Meghan Markle had a big year in 2018, to say the least — she became the Duchess of Sussex after tying the knot to Prince Harry and is now one of the most recognizable names in the world. But her family had just as big a year ─ and almost just as much time spent in the headlines ─ much to the chagrin of the royal family. Let's take a look back at the former "Suits" starlet's estranged brood's year in her shadow.
Meghan Markle's estranged half-sister, Samantha Markle, leaked childhood photos of the former actress along with an interview with InTouch magazine. Samantha was uncharacteristically kind, telling the tabloid that she and Meghan's father, Thomas Markle, "thought fondly" of Prince Harry, and added of Meghan, "She was extremely well-behaved and respectful. If she wanted something, she'd say it in a forthcoming, diplomatic way. She was well-mannered, tidy and disciplined [as a kid]."
However, she also criticized Meghan's Ralph and Russo engagement gown, griping, "If you can spend $75,000 on a dress, you can spend $75,000 on your dad."
Samantha also said that the engagement as a whole caused the Markle family "a lot of pain."
Also in January, Thomas Markle Jr.'s fiancee, Darlene Blount, was arrested for allegedly hitting him, The Sun reported. Thomas Jr. had previously been arrested himself for allegedly holding a gun to Blount's head.
Meanwhile, the then-reclusive Thomas Markle Sr. broke his silence and told The Sun he was thrilled for Meghan and Harry. "I think it's wonderful, I'm very delighted," he said. "I think they're [a] very good match, I'm very happy for them, Meghan and Harry ... I love my daughter very much — Harry's a gentleman."
Meghan Markle's half-brother, Thomas Markle, Jr., complained to InTouch that Meghan didn't help him when he reached out to her for advice and aid on dealing with international scrutiny on their family after her engagement to Prince Harry in November 2017.
"My lawyer had a phone meeting with her lawyer, and he emailed me some of [Meghan’s] direct words. She said, 'That's distant family and I don't know those people.' That's pretty harsh," he said.
Thomas Jr. said he actually spent a great deal of time with Meghan when they were growing up and said he'd actually lost work because her fame put the entire family under a microscope.
"There was a time when people were following me around at work, taking pictures and posting horrible stories about me and my family saying I’m a white supremacist, a drug addict and a dealer, all this crap that just isn't true," Thomas recalled.
"My attorney was reaching out to her people and the palace to basically [help us] try to get a retraction for all these false stories in [countries] where there are different laws," he continued. But an email allegedly from Prince Harry's office simply read, "I am so sorry to hear you have been having a tough time with the media."
Meghan Markle's nephew, Tyler Dooley, revealed to "Good Morning Britain" that he wasn't invited to the royal wedding. Dooley's mother, Tracy, is divorced from Thomas Markle. However, they weren't upset about it, quipping, "I don't think we are getting invitations, but that is fine, we are so proud of her." They added that Meghan used to babysit Tyler when he was a kid.
Thomas Jr. revealed that he was furious at being snubbed from the royal wedding guest list — and beseeched Prince Harry to cancel the royal wedding altogether.
"I'm not bitter, just baffled. It's hurtful given how close we once were. I'm confused and a little distraught because here is a person knowing the position she's in and knowing the scrutiny she's under and yet she has forgotten her flesh and blood," he fumed to The Mirror.
"She's clearly forgotten her roots. It's torn my entire family apart," he continued. "Meg likes to portray herself as a humanitarian, a people's person and a charitable person, but she is none of those things to her family. She is giving the greatest performance of her life. She is acting phony. Once she got into Hollywood she turned into a different person. She's clearly forgotten her roots and her family."
Also in April, Samantha slammed Prince Harry and urged him to "man up," pointing out the alleged hypocrisy between Meghan's humanitarianism and her supposed negligence of her father's side of her family. Samantha was livid about the Markles, save for Thomas Sr., not being invited to the royal wedding.
Thomas Markle Sr. was in much better spirits than his kids, however, quipping that he was excited about the royal wedding, but that he was so nervous that he'd sweat enough to require a wetsuit. He was also photographed reading books about England and St. George's Chapel, where Harry and Meghan were slated to tie the knot.
On May 4, the palace announced that both of Meghan Markle's parents would be in attendance at the royal wedding. However, 10 days later, it was reported that Thomas Markle wouldn't attend his daughter's big day after it was revealed he'd staged the aforementioned paparazzi photos ahead of the wedding.
Thomas confessed that the publicity stunt was "stupid and hammy" and that he regretted it, while Samantha took credit for the debacle and said the photos were her idea. Reports suggested that Thomas would undergo heart surgery in the days leading up to the wedding.
The next day, however, Thomas had a change of heart, reportedly after receiving text messages from Meghan saying she loved him and was concerned about his health. He said he'd "like to be a part of history" and vowed to be there.
Except he wasn't.
On May 17 — two days before the royal wedding — Kensington Palace announced that Thomas would not attend.
