Thomas Markle has given a television interview appealing to his daughter, Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, to contact him. But what is the background to the story?

– Who is the Duchess of Sussex?

Meghan Markle is a former American actress who married Prince Harry on May 19 in a glittering ceremony in St George’s Chapel, Windsor. They were given the titles Duke and Duchess of Sussex, and are expecting their first child in the spring.

Meghan is best known for her role in the hit US legal drama series Suits, in which she played paralegal-turned-lawyer Rachel Zane.

– What is her background?

She was born on August 4 1981, to clinical therapist mother Doria Ragland and TV lighting director Thomas Markle, and grew up in Los Angeles. Her parents divorced when she was six.

Meghan has written about her mixed heritage – her father is Caucasian and of Dutch and Irish descent and her mother is African-American – and how it created “a grey area surrounding my self-identification” but how she has embraced it to become a “strong, confident mixed-race woman”.

Prince Harry engagementMeghan Markle playing Rachel Zane in Suits (Shane Mahood/USA Network/PA)

– When did she meet Harry?

They met on a blind date in London in the summer of 2016 and a few weeks later camped out under the stars in Botswana after Harry persuaded his future wife to join him on holiday.

Their whirlwind 16-month relationship was spent flying between Meghan’s former home in Toronto, Canada, where she filmed Suits, and Harry’s at Kensington Palace in London.

– What is Thomas Markle’s background?

Mr Markle is a retired lighting director living in the seaside resort of Rosarito in Mexico.

He met Meghan’s mother, Doria Ragland, in the late 1970s when he was working on a soap and she was a temp at the studio.

He worked on hit shows like the sitcom Married … With Children and the popular US drama General Hospital.

He also won two Emmys for his team’s work on General Hospital and was nominated for countless others.

Royal Wedding preparationsMeghan Markle’s mother, Doria Ragland, is of African-American heritage (Steve Parsons/PA)

– What was Meghan’s relationship like with her father pre-wedding?

The duchess was said to have been close to her father and has described him as hard-working and caring and believing in her “grand dream” of becoming an actress.

In the past she has paid tribute to “the blood, sweat and tears this man (who came from so little in a small town of Pennsylvania, where Christmas stockings were filled with oranges, and dinners were potatoes and spam) invested in my future so that I could grow up to have so much”.

It is thought Mr Markle had not met his future son-in-law before the wedding but, in the run-up to the big day, Kensington Palace said he and Meghan’s mother would “have important roles in the wedding” and would meet senior members of the royal family including the Queen.

– How did the relationship change?

Mr Markle was caught up in controversy days before the wedding after he allegedly staged paparazzi photographs of himself.

In pictures that were published in a number of newspapers, he was shown being measured for what was thought to be his wedding suit, looking at screen pictures of his daughter and Harry while in an internet cafe, and reading a picture book about Britain.

There was speculation that Mr Markle would not be able to walk his daughter down the aisle due to heart surgery and Meghan confirmed the rumour in a statement two days before her big day, saying: “I have always cared for my father and hope he can be given the space he needs to focus on his health.”

Prince Harry engagementPrince Harry and Meghan Markle in the Sunken Garden at Kensington Palace, London, after the announcement of their engagement (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

– And how are the father and daughter now?

Throughout the turbulent week before the wedding Mr Markle was regularly commenting to entertainment website TMZ about his contact with Meghan, and has since given a number of interviews appealing to her to get in contact.

According to Mr Markle, the relationship appears to have broken down and the father and daughter have not spoken for more than six months.

– What about the rest of the Markle family?

Meghan has a colourful extended family including a half-brother and half-sister who have hit the headlines, with one newspaper describing it as a “motley collection of individuals who, between them, have a long record of boozing, bust-ups and bankruptcies”.

Meghan’s half-sister, Samantha Grant – also known as Samantha Markle – has see-sawed between condemning and praising her famous relative and once described her as a “shallow social climber” and claimed she had shunned her since making it in Hollywood.

The duchess’s half-brother, Samantha’s sibling, Thomas Markle Junior, has been bankrupt once, divorced twice and faced trial on gun charges before the case was dropped.