WINDSOR, England — Ending days of speculation, Meghan Markle said Thursday that her father will not be able to attend her wedding to Prince Harry due to health problems. The news came as British military personnel rehearsed for a gala procession through Windsor that will follow Saturday’s ceremony, which will be televised live around the world.
“Sadly, my father will not be attending our wedding,” Markle said in a statement released by Kensington Palace. “I have always cared for my father and hope he can be given the space he needs to focus on his health.”
The palace has not revealed any details about the 73-year-old Thomas Markle’s health issues, but the celebrity website TMZ says he is hospitalized in California after undergoing a procedure to clear blocked coronary arteries.
He reportedly told the website he was ok after three stents had been inserted but needed to rest.
Thomas Markle had been scheduled to walk his daughter down the aisle when she weds her prince Saturday at St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle.
It’s possible that Doria Ragland, the bride’s mother, could fill that role instead. No replacement has been officially named. Meghan Markle may also choose to walk down the aisle by herself.
On the streets of Windsor, military personnel rehearsed their procession through the town, watched by thousands of enthusiastic royal fans. The focal point was a horse drawn carriage — but there was no sign of Harry or the bride, who will ride in the carriage Saturday.
The wedding day festivities will include a 25-minute carriage ride outside the ground of Windsor Castle by the newlyweds after the ceremony. More than 2,600 members of the public have been invited onto the castle grounds to watch the procession.
Thursday’s practice session aimed to work out the precise timings of Saturday’s procession. The British pride themselves on carrying off complex parades with aplomb, and it would not due for the couple to arrive at their wedding reception even a few minutes late.
A large military contingent will also take part, reflecting Harry’s years of military service. Their presence in the rehearsal Thursday gave crowds and TV viewers a taste of what the wedding procession will look like.
Markle’s mother has arrived in England and is expected to meet Queen Elizabeth II — Harry’s grandmother — and other senior royals in the days left before the wedding.
Ragland — who arrived carrying a Burberry suit bag, a possible clue to her wedding outfit — will meet with Harry’s dad Prince Charles and his wife Camilla, Harry’s brother Prince William and his wife Kate, and other members of the family that her daughter will officially join Saturday.
Doubts about whether Markle’s father would come to the wedding surfaced earlier in the week when TMZ reported he would not come because he was embarrassed by reports that he had staged photos showing him being measured for his wedding suit. That story included a report that he had suffered a heart attack in the last week.
The drama surrounding Thomas Markle, and harsh comments about the bride made by estranged members of her extended family who were not invited to the wedding, have increasingly dominated British tabloid coverage of the royal wedding in recent days.
Daily Mail columnist Sarah Vine on Thursday castigated Harry’s Kensington Palace press operation for not doing more to prevent Markle’s relatives from sniping at her.
“Even the most cursory internet search would have thrown up a few red flags,” she said. “Could they not have taken at least a few steps to get them on-side?”
Martin Benedyk contributed from Windsor.
Gregory Katz And Danica Kirka, The Associated Press