During all of this drama, Samantha continued on a press tour of her own, attempting to defend her father from the maelstrom in which she'd embroiled herself.
A friend of Meghan's told The Sun of the drama, "Meghan has had her ups and downs with her dad. But she thought the past year or so, she and her dad were in a good place. She's been devastated by what’s happened."
"After the revelation he had staged those paparazzi pictures, she has felt so let down and majorly questioned his loyalties," the pal continued. "He collaborated with the press yet never condemned the actions of his other children Samantha and Junior, who were forever publicly disparaging Meghan."
Prince Charles walked Meghan down the aisle on her and Harry's May 19 wedding day, which, Markles notwithstanding, seemed to go off without a hitch.
Still, three days after the wedding, Samantha criticized Meghan on Twitter for allegedly not mentioning their father in her toast.
Princess Diana's former aide, Patrick Jephson, told Page Six that Meghan's late mother-in-law would have helped her avoid a public crisis with her family, but noted, "It bears repeating that Meghan is the age Diana was when she died. When you're 36, with one marriage and numerous romances behind you, you're not a beginner, you don't have many excuses left. Therefore, the amount of latitude that the British public will give Meghan and to an extent, Harry, does have its limits."
Just after the wedding, reports claimed that Meghan's nephew, Tyler Dooley, received a warning in London for attempting to bring a knife into a nightclub.
At the end of the month, Thomas denied tabloid reports that he'd asked Meghan for money ahead of the royal wedding.
Thomas Markle reared his head again in June 2018.
He gave a lengthy interview with "Good Morning Britain" on June 18, in which he said Meghan cried when she learned he wouldn't be at the wedding and said that she and Harry would have kids "soon."
He also revealed that he'd apologized privately to Meghan and Prince Harry for staging the paparazzi photos.
"I didn't do this for money," he said. "I did this to change my image. For one whole year, I was presented as a hermit living in and hiding out in Mexico. I was looking to change my image. I made a mistake and it went wrong ... I realized it was a serious mistake. Hard to take it back. I had been seen as negative for an entire year."
Of the royal wedding, Thomas said, "She was so beautiful walking down that aisle and so proud and so gorgeous ... I cried a little watching her … I was very proud. I was very upset that it wasn't me [walking her down the aisle], but the whole world was watching my daughter. The unfortunate thing for me now is I’m a footnote in one of the greatest moments in history, rather than the dad walking her down the aisle, so that upsets me somewhat."
Thomas also said he spoke on the phone with Harry about various things on the phone, including Brexit and giving President Donald Trump a chance.
He later fumed to TMZ that the royal family put him in a "penalty box" after the interview with "Good Morning Britain." He griped that President Trump would meet the royals before he would, lamenting, "If the queen is willing to meet our arrogant, ignorant and insensitive president, she has no excuse not to meet me, I'm nowhere near as bad."
"My thing about my daughter right now is that I think she is terrified," he said. "I see it in her eyes, I see it in her face and I see it in her smile. I've seen her smile for years. I know her smile. I don't like the one I’m seeing now," he said, noting it was a "pained smile," but that he wasn't sure if she was truly miserable or if she'd just had a "couple of bad days ... I don't know. It really worries me. I think she's under too much pressure."
He also claimed, "Anyone who makes a profit off the royal family becomes shunned. But I could have made well over $100,000 by just doing a talk show."
Thomas also griped about the royals' "outdated" rules regarding dress codes and was miffed that Meghan's mother, Doria Ragland, was seated alone at the wedding.
Days later, he told TMZ he refused to keep quiet and just wanted to be able to communicate with his daughter. It didn't work, with reports claiming all he did was anger the newlyweds.
He wasn't her only estranged relative to run his mouth that month.
Samantha criticized Prince Harry for not standing up to Meghan and allowing her to allegedly mistreat her family, then said that if Thomas were to die, blood would be on Meghan's hands. Days later, it was announced that Samantha may join "Celebrity Big Brother U.K." In a demonstration of acute self-awareness, she then gave an interview about what "cashing in" means in regards to her newly royal relative.
Just days later, Thomas Markle Jr.'s fiancee, Darlene Blount, was arrested again for another domestic incident.
The Markles ended the month with Thomas Sr. calling Meghan "cold" for refusing contact with him and said he feared he would never meet his own grandchildren.
In August, it was revealed that Meghan's estrangement from her father may have begun much earlier than expected, as it's suspected (thanks to a slew of photographs) that he never attended her first wedding to Trevor Engelson in 2011.
Perhaps it was because his relationship with her ex was similar to that of his relationship with Prince Harry. Thomas admitted in August that he angrily hung up on Harry before the wedding after the ginger prince warned him that the press would "eat him alive." When Harry asked Thomas if he staged paparazzi photos, Thomas says that he lied and told the prince he'd been measured for a hoodie when the snaps were taken.
