6. And then he said he won’t be able to attend after all, as he’s having surgery on Wednesday.
Thomas spoke to TMZ again on Tuesday, telling the outlet that he will not be able to travel to England and attend the wedding because he is undergoing heart surgery on Wednesday morning. “They [doctors] will go in and clear blockage, repair damage and put a stent where it is needed,” he said.
This comes after Markle reportedly had a heart attack last week and suffered from chest pains overnight. He said he believes the heart attack was caused by the open letter his son, Thomas Markle Jr., wrote two weeks ago telling Harry not to marry Meghan.
7. He made it through surgery successfully.
Thomas confirmed to TMZ on Wednesday evening that his surgery had been successful, but that he’d still need to spend a few more days in the hospital and still wouldn’t be able to make it to the wedding.
8. Meghan released a statement confirming that her father wouldn’t attend the wedding.
On Thursday, Kensington Palace released a statement directly from Meghan herself addressing her father’s condition and attendance at her wedding. “Sadly, my father will not be attending our wedding. I have always cared for my father and hope he can be given the space he needs to focus on his health,” she said. “I would like to thank everyone who has offered generous messages of support. Please know how much Harry and I look forward to sharing our special day with you on Saturday.”
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9. Meghan’s half-siblings will not be attending the wedding.
There will be very few Markles in attendance at Meghan’s wedding: Her half-siblings, Samantha and Thomas Markle Jr., were not invited to the wedding.
10. Likely because she has no real relationship with them.
“Meghan has no relationship with her half-siblings, nor has she ever had one,” a source close to Meghan told PEOPLE. “They were out of the house by the time she was born.”
11. Her half-brother, Thomas Markle Jr. even wrote a scathing letter to Prince Harry.
In a handwritten letter published in In Touch on May 2, Markle’s son, Thomas Markle Jr. — who is Meghan’s half-brother from her father’s first marriage — said that Meghan’s father did not receive an invitation to the royal wedding, but the palace refuted that when they revealed he would be walking her down the aisle.
12. Meghan’s half-sister, Samantha, also had strong words for Harry.
In December, Samantha fired back at Prince Harry after he called the royals the family that Meghan’s “never had.” “She has a large family. She always did. Our dad is amazing and completely self-sacrificing,” Samantha tweeted in December. “We made it so that she had two houses. How fun it was!”
But she later softened her stance during an appearance on the U.K. morning show The Wright Stuff. “I don’t think [Harry] meant it that way,” she said. “He was referring to the family all being in one place, and it’s lovely that she can have that. It was more a matter of timing and geography. I wasn’t hurt. Harry said a lovely thing. Marrying merely extends that family.”
13. Other family members will be in the U.K. for the wedding, even if they aren’t invited.
Meghan’s former sister-in-law Tracy Dooley, as well as her sons, Meghan’s nephews, Tyler Dooley and TJ Dooley, were spotted arriving at Heathrow Airport in London on Monday, though none of the trio have been invited to the wedding. (Tracy says she has not seen Meghan for 20 years.) They are expected to be acting as television commentators on the big day.
14. Meghan’s mom Doria Ragland’s attendance has never been in question.
One member of Meghan’s family who has been blissfully drama-free in the days before the wedding? Her mother, Doria Ragland. Ragland, who already knows Prince Harry — he said she was “amazing” in their engagement interview — will spend the night before the wedding with Meghan at the Cliveden House Hotel, and will be by her daughter’s side as she makes her way to St. George’s Chapel to say “I do.”
15. Meghan’s future father-in-law Prince Charles will walk her down the aisle.
On Friday, Kensington Palace confirmed that Meghan had asked Charles to walk her down the aisle and he had accepted. “Ms. Meghan Markle has asked His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales to accompany her down the aisle of the Quire of St George’s Chapel on her Wedding Day,” the said. “The Prince of Wales is pleased to be able to welcome Ms. Markle to The Royal Family in this way.” It’s a break from traditional royal wedding etiquette as the groom’s family typically does not walk the bride down the aisle — if the bride’s father is unavailable then the role might go to another member of her family, like her mother, or even a close friend.