Royal Wedding: will raucous US in-laws out-sparkle Markle?


LOS ANGELES - As Meghan Markle's gown undergoes final adjustments for her wedding to Prince Harry, her gaffe-prone American family has been sending royal courtiers into a spin by airing its dirty laundry in public.

The bride-to-be remains close with divorced parents Tom Markle and Doria Ragland but other relatives have been barred from the May 19 nuptials amid unwelcome stories of bust-ups, heavy drinking - and even an arrest.

Markle, who grew up in the Los Angeles suburb of Woodland Hills, will be walked up the aisle by Tom, 73, an Emmy-winning Hollywood lighting director of Dutch-Irish descent who is enjoying retired life in Mexico.

Around the turn of the century, the future Duchess of Sussex was filmed as an aspiring teen actress by childhood friend Ninaki Priddy discussing her relationship with her father as they drove across LA.

"We aren't going to go there," she says on the video - posted to YouTube last year - as they near Tom's Los Angeles home, before adding: "We aren't on the best of terms."

There has been a detente in the intervening years, however, with Markle publicly expressing her love for her father in an Instagram message in 2016 and declaring, "Your hugs are still the very best in the whole wide world."

Markle's introduction to Hollywood came thanks to her father, who would bring her daily to the set of ABC's "General Hospital" and Fox sit-com "Married... with Children."

Tom reportedly put Markle through Hollywood's most exclusive schools and the private Northwestern University in Illinois after winning $750,000 in the state lottery in 1990.

He met Harry in Toronto in mid-2016 and took to the prince immediately, describing him on a video obtained by British tabloid The Sun as "a gentleman."

Markle's mother, a 61-year-old African American yoga instructor and clinical therapist, met Tom while working as an assistant make-up artist at "General Hospital."

The Ohio native has been through her own financial woes, according to the Daily Mail, which reported that she filed for bankruptcy in 2002 with assets of just $10,400 and credit card debts of $58,000.

"While my mixed heritage may have created a grey area surrounding my self-identification, keeping me with a foot on both sides of the fence, I have come to embrace that," Markle wrote in a 2015 essay for Elle magazine about being biracial.

She and Prince Harry revealed in an interview with BBC they'd spent much time with Ragland ahead of their engagement. "Her mum's amazing!" enthused Harry, who is sixth in line to the British throne.

There was speculation that Markle's father would be left off the guest list after the American star barred estranged half-siblings Tom Jr and Samantha, Tom Snr's children from a previous marriage.

Tom Jr, 51, who lives in Oregon, was arrested in January on suspicion of holding a gun to his girlfriend's head while drunk, although the charges were dropped and the couple got engaged. - AFP