Who Is Meghan Markle?
Meghan Markle pursued a career as a screen actress, appearing in a number of TV series before landing the role of Rachel Zane on the USA Network show Suits. Markle, who also ran the lifestyle blog The Tig from 2014 to 2017, became the subject of international headlines in 2016 upon the revelation of her romance with Prince Harry of Great Britain. After announcing their engagement in late 2017, the two married on May 19, 2018, and welcomed son Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor the following May. In January 2020, the couple revealed plans to step back from their senior roles in the royal family.
Rachel Meghan Markle was born on August 4, 1981, in Los Angeles, California, the daughter of Doria, a clinical therapist and yoga instructor, and Thomas, a television lighting and photography director.
When she was 11, Markle wrote a letter to various notables, including then-First Lady Hillary Clinton, about a TV advertisement featuring the idea of women being bogged down by greasy cookware. The youngster deemed the ad sexist when male classmates started yelling, upon seeing the commercial, that the kitchen is where women belonged. (The language of the ad was subsequently changed.) Markle went on to study theater and international relations at Northwestern University School of Communication, graduating in 2003.
In 2002, Markle landed her first TV role with a guest spot on General Hospital, and she went on to appear in a number of other series that included Cuts, The War at Home, CSI: NY and 90210. As a biracial actress, Markle would eventually talk about the challenges of navigating Hollywood’s check-a-box casting landscape while also finding her voice as an actress.
PHOTOS: Meghan Markle Through the Years
Starring Role in 'Suits'
In 2011, Markle had her big break, landing the role of paralegal Rachel Zane on the USA network series Suits, co-starring Gabriel Macht, Patrick J. Adams and Gina Torres. The legal drama centers on the shifting intrigues of a Manhattan corporate law firm, with the savvy Zane attending Columbia Law School to pursue her own dreams of becoming an attorney. The show became a top performer among USA Network’s scripted programs and began taping its seventh season in 2017, though the network announced that Markle would be leaving the program following the news of her engagement to Prince Harry.
Markle has done big-screen work as well, appearing in such films as Get Him to the Greek (2010), Horrible Bosses (2011) and Anti-Social (2015), as well as the TV movies When Sparks Fly (2014) and Dater’s Handbook (2016).
Romance With Prince Harry and Wedding
Previously best known for her role on the TV series Suits, Markle made international headlines when it was revealed in 2016 that she was seriously dating Prince Harry of Great Britain. The two met while Harry was attending the Invictus Games in Toronto, where Suits is filmed. Much speculation ensued about the direction of their romance, with Markle becoming the most Googled actress of 2016 as a result of the relationship. Yet some of the scrutiny was toxic, with Kensington Palace issuing a statement calling for the couple’s privacy to be respected and pointing out the indecency of racist and sexist online trolling directed at the actress.
On November 27, 2017, Markle and Prince Harry revealed that they had secretly gotten engaged earlier in the month. Among the congratulatory messages, Prince William and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, said, "It has been wonderful getting to know Meghan and to see how happy she and Harry are together."
A few weeks later, Kensington Palace announced that the royal wedding would take place May 19, 2018, in St. George's Chapel at Windsor Castle. The news came shortly after Google's announcement that Markle had topped the year-end rankings for most searched actress for the second year in a row, finishing only behind fired TV personality Matt Lauer for 2017's most Googled person. On December 21, fans found another reason to hit their search engines with the release of the couple's official portrait photographs.
In January 2018, it was confirmed that Markle was adhering to royal tradition by shutting down her Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts. Through Kensington Palace, Markle said she was "grateful to everyone who has followed her social media accounts over the years."
On February 10, more details about the royal wedding emerged: After the marriage ceremony, scheduled to begin at 12 p.m. U.K. time, the newlyweds would ride in a carriage along the High Street through Windsor Town, before returning to Windsor Castle along the Long Walk. Later, following an afternoon break, they would attend a private evening reception hosted by Prince Charles.
