London – It was a tale of two very different New Year’s Eves.
On the one hand, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle celebrated by ‘partying like tycoons’ in the billionaire’s playground of Monaco.
Six thousand miles away, Miss Markle’s half-brother Tom found himself being ‘pummelled’ by his fiancee in a row at a roadside bar.
The stark differences in the couples’ celebrations vividly demonstrate the vast gulf between Miss Markle’s new role and the life she has left behind in the US.
Darlene Blount, 37, and Mr Markle Jr, 51, have vowed to attend alcohol and relationship counselling following the bust-up at their home town Grants Pass, Oregon.
Mr Markle Jr, who has the same father as Meghan, has blamed their relationship woes on the incessant pressure of being in the public eye during her relationship with Prince Harry.
He said: ‘It hasn’t been easy. Meghan’s relationship with Prince Harry has shone a spotlight on our family. It doesn’t help when you have issues and your sister is engaged to royalty. It adds a whole new level of scrutiny. We’ve been under a lot of stress because of all the attention. At some point you find yourself drinking too much to escape the pressure.’
He spoke after Miss Blount was put in jail for two nights for assaulting him on New Year’s Eve.
Mr Markle Jr admitted: ‘I said some swear words, it turned into an argument.’ At first he said Miss Blount began ‘pummelling me in the face with her fists,’ but later claimed his injuries were self-inflicted. She was arrested for fourth-degree assault in the early hours of New Year’s Day.
It is not the first time the couple’s arguments have ended in an arrest – last year Mr Markle Jr was jailed for brandishing a gun at Miss Blount after another drunken row. By contrast, Miss Markle, 36, and Prince Harry, 33, were rumoured to have been ‘partying like tycoons’ at a private bash reportedly laid on by Monaco’s Prince Albert, a friend of Prince Harry’s, and his wife Princess Charlene. One source said: ‘Harry and Meghan were somewhere very private and very expensive.
‘Monte Carlo is party central at this time of the year, and the word is that the British royals really enjoyed themselves. The fun could well have been laid on by Prince Albert, who is a close friend of Harry’s. What’s certain is that they were partying like tycoons on New Year’s Day.’
The couple are rumoured to have begun their New Year’s Eve jaunt in a low-key fashion by sitting in economy class during a scheduled British Airways flight to Nice.
According to reports, they sat at the back of the plane, taking up three rows with three bodyguards. They are then said to have taken a £710 helicopter trip to Monaco, where they spent two days celebrating before returning to London. Details of the party are being kept secret and Kensington Palace has declined to comment on the Monaco trip and the Oregon arrest. A spokesman at the Prince’s Palace of Monaco said Harry and Meghan’s partying with the principality’s royals was ‘news’ to them. Over Christmas, Prince Harry is said to have hurt Miss Markle’s relatives by claiming the Royal Family represented ‘the family she never had’. Mr Markle Jr insisted the family had ‘smothered her with love,’ adding: ‘We were as close as we could be, as tight as we could be, that’s what we were.’
He added: ‘So as far as “the family she never had” goes, she probably had like four Christmases in one day – it would be a really busy day.’
His comments echo those made by Miss Markle’s half-sister Samantha Grant, 53, of Ocala, Florida, who said she had a ‘large family who were always there with her’.
Miss Markle, whose engagement to Prince Harry was announced at the end of November, has spent most of the last month in London.