Meghan Markle received an outpouring of support and affection today from a children's charity amid reports that she is extremely distressed at the prospect of her father not attending her wedding to Prince Harry on Saturday.
Thomas Markle Sr, 73, was due to walk his daughter down the aisle but has now decided to stay away, according to US media reports, after a controversy surrounding pictures he 'staged' with a photographer. It is also claimed that he suffered a heart attack last week.
Kensington Palace called for 'understanding and respect' to be extended to Mr Markle as is other daughter, Meghan's half sister, attacked the 'atrocious and intrusive' media attention he has been subject to.
A statement from Kensington Palace appeared to confirm reports from US celebrity website TMZ that claimed on Monday that Markle Sr, a retired TV lighting director now living in Mexico, decided not to attend 'because he doesn't want to embarrass the royal family or his daughter'.
The statement said: 'This is a deeply personal moment for Ms Markle in the days before her wedding. She and Prince Harry ask again for understanding and respect to be extended to Mr Markle in this difficult situation.'
Samantha Markle, Meghan's half sister and Thomas' daughter from his first marriage, said the paparazzi attention was putting him in a 'dangerous situation'.
She told Good Morning Britain: '[He] called me panicking on the freeway because he's in a dangerous situation being followed by seven or eight cars. I think there have been examples in history of how dangerous that can be.'
Referring to paparazzi attention, she added: 'So he was so stressed out they rented the house next to him in Mexico, four or five of them, he can't open his blinds, he can't go anywhere without being followed and really it's quite atrocious and intrusive and I think it's highly unethical.'
Of their father's health, she said: 'He was really having heart pains and suffered a heart attack, it was an unbelievable amount of stress.'
Ms Markle is global ambassador for the children's charity World Vision which said 60,000 people now have access to clean water thanks to her support.
They sent a string of supportive messages including one from Samantha, aged 12, who met Ms Markle when she visited her school in Rwanda's Kigali province in 2016.
'I remember meeting Meghan when she came to our school,' Samantha said. 'I was so happy. I hope that she will enjoy her beautiful wedding with the Prince and a happy future together.'
The charity's east regional manager in Rwanda, Frank Muhwezi, said: 'I thank Ms Markle for her big heart and generosity. Vulnerable children in Rwanda now have access to clean water both in their homes and at schools. Thanks to this amazing work, more girls have stayed in school, and we've seen huge improvement.
'I am so glad that she has taken a big step together with Prince Harry. I pray and wish happiness for both of them on their special wedding day.'
After her visit to Rwanda with World Vision in 2016, Ms Markle said: 'I think there's a misconception that access to clean water is just about clean drinking water; which, of course, it is but it's so much more than that. Access to clean water in a community keeps young girls in school, because they aren't walking hours each day to source water for their families. It allows women to invest in their own businesses and community. It promotes grassroots leadership, and, of course, it reinforces the health and wellness of children and adults. Every single piece of it is so interconnected, and clean water, this one life source, is the key to it all.
'It was an amazing experience, taking water from one of the water sources in the community and using it with the children to paint pictures of what they dream to be when they grow up. I saw that water is not just a life source for a community, but it can really be a source for creative imagination, and how lucky I am to have been a part of that.'