Has the British royal family ever had a uniquely modern problem like Thomas Markle?
How do you solve a problem like Thomas Markle?
Before Meghan Markle, Britain’s new Duchess of Sussex, wed Prince Harry in May, it was clear that her side of the family would be trouble. Her half-sister Samantha Grant relished the new attention and seemed completely unbothered that it came at Meghan’s expense.
Her half-brother Thomas Markle Jr. was in legal trouble - he had recently been charged with menacing, pointing a firearm at another person, and unlawful use of a weapon.
Her father, however, seemed to be enjoying a quiet life in Mexico, where he would live out his twilight years after spending most of his days working as a Hollywood lighting director. In those months, he seemed to be a reclusive character, one content with a peaceful existence south of the border.
But after time, this life of solitude wasn’t enough for Thomas - after years of working behind the scenes, on tv shows like Married..with Children and General Hospital, he finally had his chance to get his own airtime on the small screen. And what has followed has been a veritable whirlwind of humiliation, both of himself, and his youngest child.
After it was revealed that he had set up paparazzi pictures in the hope of securing favourable coverage, the blame was quickly passed onto Samantha; an easy scapegoat given she has made her feelings about her sister very clear. As time went on, it became apparent that Mr Markle is the brains behind chapter two of his attempt at a public image overhaul - as he admitted himself in one of his many, many interviews.
Comparably, in the 17 years that Kate Middleton - who came from a normal, albeit affluent, background - has been with Prince William, no one in her immediate family has sold their story for the right price. In fact, when Pippa began pursuing a presenting career stateside in 2014, William took her under his wing and she had been "quietly and diplomatically reined in".
She now only shares personal information in her Waitrose column, which doesn’t have the same pizzazz as The Today Show, but it seems to quench any thirst for public life she may still hold.
The juiciest stories about the Middletons rather vanilla life came from their own black sheep - Carole’s brother Gary Goldsmith, an outspoken businessman who was filmed chopping up cocaine in 2009 and subsequently frozen out for bringing the family into disrepute.
He also has given a number of ill-advised interviews and was rumoured to be writing a tell-all book, which, unsurprisingly, did not court him back into favour in their inner circle.
The message was clear: you talk and you’re cut out; something Thomas hasn’t been quite able to grasp given that he most recently said he will keep speaking out until the palace unfreezes him.
There is a stark contrasts between Gary and Thomas, though as there is something particularly sad about your own father selling you out for a quick buck versus your uncle.
Nevermind the fact that he lives nearly 9,000km away in a retirement community in Rosarito, making him a truly modern royal anomaly.
William and Kate have always been more traditional, whereas Harry is the wildcard of the family - keen to do things his own way, with his 2016 statement condemning the media’s treatment of his then-girlfriend as evidence. And having just covered Meghan and Harry’s visit to Dublin, let’s just say the palace’s feelings towards the press is...apparent.
Meghan, has, rather publicly, had to break up with her family due to their unreasonable behaviour. While her mother is enjoying the trappings of a royal adjacent life - setting up her own yoga studio, presumably with some financial assistance from her daughter and enjoying lunches with Oprah - her father has been left out in the cold.
It’s clear that not only does Thomas Markle have no experience in personal representation on such a global scale, but that he has an axe to grind.
"I was silent for a full year and the press beat me up every day saying I was a hermit hiding in Mexico, so I gave my story,” he told TMZ again on Tuesday.
He feels he has been mistreated by his daughter, the royals and the press and seems to think that continually seeking validation through tabloids is the answer to his frustrations.
What kind of loving parent would want to intentionally put their child in an uncomfortable situation with her new in-laws, with the eyes of the world watching, under the guise of reconnecting?
Without caving to his demands, which, on paper, don’t seem unreasonable - after all, he says he just wants to open the lines of communication - in what other scenario would it be appropriate for your in-laws to get involved in what is essentially your own family business?
Meghan’s affection for her father has been well documented over the years: she credits him with encouraging her to “make her own box” when asked to identify as African American or Caucasian as a child and he was the impetus behind her sending that now-famous letter condemning an ad for household products exclusively aimed at women.
When he pulled out of attending her wedding, she issued a brief and direct statement, one clearly fueled by disappointment in which she said, “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.”
The whole debacle is becoming uncomfortable for anyone following - the updates are ever-increasing and the rhetoric is increasingly vitriolic.
Meghan’s American lineage means that there is more international interest in the family than ever and when websites like TMZ are willing to pay top dollar for an interview with a princess’ father - a previously unheardof feat - temptation is fraught.
Sure, there was Fergie and the infamous toe sucking incident, and her ‘selling out’ for corporate endorsements after her divorce from Prince Andrew, but this continuous run of interviews is an entirely new phenomena.
Fergie's behaviour was so frowned upon that Princess Margaret once said, “You have done more to bring shame on the family than could ever have been imagined.”
How I bet they wish a foot fetish would be their height of humiliation in 2018.
The Brits aren’t the first royal family to struggle to cope with the public interest around a new royal’s past life. When Norway’s Crown Princess Mette Merit became engaged to Crown Prince Haakon, the fact that her ex-partner and father of her son Morten Borg was previously convicted of drug possession was a huge point of criticism.
After her wedding (and a tearful interview), it was clear she would never publicly speak about him and even he has remained relatively silent over the last 18 years.
The latest developments are equal parts gripping and heartbreaking. The world is watching the royals - the world’s longest-running soap opera - in real-time. We no longer have to wait for tomorrow’s copy of The Sun to see what shenanigans they are up to behind palace gates.
We are receiving updates about the good, bad and the ugly from every major (and even the not-so-major) news outlet in the world.
Royals equate to near-guaranteed clicks and with an inside track with one of parents of the world’s newest beloved princess willing to talk for the right price?
That's the real scandal.