The royal family has been left embarrassed and shocked after it was confirmed Meghan Markle's father Thomas Markle staged paparazzi photos that were sold around the world for more than £100,000 (AUD$179,582.50).
Thomas Markle, who will walk Meghan down the aisle at Windsor Castle on Saturday, has been caught on CCTV willingly posing for faked photographs that have been sold.
The shocking footage obtained by The Mail on Sunday shows the 73-year-old former lighting director arriving at an internet cafe with well-known paparazzi Jeff Rayner. Minutes later the pair are seen preparing to photograph Mr Markle while he is sitting at a computer looking at a news story about his daughter and Prince Harry.
Additional photos of Mr Markle getting fitted for a suit, and reading a book of British landmarks were also proven to be staged.
The staged photographs come as Kensington Palace pleaded with publishers to respect Mr Markle's privacy.
News that Mr Markle has been co-operating with paparazzi behind his daughter and Prince Harry's backs will cause huge embarrassment to the royal family in the lead up to the wedding on May 19.
It will be especially humiliating for Harry who, in a BBC documentary last year, hit out at the paparazzi for the way in which they pursued his mother, Princess Diana, who was killed in Paris in 1997 after being chased by photographers.
And shortly after his relationship with Meghan became public in 2016, the Prince made a heartfelt plea for the media to respect the privacy of Meghan and her family.
An official letter, written by Prince Harry’s communications secretary Jason Knauf, described how Mr Markle had been ‘followed and harassed’ by photographers and journalists. The letter urged editors not to publish pictures of Mr Markle and called on them to stop pursuing him.
Jeff Rayner, the man who took the set-up pictures of Mr Markle is an English former head boy who is now one of Los Angeles’s most ruthless paparazzi.
The 44-year-old photographer once boasted of earning £18,500 for pictures of Britney Spears shopping on Sunset Boulevard and claims he has a book of celebrity addresses that would be ‘a stalker’s dream’.
He says of his life: ‘I look at my friends back home – getting married, having babies – and here am I, hosing down Britney on Sunset. The trouble is, it’s just so lucrative.’
Rayner also bragged about his Mr Markle pictures on his Facebook page by posting a picture of the front page of the following day’s The Sun newspaper with the caption: ‘Cheeky little hit in The Sun.’
Mr Markle is still scheduled to walk his daughter down the aisle on Saturday.