Meghan Markle has spoken of her sadness as she ended days of speculation and confirmed her father will not walk her down the aisle when she marries Prince Harry.
In a heartfelt public statement, the US actress said Thomas Markle, who has undergone heart surgery, would not be attending the wedding on Saturday, a decision taken on medical advice.
Sources have said Meghan is concerned for her father, but is being supported by her mother and friends as she gets ready for her big day.
In a statement released by Kensington Palace, the bride-to-be said: “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.
“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.”
The reclusive former TV lighting director was embroiled in controversy after allegedly being caught staging photographs with the paparazzi.
He reportedly pulled out of attending the ceremony in St George’s Chapel to avoid embarrassing his daughter, but then later said before his surgery that he wanted to be part of history and hoped to be there, celebrity website TMZ revealed.
With the dramatic upset to the fairy tale wedding coming just two days before the ceremony, Ms Markle will be bitterly disappointed her father will not be there.
But it was business as usual for the prince and his fiancee who were spotted driving into Windsor Castle for an apparent wedding rehearsal in St George’s Chapel on Thursday afternoon.
Commentators have criticised what they claim is a lack of assistance provided to Mr Markle from royal aides, but it is understood that since 2016 Meghan and Harry have been trying to help him cope with the growing pressure of being in the limelight.
Ms Markle’s comment that she has always “cared” for her father may be interpreted by some as alluding to this private support she, and Harry, have been giving Mr Markle.
A statement from Ms. Meghan Markle: pic.twitter.com/TjBNarmuBU— Kensington Palace (@KensingtonRoyal) May 17, 2018
The actress has always wanted her father to be part of her nuptials and she and the prince remain in touch with him.
Mr Markle is understood to have told the couple he cannot travel due to medical advice.
There is no official confirmation yet on who will step in to walk Meghan down the aisle in Windsor Castle’s historic St George’s Chapel, in front of a global television audience of millions.
Meghan’s mother Doria Ragland, who has arrived in the UK ahead of the big day, is tipped for the role, or perhaps the bride will turn to her closest male friend, Soho House director Markus Anderson.
Prince Harry has not yet met his future father-in-law Mr Markle – the first meeting was due to take place this week.
Mr Markle was also set to be introduced to the Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh, the Prince of Wales, the Duchess of Cornwall and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge ahead of the wedding.
Meanwhile, a dress rehearsal for the big day has taken place in Windsor, with thousands of people turning out to get a flavour of how Saturday will unfold.
The roads around the town are closed as wellwishers basked beneath blue skies and beaming sunshine – weather that is expected to stay around for the weekend.
Some 250 members of the armed forces are expected to take part in Saturday’s festivities, lining the streets as the newly wed Harry and Meghan head on a 25-minute carriage ride through the town.
Press from around the world, tourists, locals and royal fans watched from behind barriers as members of the military paraded around Windsor.
There is a heavy police presence, with armed officers stationed around town and other officers on top of buildings looking over the crowds.
After months of planning, Thursday’s dry-run will give organisers a chance to put some finishing touches to the global event.