A Royal Rundown of the Complicated Life of Meghan Markle

By Jake SchroederLast Updated Apr 2, 2020 5:31:56 PM ET
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Photo Courtesy: Karwai Tang/Getty Images

Ever since becoming Prince Harry's significant other, Meghan Markle's fame has skyrocketed. However, this trend-setting new member of the royal family found her own success long before her marriage. What was her life like before becoming royalty? Take a look — you may think you know this well-mannered princess, but things are always more complicated than they appear on the surface.

Her Name Isn't Really Meghan

Perhaps one of the most surprising facts about Meghan Markle is that her name isn't actually Meghan — it's Rachel. Rachel Meghan Markle is the name this actress-turned-princess was born with, but for some reason, she elected to use Meghan instead of Rachel.

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Photo Courtesy: Genevieve/Flickr

Some theorize that the choice is simply a matter of aesthetics; the alliteration of Meghan Markle is much catchier and easier to remember, which is an asset for an aspiring actress. Or perhaps she found Meghan to be more elegant than Rachel. Whatever the reason, Meghan is here to stay.

Her Parents Met on the Set of This Show

Just like Meghan Markle's own eventual love story, her parents met in a romantic way. They both found themselves working on the same television show: General Hospital. Meghan's father, Thomas, was the lighting director, while her mom, Doria, was an aspiring makeup artist.

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Photo Courtesy: ABC Photo Archives/Getty Images

The two fell in love and tied the knot in 1979. Only two years later, little Meghan Markle was born. The best part of their love story is that many years later, Meghan Markle actually played a small role in the show General Hospital as "Nurse Jill."


They Split Up When She Was Young

Despite their romantic love story, Meghan's parents couldn't make the relationship last. They decided to get a divorce when Meghan was just six years old and parted ways for good. However, this didn't stop Meghan from having a fulfilling relationship with both.

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Photo Courtesy: Pool/Getty Images

Meghan spent a few years with her mother and then with her father. Despite any difficulties, their households were always full of love, and Meghan managed to maintain a positive relationship with both of her parents until her adult years. In this respect, Meghan counts herself lucky — not everyone is as fortunate.


She Overcame an Identity Crisis

Meghan is relatively open about her experience growing up biracial — she has a black mother and a white father. She struggled with her heritage and didn’t want to fully identify one way or the other. Because her parents were divorced, she also felt like she had to choose between the two.

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Photo Courtesy: Jean-Paul Aussenard/Getty Images

Nowadays, however, Meghan has learned to embrace the ambiguity. Her advice? "Introduce yourself as who you are, not what color your parents happen to be." Many fans have found inspiration in her message.


Many Assumed Her Mom Was the Nanny

Meghan Markle grew up in a neighborhood that wasn't racially diverse, and people often assumed her mother was the nanny. They didn't consider the fact that a black woman could be the wife of a white man and mother of a light-skinned baby.

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Photo Courtesy: Oli Scarff/Getty Images

This experience no doubt influenced how Meghan saw the world as a child and contributed to her identity crisis. Thankfully, her mother was a strong and intelligent woman and taught Meghan the important values in life.


Showbiz as the Family Business

As you may be aware, Meghan had an acting career before meeting Prince Harry. She was introduced to the business through her parents, especially her father, who was the lighting director on Married ... With Children and of course, General Hospital.

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Photo Courtesy: USA Network/Getty Images

After attending an all-girls catholic school during the day, Meghan would hang out with her dad on set. She said they sometimes sent her into another room when the jokes were too inappropriate for her young ears — Married... With Children isn't exactly a kids' show!


Family Union

Meghan Markle's family tree is full of interesting connections, and plenty of experts have taken the time to sketch it out. On Meghan's father's side, for instance, were two men who fought for the Union Army during the Civil War.

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Photo Courtesy: A.J.Russell/Wikimedia Commons

These men, Daniel Mangle and his son Thomas Mangle, were Meghan’s great-great-great-great grandfather and great-great-great grandfather respectively. They were supporters of Abraham Lincoln, and their children went on to be farmers and coal miners. And that’s just her father’s side ...


