Prince Charles will walk Meghan Markle down the aisle at the royal wedding on Saturday.
Kensington Palace said in a statement: “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 Prince of Wales is pleased to be able to welcome Ms. Markle to The Royal Family in this way.”
In unprecedented scenes the father-of-the-groom will give away Prince Harry’s fiancee at St George’s Chapel, Windsor, tomorrow.
Prince Charles said today he was “pleased to welcome her to the royal family in this way”, Kensington Palace revealed in a shock statement.
Her mother Doria Ragland had been expected to step in for Thomas Markle, whose deal with a paparazzi photographer threatened to overshadow the biggest and happiest day of her life.
Prince Charles was the second favourite at 3/1 yesterday to walk Meghan down the aisle, with her mother Doria Ragland the favourite at 1/3. Third favourite was Prince William at 5/1.
Today, Meghan and Harry will put days of horrendous family drama behind her as she takes her mother to meet the Queen and huge crowds gathered outside Windsor Castle ahead of tomorrow’s wedding.
After a series of setbacks which have seen her father pull out of the ceremony and her half-brother call the wedding a “mistake”, Meghan will make final preparations today ahead of the ceremony at Windsor on Saturday.
Her half-brother, Thomas Markle Jr., was pictured outside Windsor Castle this week after flying to the UK ahead of the service.
The royal bride will hope there are no further surprises from her family to disrupt the build-up to the wedding.
Today Meghan’s mother, Doria Ragland, who has been staying at Kensington Palace, will meet the Queen to complete a whirlwind introduction to the royal family after flying in from Los Angeles on Wednesday.
She has already enjoyed a “jolly” meeting with Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall, just hours after landing, and yesterday met the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and their children.
Last night royal fans were seen camping out outside the castle to ensure a good view of the planned procession, using sleeping bags and even folding chairs after local police banned tents.
Yesterday they witnessed a full rehearsal in which a carriage and members of the armed forces paraded through the streets of Windsor.
Meghan has pleaded for her 73-year-old father, who is recovering from heart surgery in Mexico after revelations about his alleged collusion with a paparazzi photographer, to be given “space”.
In the statement, which she is said to have written herself, Miss Markle, 36, 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 actress also appeared to reject criticism by her siblings that she had failed to do enough to support the reclusive Thomas Markle, saying she had ‘always cared’ for him.
There was no confirmation from Kensington Palace about who will walk Miss Markle down the aisle tomorrow. That is expected later today.
However, her mother, Doria Ragland, who will accompany her to the chapel and who is due to meet the Queen today, is tipped for the role. Miss Markle’s future father-in-law, Prince Charles, and her closest male friend, Soho House director Markus Anderson, have also been mooted.
Amid criticism from some in the extended Markle family, sources close to Miss Markle yesterday insisted that she and Harry, 33, had offered both her parents substantial “support and advice” as to how to handle the global interest since they started dating in 2016.
And friends told the Mail that contrary to claims by her half-siblings, Samantha Markle and Thomas Markle Jnr, that she had left their intensely private father to deal with the paparazzi on his own, she had been in ‘frequent’ touch with him by phone and text, including in recent days.
It is understood Mr Markle told his daughter personally that he would not be medically fit enough to fly to the UK.
It was claimed yesterday that he was recovering after having three stents implanted in arteries following a heart attack at home in Mexico eight days ago, and that he had said it would “take a long time to heal”.
In return, Miss Markle was said to have told him that she loved him and supported him, regardless of the paparazzi photograph debacle.
Kensington Palace declined, however, to confirm when Miss Markle had last seen her father or when she planned to see him next. They were also unable to say when Prince Harry would meet his new father-in-law. Although the couple have been dating for two years, the prince has only ever spoken to him by phone.
Yesterday’s announcement came at the end of a truly remarkable few days, in which Kensington Palace was accused of failing to get a grip of the situation, leaving Thomas Markle to brief the US gossip website TMZ about his plans.
Even Buckingham Palace courtiers have started looking at the website for the latest updates.
But as the final preparations were put into place yesterday afternoon, Miss Markle and Harry appeared to be all smiles.
The couple attended their last wedding rehearsal at St George’s Chapel in Windsor with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and their children, Prince George and Princess Charlotte, who are page boy and bridesmaid.
Miss Markle looked radiant despite the strain of the past week, wearing a white £285 Boss bodysuit and £7,000 Birks diamond earrings.
Although the Queen arrived at Windsor Castle for the weekend while the wedding party was there, she is understood not to have taken part.
Friends said last night that despite the drama of the past few days, Miss Markle was excited about the wedding and looking forward to exchanging vows with her prince. One admitted that families could sometimes be ‘messy’, but that she and Harry knew they had done everything possible to support her parents.
“They are just looking forward to the next few days and happy and excited about becoming man and wife,” the source said.
TMZ yesterday said it had again been in touch with Mr Markle.
Journalist Sean Mandell said Miss Markle’s father had told him: ‘It will take a long time to heal. I’m okay. Staying in the hospital a few more days. Not allowed to get excited.’
As for his daughter, Mr Mandell said it was clear she had been very upset by events. “Meghan was embarrassed and tearful in private,” he said.
“She is holding up, from what I’ve been told. It has been a tearful and a trying time for her.”
When asked if her relationship with her father could recover from this week’s debacle, he said: “I do get the sense he does want to be reunited with Meghan.
“She’s no stranger to having to deal with hard moments in her life’. He told Good Morning Britain: ‘She [Meghan] called him Monday when the story first broke. But he did not have his phone on him and then she texted him, saying she loved him, that she was concerned over his health and bore him no ill will over the controversy of the fake photos.
“He told us we wanted to be there and had a change of heart on Tuesday after speaking with Meghan over text and he felt he had pulled out prematurely.
“He had originally felt it would be better for him not to be at the wedding because it would cause further embarrassment, he thought, for the Royal Family, and for Meghan, which is the last thing he wanted.
“He realised, ‘I’m a father, and I want to be there for my daughter, and I want to be part of history’. Ultimately his health prevented him from being able to do that.
“Meghan is by all accounts a very strong women.
“From what Thomas has told me there’s just love being conveyed there and a gentle approach between them when they speak.”