By Laurna Woods

Kensington Palace should be hanging out the bunting ahead of this weekend’s Royal Wedding. Instead, they’ve hung the bride’s father out to dry after one of the worst instances of crisis management public relations planning I’ve witnessed.

Thomas Markle may or may not walk Meghan down the aisle to meet Prince Harry on Saturday morning, depending who you believe.

The fact there’s even a doubt about that is down to poor preparation by the Palace’s PR advisors as much as it is those desperate to take advantage of Thomas.

Meghan’s half-sister Samantha is saying outright that, after he was caught posing for pre-arranged paparazzi photos, Thomas won’t be heading to Windsor for the wedding. Harry and Meghan hope that’s not the case.

But the Palace should have seen this coming. They’ve let the Suits actress’ dad walk about looking like a vagabond in Mexico, while paparazzi move in next door.

The poor man is being exploited and not just by the media. He has been very badly advised by Samantha, who routinely makes money out of her half-sister’s celebrity status. As Piers Morgan said on GMTV this morning, Samantha’s a media vulture.

Plan into action

When Thomas announced a few weeks ago that he would walk down the aisle with Meghan that was the cue for the Palace to put a properly thought through public relations plan into action.

The chap’s had no media training and has been left there as the world’s media descend on him, as the Palace surely knew they would. The Royals’ PR advisors, more than anybody, know how these things work. I mean, they remember Princess Diana, don’t they?

They could have avoided all this drama by bringing Thomas to London and steering him safely through a testing few weeks. In fact, Harry should have gone to collect him.

When you’re planning a large, high-profile event – and they don’t come much bigger than a Royal Wedding – the PR team should look at all the possibilities and eventualities, everything that could happen, good or bad. Even in good times, crisis management preparations are required.

Sometimes, it’s possible to predict a crisis. This was one of those instances. With the bad feeling within Meghan’s family, it would be easy to spot where the potential issues would be. Why this wasn’t the case poses several questions.

Why was Thomas photographed getting measured for a suit in some Mexican tailor when the groom’s family have the best connections to the most discreet tailors Savile Row has to offer?

Staged from the outset

Why were paparazzi able to catch him looking up Prince Harry on his laptop in photos it was clear from the outset were staged?

Why have they allowed Samantha to put her dad up to all sorts of ridiculous paparazzi photos for a quick buck?

It’s either a horrendous oversight on the Palace’s part or they just didn’t care. Either way, they’ve messed up.

They’ve allowed a woman who has an axe to grind with Meghan – her estranged half-sister – to ruin the bride’s big day. Considering it’s public knowledge she’s writing a book called “Diary of Princess Pushy’s Sister”, it’s obvious where the problem might lie.

None of this had to happen. With a little foresight on the communications team’s part, Meghan’s dad would have been protected from intrusion, protected from greed, and would be walking her down the aisle on Saturday.

The thing is, every family has problems. The difficult relationships in the Markle clan are ordinary. Anyone who’s ever planned a wedding knows about keeping warring uncles apart on the seating plan, the “do we really need to invite her?” conversations.

Underline normality

The problems in Meghan’s family served only to underline how normal she is compared with the family she is marrying into.

The wedding was helping recast perceptions of the Royal Family for the future – Meghan is mixed race, from an ordinary background, an American and a divorcee. That ticks all sorts of boxes about inclusivity and modern culture.

Now, however, old gripes and grievances have been allowed to overshadow her day. Her family is being painted as trailer trash because of grasping individuals.

On almost every occasion, a bride wants to be walked down the aisle by her father. The Palace has done nothing to help Meghan make that happen, and I feel sorry for the bride.

Simple steps and clear thinking would have kept Meghan’s dad by her side.

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