She Also Has Slave Ancestors

Both branches of Meghan’s family have something in common: they both fought in the Civil War for the Union. On her mother's side, it was Joseph, a slave that volunteered to fight for his freedom.

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Photo Courtesy: denisbin/Flickr

Apart from Betts, Meghan has various ancestors that were forced to live as slaves under a man named William Ragland in Georgia. After finally being freed, they adopted his last name, Ragland. Now one of their descendents is part of the royal family, and British and American history are joined once more.


She Spoke Out at a Young Age

Meghan Markle was never afraid to speak her mind, even at only 11 years old. At that age, Meghan saw a soap commercial that was marketed exclusively towards women, and she didn't like the message it sent. She thought advertisements shouldn't perpetuate moms as the ones that have to do everything, including cleaning, so she sent the company a letter.

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Photo Courtesy: D. Myles Cullen/Wikimedia Commons

Her voice was heard! Shortly after Meghan's criticism, Procter & Gamble changed their slogan from "Women All Over America" to "People All Over America." Meghan was never afraid to make waves.


She Was a Sorority Girl ... and a Theater Nerd

It's no secret that Meghan Markle is a smart woman. She went to Northwestern University where she studied theater and international relations and graduated in 2003. It’s hard to imagine a better skill set for a future royal.

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Photo Courtesy: Office of the Governor-General/Wikimedia Commons

Meghan was also part of the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority. She described her experience there as being pretty typical: she studied, ate too much fast food, and met a lot of great friends. Still, the networking skills she developed there probably didn’t hurt her future.


She Did Deal or No Deal

In Meghan Markle's journey as an actress, she had a role that not many know about: She was a briefcase girl on Deal Or No Deal. According to Meghan, her number, 26, didn't get chosen much, and she never had the winning briefcase,

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Photo Courtesy: NBC/Getty Images

Instead, Meghan had to stand on stage in five-inch heels for what felt like an eternity. She said all she wanted was for someone to call her number so she could go and sit down! It’s easy to see why Meghan wasn't such a fan of this role.


An Invitation to Meet Family

In the excitement surrounding Meghan's lineage after her betrothal to Prince Harry, some Georgians discovered they were related to the soon-to-be-princess. They were cousins on Meghan's mom's side, and neither had known the others existed for many years. The revelation was an exciting one.

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Photo Courtesy: Northern Ireland Office/Flickr

Meghan's cousins sent an open invitation to Meghan and her beau to pay the relatives a visit. It doesn't seem like the couple has taken them up on the invitation yet, though the offer still stands.


A Stab at Calligraphy

While Meghan’s acting career has quite successful, with roles in productions like 90210, CSI: NY, Horrible Bosses, The Candidate, Remember Me and her big break on Suits, she’s also dipped her toes into other professions as a means to pay the bills.

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Photo Courtesy: Her Royal Highness Meghan/Wikimedia Commons

Calligraphy is her most notable side hustle. Her impeccable handwriting has landed her gigs writing wedding invitations for Robin Thicke and Paula Patton, along with holiday cards for Dolce & Gabbana. It looks like she's a woman of many trades!


Canada Has a Special Place in Her Heart

Even though Meghan Markle was born and raised in Los Angeles, California, she holds Canada very close to her heart. It was during her time on Suits playing the character Rachel that Meghan found herself a place in Toronto, Canada, which quickly became home

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Photo Courtesy: Geraldfriedrich2/Pixabay

Meghan wasted no time making influential friends, including a fashion designer for Justin Trudeau's wife and the son of a former prime minister. Given the fact that she spent eight months of the year there, it's no surprise she considers herself an honorary Canuck.


She Has Royal Blood

That’s right — Meghan is technically a very, very distant relative of the royal family. On her mother's side, Meghan is a descendant of King Edward III. She has her own royal blood, even it is a very, very small portion of her lineage.

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Photo Courtesy: National Portrait Gallery/Wikimedia Commons

She gained her royal blood through Reverend William Skipper, whose other descendents include Princess Diana, who is, of course, Prince Harry's mother. That makes her and Harry cousins in more ways than one — but luckily, always far apart.