He also told The Sun that Meghan asked him to stop speaking to Samantha, which he said put him in a bind, explaining, "I have two daughters. I can't stop talking to one of them. No father should be asked to turn his back on their children. I love Meghan but I also love Samantha."
Thomas Jr., meanwhile, piped up again, telling The Mirror that Meghan's treatment of their father was "selfish, cruel even. He gave her everything and now she is giving him nothing but hurt back. They say blood is thicker than water, but perhaps the blue blood of the royals now runs through Meg's veins. It's heartbreaking to see how this has changed her and the devastation it has caused to my family."
Samantha Markle tried getting close to Meghan in September — literally.
After calling Meghan a "ducha—" (creative!) and comparing Prince Harry to a hamsteron his birthday, Samantha's publicist (yes, she hired one) announced that she'd visit London in an effort to mend fences with and deliver a letter to Meghan.
It didn't work.
Reports later indicated that Samantha was turned away from Kensington Palace, then spent her time trying on masks of the royals.
In what may have been a sign that there are snowmen in hell, October 2018 brought the last thing the world would have predicted: Samantha Markle apologized to Meghan on TV.
"There is so much water under the bridge and so much has spun out of control that was never intended to," Samantha said on a talk show while she was in London. "I think everybody was hurt by not being included or invited to the wedding, but I felt as though it could have all been nipped in the bud had everyone been included and we all just agreed to move forward with positive resolve, and the hurt feelings wouldn't have snowballed ... but believe it or not, it doesn't mean that we love you any less. I just think that families can be this way when there's confusion and when people are hurt. So, moving forward, I apologize and I wish things could be different."
Of course, she also dissed Meghan, accusing her of having a fake relationship with her mother and of abandoning not just her father's family, but also her former best friend, who served as a bridesmaid in Meghan's first wedding.
Samantha wasn't the only Markle family member seeking press that month.
Markle's marijuana-shilling nephew, Tyler Dooley, joined an upcoming MTV reality show, "The Royal World." Likely as somewhat of a relief for Meghan, he later said he'd "never spew hate" like her other family members.
On Oct. 11, an interview with Thomas Markle Sr. in the National Enquirer (via The Sun) unleashed quite a few bombshells: He admitted to using cocaine while working in film and television as a lighting director, as well as to purusing the Playboy Club — but that he drew the line at ever paying for sex.
Days later, Meghan and Prince Harry announced that they're expecting their first child and that Meghan's mother, Doria, was happy about it (obviously).
Thomas Markle Sr. learned about the happy news from the media, not from his royal daughter, but didn't seem outwardly upset about it.
Samantha was the first family member to speak out about the pregnancy, telling The Sun, "It just makes everything that happened over the last year disappear. I want Meghan to be happy and calm and have peace. Everybody needs to be positive. “I would hope that — for the sake of the baby, the family, the world and my dad — that leaving him out of the statement was not intentional."
Samantha spoke out again in late October, after Meghan gave a speech saying she paid for college herself with scholarships, grants and work-study programs.
"Dad paid her college tuition!" Samantha fumed on Twitter. "She forgot the most important part of her speech and there are receipts to prove it. I love my sister but this is ridiculous. You can't lie like this, Meg! Delusionally absurd!"
In a BBC documentary about Prince Charles, "Prince, Son and Heir: Charles at 70," that aired in early November 2018, Prince Harry recalled asking his father to walk Meghan down the aisle after Thomas Markle bailed on their wedding.
"I asked him [Charles] to and I think he knew it was coming and he immediately said, 'Yes, of course, I'll do whatever Meghan needs and I’m here to support you,'" Harry said. "For him that's a fantastic opportunity to step up and be that support, and you know, he's our father so of course he's going to be there for us."
Surprisingly, the Markles stayed quiet until Thanksgiving, when Samantha tweeted that she'd celebrated the American holiday with Thomas.
After a quiet November, Thomas Markle reemerged to lament about how he'd been treated by both the press and his daughter.
"She and Harry have put up a wall of silence," he said. "I've pleaded with her to pick up the phone. I wrote her a two-page letter and sent it by certified mail via her representative in Los Angeles. I asked her why she was believing the lies. I even hand-delivered a letter to Doria asking her why our daughter won't speak to me."
He also presented proof in the form of hospital receipts that he had, in fact, undergone heart surgery ahead of the royal wedding — and provided photographic evidence that he'd been at Meghan's first wedding to Trevor Engelson in 2011 as well.
"If she would just speak to me, things could be different," he lamented. "I love Meghan very much. I want her and Harry to have a beautiful, healthy baby and a great life. But I want them to stop believing the lies."
He also told TMZ that the reason he was speaking out wasn't to defame his daughter, but to clear his own name.
Meanwhile, Samantha Markle slammed Meghan and Harry's Christmas card photo — and Thomas gave yet another interview alleging that Meghan had "ghosted" him since the royal wedding.