Meghan felt her father was a victim of the media, book claims

The Duchess of Sussex felt sorry for her estranged father, wanted him at her wedding and blamed the media for “corrupting” him, according to a new book.

Meghan felt let down when Thomas Markle lied to her by denying he helped the paparazzi stage photos of him going about his life in a Mexican resort town before the royal wedding, the book Finding Freedom alleges.

But both Meghan and Harry were also angry at the media for wearing down Mr Markle for several months until he complied with their requests.

Authors Omid Scobie and Carolyn Durand write that, according to an unnamed “trusted confidant” of the duchess, Meghan had said: “My dad never sought this out. I really believe that he’s the victim, and now I feel sad because I believe he’s been fully corrupted.”

The book says after a newspaper revealed the location of his home in November, 2017, Mr Markle rejected constant media requests with a line prepared for him by royal officials of: “I can’t speak out of respect for my family”.

Meghan and Harry told him to do his best to ignore the press, but ultimately – with encouragement from Meghan’s elder half-sister Samantha – Mr Markle accepted a proposal from photographer Jeff Rayner, the book says.

Mr Markle agreed to participate in several set-up photos, including one of him reading a book on British history while at a cafe.

Duchess of Sussex
Duchess of Sussex

The photos were published around the world, with Mr Rayner earning $130,000 (£101,000), and Mr Markle and daughter Samantha sharing 30% of the proceeds, according to the book which has been serialised this weekend in The Times and The Sunday Times.

A week before the May 2018 royal wedding, Kensington Palace officials heard a Sunday tabloid was planning to expose the photo-shoot as having been staged.

The book says palace communications staff and lawyers were moving to have publication stopped, as Meghan phoned her father.

“Dad, we need to know if this is true or not, because my team is going to try and stop this story from running — if you are telling me it’s fake,” she reportedly told him.

“If they do that, they’re going out of their way to protect you, Dad.

“You’re telling me you’re being victimised, right?”

Mr Markle had replied “Of course”, failing to admit he had participated in the staging of the photos, which were duly exposed as set-ups in the press the next day.

Despite his deception, Meghan had still wanted her father at her wedding. He ultimately did not attend, partly due to suffering a heart attack days before the event, which he blamed on the stresses of pressure from the media.

“As much as she was hurt and humiliated, she wanted him to be there and was willing to move on,” an unidentified friend of Meghan’s is quoted as saying.

“Plus, she was worried about him; she honestly wasn’t sure if he was actually OK. His behaviour was bizarre.”

The book gives further glimpses of Meghan’s troubled relationship with Mr Markle, including a string of unreturned phone messages and texts from the former actress to her father in the days before her wedding.

A spokesman for Harry and Meghan said the couple did not contribute to Finding Freedom, but he did not deny the content of published extracts.

The spokesman told the PA news agency: “The Duke and Duchess of Sussex were not interviewed and did not contribute to Finding Freedom.

“This book is based on the authors’ own experiences as members of the royal press corps and their own independent reporting.”