She's a Divorcee

Another scandalous detail from Meghan's past — at least by the crown's standards — is her previous marriage to Trevor Engelson. The two met in 2004 and were together six years before finally deciding to get married in an extended celebration in Jamaica.

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Photo Courtesy: Patrick McMullan/Getty Images

When Meghan took her role on Suits, however, she had to move to Canada. The distance may have put a strain on their relationship, leading to their divorce in 2013. Even though divorce isn't so kindly looked upon in the royal family, it certainly wasn't something that bothered Harry.


Some Family Members Are Estranged

Meghan Markle doesn't have a perfect relationship with everyone in her family. Her two half-siblings on her dad's side, Samantha and Thomas Jr. (pictured), have been estranged from her for some time. They all lived together when Meghan was very young, but the siblings were never close.

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Photo Courtesy: Gilbert Carrasquillo/Getty Images

This likely has to do with their age: Samantha and Thomas are 17 and 15 years older than Meghan respectively. The two are a result of her father's first marriage before Doria. Funnily enough, Samantha also tried her hand at acting but didn't make it quite as far as Meghan.


She's Related to a Baseball Player

Meghan’s newfound levels of fame with Prince Harry also led to yet another surprise in her web of relations. Red Sox player "Mookie" Betts turned out to be a cousin of Meghan's, and the two had a cheerful meeting one day at a baseball game.

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Photo Courtesy: Keith Allison/Wikimedia Commons

When the Red Sox played the New York Yankees in London, Meghan showed up to say hello. The two hugged and and shared a laugh at the strange coincidence of their ancestry. Thankfully, the two had a positive experience. After all, the last thing Meghan needed was more turbulence with family!


Bad Blood

Despite her many loving relatives, Meghan has one family member that seems to have it out for her. Her half-sister Samantha, 17 years her senior, has spoken out against Meghan in the media, calling the princess narcissistic and selfish.

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Photo Courtesy: Alexandra Wyman/Getty Images

The criticism doesn't end there — Samantha plans to release a book entitled Diary of Princess Pushy's Sister. Is Samantha simply looking to profit off of her sister's fame, or does she really have a different view of Meghan? We may never know the truth behind these sisters' rough relationship.


Her Dad Didn't Come to the Wedding

Unfortunately, Meghan's relationship with her father is also strained. Although she had a happy upbringing with him, things have gone sour since her relationship with Harry. Not all the details have been divulged, but apparently he staged photos for the paparazzi before her wedding.

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Photo Courtesy: WPA Pool/Getty Images

On top of that, he's said some negative things about the crown on media outlets. All of this has caused some tension between Meghan and her father, leading to the decision that he wouldn't be walking her down the aisle. With time, however, perhaps the two will reconcile.


She Inherited Some Things From Her Mom

While Meghan's relationship with her father is rocky, she's closer than ever with her mother. The two spend plenty of time together and share many common interests. They can often be seen heading out together with yoga mats tucked under their arms.

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Photo Courtesy: WPA Pool/Getty Images

Doria also studied for her master's in social work at the University of Southern California, suggesting that intelligence and hard work run in the family. Between education and theater, the apple certainly didn’t fall far from the tree.


She Has a Cannabis Strain Named After Her

Long before Meghan met Harry, she had a life with ex-husband Trevor Engelson and his family. During that time, her ex-sister-in-law had a son named Tyler Dooley, whose specialty was growing cannabis. He decided to give Meghan a special gift for her birthday.

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Photo Courtesy: Northern Ireland Office/Wikimedia Commons

Dooley grew a special strain of cannabis and named it after Meghan, giving it the title "Markle Sparkle." He certainly nailed the name given Meghan's natural sparkle, but it's a fact the royal family is happy to ignore. After all, they're not necessarily known for supporting cannabis.


She Used to Write The Tig

As part of the royal family, Meghan is no longer as outspoken as she used to be; after all, royals are required to refrain from making political statements. Before taking on her role as Harry's wife, however, Meghan was accustomed to speaking her mind.