Markle made headlines by breaking royal protocol — albeit in adorable fashion — during a visit to Birmingham on International Women's Day in March 2018. Introduced to a 10-year-old student, who told the soon-to-be princess that she wanted to become an actress, Markle gave the girl a hug, violating the handshake-only rule in place for the royal family.
News soon leaked that the couple would not sign a prenuptial agreement before the big day, despite their hefty individual assets. Insiders pointed to the lack of prenup enforcement in U.K. courts, as well as Prince Harry's steadfast belief that the marriage would be a lasting one.
In late March, it was reported that the duchess-to-be and her family would receive a specially designed coat of arms from Kensington Palace before the wedding. Markle's father, a U.S. citizen residing in Mexico, reportedly needed to prove one of his ancestors was a subject of the Crown in order to receive his gift. Markle's coat of arms was expected to be completed in time to feature on the souvenir program for the royal wedding, with elements from that design and Prince Harry's to be incorporated into the coats of their future children.
On May 19, 2018, the couple married at St. George's Chapel at Windsor Castle. The bride wore a dress designed by Clare Waight Keller for Givenchy. Shortly before the wedding, Queen Elizabeth conferred Markle with the title of Meghan, Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Sussex.
Markle later revealed that three days prior to the public wedding, she and Harry actually had a small ceremony with just them and the archbishop of Canterbury.
PHOTOS: Prince Harry & Meghan Markle's Wedding Album
Pre-Wedding Family Drama
On the eve of Markle and Harry's nuptials, a few members of Markle's family became the subject of tabloid drama that unfolded on an almost daily basis.
Markle's half-brother, Thomas Markle Jr., wrote a handwritten letter, warning Prince Harry, not to marry Markle, describing her as a "jaded, shallow, conceited woman that will make a joke of you and the royal family heritage." Clearly offended he wasn't invited to the wedding, he added: "... To top it all off, she doesn’t invite her own family and instead invites complete strangers to the wedding. Who does that?" The letter was published in In Touch on May 2nd.
Shortly after, Markle's father, Thomas Sr., who was expected to walk his daughter down the aisle, was caught allegedly staging photos of himself that showed him preparing for the big day. When the news broke, Markle's father was so embarrassed, he told reporters he was rescinding his invitation.
If that weren't enough, Markle's half-sister, Samantha, publicly interjected in their father's defense, claiming she was behind the staged photos because she had hoped it would put him in a good light. (Samantha, who was not invited to the wedding, is reportedly writing a book about her relationship with Markle and has granted interviews on various TV shows, despite reports that claim she and Markle were never close.)
Soon after, Thomas Sr. told the media he had recently suffered a heart attack and regretfully would not be going to the wedding. "I hate the idea of missing one of the greatest moments in history and walking my daughter down the aisle," he told TMZ.
After communicating with Markle, Thomas Sr. quickly changed his mind but ultimately had to return to the decision of not attending the wedding because he needed to undergo heart surgery.
Markle, through a statement from Kensington Palace, formally acknowledged her father would not be present. “Sadly, my father will not be attending our wedding. I have always cared for my father and hope he can be given the space he needs to focus on his health,” she stated.
Despite all the drama, Markle's mother, Doria Ragland, was reportedly in good spirits and already in London, socializing with the Royal Family and helping her daughter get ready for her big day.
On October 15, 2018, Markle and Prince Harry announced that they were expecting their first child in spring 2019. "Their Royal Highnesses have appreciated all of the support they have received from people around the world since their wedding in May and are delighted to be able to share this happy news with the public," Kensington Palace said in a statement.
The baby boy, Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor, arrived at 5:26 a.m. on May 6, 2019. Seventh in line to the British throne, he was christened two months later in a private ceremony at Windsor Castle.
In November 2020, Markle revealed that she suffered a miscarriage in July of that year.
On Valentine's Day 2021, Markle and Prince Harry announced they're expecting their second child, a daughter. Lilibet "Lili" Diana Mountbatten-Windsor was born on June 4, 2021, at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital in Santa Barbara, California.
Life as the Duchess of Sussex
Following the wedding, the couple attended a birthday party for Prince Charles before heading off for their honeymoon. It was then on to more formal activities, with Markle making her Buckingham Palace balcony debut at Trooping the Colour, a ceremony to honor the Queen's birthday, on June 10.
