By Jack Hawke in London and wires
Meghan Markle has confirmed her father will not be attending her wedding to Prince Harry on Saturday.
She released a statement via Kensington Palace following days of speculation over whether Thomas Markle would walk his daughter down the aisle.
“Sadly, my father will not be attending our wedding,” Ms Markle said in the statement.
“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 announcement ends the will-he or won’t-he saga that has overshadowed the lead-up to the Royal wedding.
Kensington Palace announced on May 4 that Prince Harry and Ms Markle were “very much looking forward to welcoming Ms Markle’s parents to Windsor for the wedding”, and said Ms Markle’s father would be walking her down the aisle.
But on Monday Mr Markle said he had made the choice not to attend the wedding to avoid embarrassing his daughter and the Royal family after he staged a series of photos of himself preparing for the event with a paparazzi agency.
The 73-year-old also said he had suffered a heart attack last week and underwent surgery on Wednesday.
Ms Markle’s mother Doria Ragland has arrived in England, and there is now speculation she will fill Thomas Markle’s role and walk her daughter down the aisle.
Ms Ragland is expected to meet Queen Elizabeth II — Harry’s grandmother — and other senior Royals in the two days left before the wedding.
She arrived carrying a Burberry suit bag — a possible clue to her wedding outfit — and will visit with Prince Charles and his wife Camilla, Prince William and his wife Kate, and other members of the family her daughter will officially join on the weekend.
Ms Markle’s statement came as military personnel rehearsed a procession through the streets of Windsor, reflecting Harry’s years of military service.
Planners used the practice session to finalise some of the details of the gala wedding at St George’s Chapel on the grounds of Windsor Castle.
The wedding day festivities will include a 25-minute carriage ride outside the castle grounds by the newlyweds after the ceremony is concluded.
More than 2,600 members of the public have been invited onto the castle grounds to watch the procession.