Heart surgery keeps Markle's father from attending royal wedding

He will not go to UK following heart attack and was due for surgery yesterday

US actress Meghan Markle's father will not be able to walk her down the aisle at her wedding to Prince Harry, as he underwent heart surgery yesterday, TMZ reported him as saying in the latest dramatic U-turn just days before the big occasion.

Mr Thomas Markle told the celebrity website he was due to have surgery to repair coronary damage and clear a blocked artery, after reportedly suffering a heart attack a week ago.

Doctors "will go in and clear blockage, repair damage and put a stent where it is needed", Mr Markle, a former Hollywood lighting director, was quoted as saying.

He had hoped to walk his daughter down the aisle during the meticulously planned ceremony at Windsor Castle's St George's Chapel on Saturday, "but now he realises it is all but impossible, given the upcoming surgery", TMZ said.

There had been confusion over Mr Markle's plans after he apparently changed his mind repeatedly in recent days.

After originally planning to attend, he decided not to travel from his Mexico home to spare his daughter embarrassment after a paparazzi scandal where he posed for staged pictures.

On Tuesday, TMZ initially reported an about-face from Mr Markle, who said he would try to attend after he had been contacted by his daughter via text - before he revealed once more that his health was preventing him from travelling.

"I hate the idea of missing one of the greatest moments in history and walking my daughter down the aisle," the 73-year-old told TMZ from hospital.

Mr Markle said his ex-wife Doria Ragland, 61, would be a good choice to walk their daughter down the aisle in his place.

Madam Ragland, who has reportedly arrived in Britain, is expected to spend Friday night with Markle in a plush hotel before travelling with her by car to Windsor Castle.

Prince Harry's Kensington Palace office issued a brief statement that did not mention Mr Markle's heart drama, but 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."

Catch the live broadcast of the coverage of the royal wedding on Saturday (BBC Lifestyle, StarHub TV Ch 432) and BBC World News (StarHub TV Ch 701) from 4pm to 9pm.

The couple will exchange vows at 7pm. Following the service, a carriage procession will commence at 8pm from St George's Chapel through Windsor Town returning to Windsor Castle via the Long Walk. - AFP