Two days later, Kensington Palace announced plans for Markle and Harry's first royal tour: "The Duke and Duchess of Sussex will undertake an official visit to Australia, Fiji, the Kingdom of Tonga, and New Zealand in the Autumn," read the announcement. "Their Royal Highnesses have been invited to visit the Realms of Australia and New Zealand by the countries’ respective governments. The Duke and Duchess will visit the Commonwealth countries of Fiji and Tonga at the request of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office."
In June 2019, Markle appeared at her first public event since giving birth by sharing a carriage with Prince Harry, the duchess of Cambridge and the duchess of Cornwall at Trooping the Color.
In late September 2019, Markle, Harry and son Archie headed to Africa for the baby's first royal tour. In October, ahead of the airing of the ITV documentary Harry & Meghan: An African Journey, the duchess made headlines for a clip in which she revealed her struggles with being a new wife and mother amid intense media scrutiny.
Stepping Back From Royal Duties
On January 8, 2020, after spending the holiday season in Canada, Markle and Harry delivered the stunning announcement that they planned to "step back" from their senior roles in the royal family and work to become "financially independent."
"It is with your encouragement, particularly over the last few years, that we feel prepared to make this adjustment. We now plan to balance our time between the United Kingdom and North America, continuing to honor our duty to The Queen, the Commonwealth, and our patronages," they wrote in a joint statement on Instagram. "This geographic balance will enable us to raise our son with an appreciation for the royal tradition into which he was born, while also providing our family with the space to focus on the next chapter, including the launch of our new charitable entity."
A few days later, Buckingham Palace released a statement that addressed several details of the new arrangement, including confirmation that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex would no longer receive public funds for royal duties or use the honorific His/Her Royal Highness styling. The Queen released an accompanying statement to express her support of the young couple, noting that she was "particularly proud of how Meghan has so quickly become one of the family."
Having set up shop in their new home base of Los Angeles, Markle and Harry closed their @SussexRoyal Instagram account and formally signed off as senior royals on March 31, 2020.
In February 2021, Markle and Harry confirmed that they would not be returning to their royal roles. They will retain their titles, but no longer use them. "The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have confirmed to Her Majesty The Queen that they will not be returning as working members of The Royal Family," a statement from Buckingham Palace said. "Following conversations with The Duke, The Queen has written confirming that in stepping away from the work of The Royal Family it is not possible to continue with the responsibilities and duties that come with a life of public service."
Following their trip to Africa in early fall 2019, the royals announced their intention to sue Associated Newspapers, publisher of the Mail on Sunday, for editing and publishing a private letter sent by Markle to her father. According to the lawsuit, the act was "intrusive and unlawful" and part of an overall effort to tarnish her reputation.
The April 2020 pretrial hearing produced a setback to their case, as the overseeing judge agreed to strike Markle's claims that the publisher "acted dishonestly and in bad faith," "deliberately dug up or stirred up conflict between Meghan and her father" and had an "obvious agenda of publishing intrusive or offensive stories about [her] intended to portray her in a false and damaging light."
In March 2021, Markle and Harry sat down for a tell-all interview with Oprah Winfrey. In the two-hour special, Markle addressed harsh tabloid rumors, confided that she had suicidal thoughts, discussed issues of race – revealing that a member of the royal family was concerned about the skin tone of Markle and Harry's mixed-race children – and spoke about what finally led to the couple to step down as working members of the royal family.
"My hope for people in the takeaway from this is to know there is another side, to know that life is worth living," Markle said.
Personal Life and Ex-Husband
Markle dated producer Trevor Engelson for several years before the couple married in 2011. They divorced two years later.
Markle has a number of passions that include yoga (following in the footsteps of her mother), calligraphy and cuisine. She is also an essayist and has written for Elle UK, and ran her own lifestyle blog The Tig from 2014 to 2017. Markle's philanthropic efforts include being appointed a U.N. Women’s Advocate and working with the World Vision Clean Water Campaign, among other activities.
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