Meghan Markle has asked Prince Charles to walk her down the aisle when she marries Prince Harry on Saturday, Kensington Palace has announced.
The heir to the British throne said Friday that he was “pleased” to be able to welcome his future daughter-in-law into the royal family in this way after it emerged that Markle’s father, Thomas Markle, was unable to attend the ceremony.
Markle had been due to perform the traditional father-of-the-bride function but recently underwent heart surgery.
He was also embroiled in a scandal involving photographs that he apparently staged with paparazzi which reportedly put him under huge strain and sparked chest pains which doctors said required surgery.
Markle, 36, said in a statement that she was saddened by the news, but her father needed space to focus on his health.
There had been speculation in the British press that Markle’s mother, Doria Ragland, would step in to the role instead.
She has already arrived in Britain to support her daughter, had tea with Prince Charles and met the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and their two oldest children Prince George and Princess Charlotte.
Although she won’t walk down the aisle beside Markle, she will still play a prominent role in the big day and take the bride to the wedding at St. George’s Chapel in Windsor ahead of the noon local time (4 a.m. Pacific) ceremony.
Ragland will also spend Friday night with her daughter in the luxurious Cliveden House Hotel in Buckinghamshire, about nine miles from Windsor Castle.
Prince Harry, 33, will spend the night with his brother, Prince William, at the Dorchester Collection's Coworth Park in Ascot.
It has been a tumultuous few days for the bride and groom, who’ve had to deal not only with the inevitable stress of planning a wedding and dealing with last minute hiccups and preparations, but also with the news that Markle’s father was not fit enough to fly in from his home in Mexico.
Reports that he cooperated with paparazzi to stage a series of photos has also undoubtedly been a source of discomfort for the royals, especially Prince Harry, who has openly blamed the death of his mother, Princess Diana, on media intrusion.
She was killed in a car crash in Paris in 1997 while being pursued by celebrity photographers on motorbikes.
In Windsor, crowds of well-wishers have been arriving for days and are already camped out along the route the newlyweds will travel.
Up to 100,000 people are expected to pack into the town to celebrate the day, and the bride and groom have said they want the general public to feel included as much as possible.
The rehearsal of the carriage procession on Thursday gave fans a glimpse of the pageantry that will be on display, including around 250 members of the armed forces in full, regal uniforms and ornate horse-drawn carriages.
The palace said Friday that Queen Elizabeth II’s husband, Prince Philip, 96, who has been recovering from a hip operation, will be present at the ceremony on Saturday, along with around 600 invited guests.
They include some of Markle’s co-stars from “Suits,” the hit TV series she starred in before she and Harry became engaged.
About 200 of the guests have been invited to the evening reception, which is intended to be a more intimate affair.