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Photo Courtesy: Christopher Macsurak/Wikimedia Commons

She did this via a personal blog called The Tig. Here, she commented on fashion, beauty, and food. She had to give it all up for her marriage, but before she left, she posted a heartfelt note of farewell to her fans. Apparently, her love for Harry trumped her love for blogging!


She Enjoys a Glass of Wine

Meghan Markle is a woman who enjoys a good bottle of wine. Red wine has always been her staple. In fact, she used to drink anything red no matter the brand, but nowadays, her taste has evolved.

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Photo Courtesy: Janine C/Wikimedia Commons

Meghan reportedly likes to drink one glass of wine a night to unwind. Her favorite, and the one that originally inspired her blog, is none other than Tignanello from Marchesi Antinori. If you want a taste, be ready to spend some money — it's $135 a bottle!


Her Famous Best Friends

Meghan Markle is no stranger to powerful, influential people. Ever since attending Northwestern University, she's managed to befriend well-known people no matter where she goes. Some of her best friends are the talented tennis player Serena Williams and successful actress Priyanka Chopra.

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Photo Courtesy: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images

Other famous friends include Oprah Winfrey and Amal Clooney, both of whom attended her wedding. Making big connections seems to come naturally for down-to-earth Meghan — after all, Prince Harry himself couldn't resist! It was Soho House consultant Markus Anderson that introduced the future lovebirds at an informal gathering.


She Had a Head Start on Philanthropy

Meghan Markle took to the philanthropic life of royalty effortlessly. After all, she had already been involved in philanthropic endeavors for many years: she loved to volunteer in soup kitchens in L.A. and Canada

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Photo Courtesy: Mark Jones/Flickr

She was also involved in organizations such as the youth nonprofit One Young World, the humanitarian group World Vision, and the U.N. Women's Political Participation and Leadership Initiative. With all of these altruistic projects on her resume, Meghan had no problem tackling new philanthropic missions as a duchess — it's one of her favorite things to do.


She Was Always Ambitious

As her degree in international relations suggests, Meghan Merkle has a keen interest in global politics. In fact, shortly after graduating college, she worked as an intern at the U.S. embassy in Argentina.

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Photo Courtesy: Karwai Tang/Getty Images

She figured the position would be a stepping stone within politics. Meghan says her time abroad was as exciting as one would think. " … I’m 20 years old, in Buenos Aires, in a motorcade, doing that whole thing," she explained. "I thought for sure I would still have a career in politics."


She Knows Her Fashion

Fashion has always been one of Meghan's great loves. For instance, during her acting career, she landed the opportunity to be a brand ambassador for the Canadian clothing brand Reitmans.

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Photo Courtesy: NurPhoto/Getty Images

The company loved Meghan so much that they developed a capsule collection alongside the future duchess. The collection was launched in 2016 and did very well, perhaps in part due to Meghan's popularity. She’s certainly applied her knowledge of fashion to her new post as a royal wife by dressing modestly yet stylishly.


She Was Close to the Suits Crew

Meghan's role on Suits lasted for seven seasons before she left to marry Prince Harry. In that time, she says the cast grew very close. They spent holidays together and stayed up late playing games and drinking scotch, as close as friends can be.

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Photo Courtesy: Genevieve/Flickr

Her departure from the show was memorable — and rushed. She had a last-minute marriage with her on-screen boyfriend, Mike, serving as a nod to her approaching marriage date with Harry. The show was sad to see her go but sent her off with a bang.


She's Shaken Things Up

Needless to say, Meghan Markle's unique past and nontraditional family make her a modern addition to the royal family. She's had a lot of firsts as princess and duchess, as well, including the first self-made female millionaire in the family, the oldest pregnant royal at 37 years old, and of course, the first bi-racial person in the family.

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Photo Courtesy: Northern Ireland Office/Wikimedia Commons

Rather than estrange the public, Meghan's unorthodox nature is generally seen as refreshing — for many, it's past time a figure like her was royalty. Without a doubt, she's loved by many in part because of her unique history..