Everything you need to know about Meghan Markle

The Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle, and her husband, Prince Harry, continue to dominate headlines in the United States as well as the United Kingdom.

As an actress, Meghan Markle was already known in the United States for her role in “Suits” before she became the Duchess of Sussex, but ever since she married Prince Harry, she and her family have been dominating headlines. From royal gossip to “South Park” parodies, here’s everything you need to know about the former Meghan Markle.

Prince Harry Meghan Markle thegrio.com
Prince Harry and Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex. (Photo by Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images)

Early life

Meghan Markle was born on Aug. 4, 1981, in Los Angeles, California. Her mother, Doria Ragland, and her father, Tom Markle, met on the set of a soap opera, and Meghan was exposed early on to the lights of the entertainment world. Although her parents divorced when she was 6, she lived with both of them before staying with her father.

When Meghan was a teenager, she had an uncredited role in “Married… With Children;” her father worked on the set of the show. She attended a private elementary school and then graduated from the all-girls Catholic school Immaculate Heart High School to then study theater and international relations at Northwestern University. While she was in college, she interned in Argentina at the U.S. Embassy.

She was active in causes that mattered to her at a young age, even writing Hillary Clinton when she was 11 years old to complain about a commercial that seemed to suggest that women belonged in the kitchen. As she started to break into acting, she also spoke out about her experience as a biracial woman in Hollywood.

Family dramas

As Meghan Markle’s star rose, especially after she married Harry, her family went to the press. She had been estranged from her half-siblings, Tom and Samantha, as well as from the father they shared. Even as she found success, her family was struggling financially.

Samantha has ridiculed Meghan publicly and told Vanity Fair in 2018, around the time of the royal wedding, that she would be writing a book about her. She later published “The Diary of Princess Pushy’s Sister” in 2021.

Doria Ragland Meghan Markle TheGrio
The day before her May 2018 wedding, Meghan Markle (left) and her mother, Doria Ragland, arrive at Cliveden House Hotel in Berkshire, England, where they would spend the night. (Photo by Steve Parsons – Pool / Getty Images)

Drama and speculation also abounded when Meghan’s mother, Doria Ragland, was the only member of her family to attend her wedding. Ragland sat alone at the wedding, and that image certainly fed the tabloids. Meghan reportedly was deeply hurt when her father said he wouldn’t walk her down the aisle; there were rumors he had hired paparazzi to snag photos he could sell.

Acting jobs

In trying to get her acting career off the ground, Meghan Markle was able to earn money doing calligraphy in between small parts in shows like “General Hospital,” “Without a Trace” and “CSI.” She also had lead parts in “When Sparks Fly” and “Dater’s Handbook.” Notably, she had a small part in “Remember Me,” a film produced by Trevor Engelson, to whom she was married for two years. They divorced in 2013.

However, the role she is best known for is that of Rachel Zane on the show “Suits.” Her character was around from the very start, a paralegal who progressed to become an attorney, though she was written out of the series during the seventh season.

The romance of Harry and Meghan

Meghan Markle was introduced to Prince Harry in 2016 when his childhood friend, Violet von Westenholz, mentioned her name to him after he went to her for dating advice. They interacted a few times over Instagram before going on a blind date. By March 2017, they were seen in public together at a charity polo match; the press had learned of the relationship by then. The two enjoyed a whirlwind romance and at the end of November 2017, they announced that they were engaged.

Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, leave St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle after their wedding ceremony on May 19, 2018, in Windsor, England. (Photo by Andrew Matthews – WPA Pool/Getty Images)

The two were married on May 19, 2018, at Windsor Castle, in a lavish event attended by the likes of Elton John, Oprah Winfrey and Serena Williams. The event was covered by the press worldwide and generated plenty of gossip, especially because the marriage meant that for the first time, a biracial person would be known as part of the royal family.

How the royal family reacted

Although Harry and Meghan stepped seamlessly into public roles as working royals, with multiple appearances at royal events as well as at charities dear to their hearts, even before the wedding, the British press was reporting on friction in the family. For example, Meghan was reported to have made Harry’s sister-in-law, the former Kate Middleton, cry ahead of the wedding; Harry and Meghan later told Oprah that the truth was the other way around.

At the start of 2020, the two announced that they were stepping back from the royal family. But it wasn’t until March 2021 that they spoke out during their interview with Oprah to admit that their relationship with Harry’s side of the family had deteriorated to the point that Prince Charles (now King Charles III) was no longer answering their calls. Although they insisted that they still had a good relationship with Harry’s grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II (who died the following year), they said that the pressure of the press as well as the expectations of the royal family had gotten so bad that Meghan was suicidal.

Oprah Prince Harry Meghan Markle thegrio.com
Oprah Winfrey (right) interviews Harry and Meghan for the CBS primetime special that premiered March 7, 2021. (Photo by Harpo Productions/Joe Pugliese via Getty Images)

In that same interview, the two contended a member of the royal family had stirred “concerns and conversations” about their future children’s skin color. Their son, Archie, was born in 2019. During a royal tour of Africa, a fire broke out in the nursery where Archie was staying; he was only a few months old at the time. Despite being upset and shaken, they continued the royal tour. Moments like that, when they felt pressured to pretend everything was fine, combined to influence their decision to leave their roles as royal family members.

Despite their exit, Harry and Meghan returned to attend the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II and were seated in prominent positions because of Harry’s position as fifth in line to the throne, after his older brother, William, and William’s children. Harry reportedly was told not to attend in his military uniform because he was no longer a working royal.

Meghan and Harry’s kids

Harry and Meghan now have two children, who have been given the titles of prince and princess now that their grandfather is the king. Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor was born on May 6, 2019, and Lilibet Diana Mountbatten-Windsor was born on June 4, 2021. Prior to the death of Queen Elizabeth II, for whom Lilibet was named, the two were referred to as Master Archie and Miss Lilibet but inherited their titles when they became sixth and seventh in line for the throne.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle with Desmond Tutu
Meghan holds baby Archie in September 2019 as she and Harry (left) meet with Archbishop Desmond Tutu in Cape Town during their royal tour of South Africa. (Photo by Pool/Samir Hussein/WireImage)

The press turns against the couple

From the start of Meghan Markle’s relationship with Prince Harry, the British press took up an antagonistic relationship with her, especially in contrast to their treatment of Kate Middleton, who married Harry’s older brother, William. The treatment got so bad that the couple ended up filing suit against a tabloid producer. In court documents, the pair cited racist coverage of their relationship, marriage and children as a large part of the decision to leave the royal life.

In addition to hitting back against the press in their lawsuit, Harry and Meghan spoke out in a Netflix documentary about the abuse they endured. Harry described “exploitation and bribery” existing between the royal family and the media.

The car chase

In May 2023, Meghan and Harry announced that they’d had a harrowing experience: They said that they had been through a car chase after leaving a New York event. Considering the way Harry’s mother, Princess Diana, famously died, and considering the way he has been outspoken about blaming the press for that 1997 tragedy, the car chase was particularly upsetting.

Queen Elizabeth II Platinum Jubilee 2022 - National Service of Thanksgiving
Meghan and Harry, in London on June 3, 2022, leave St Paul’s Cathedral after a service of thanksgiving for the reign of Queen Elizabeth II. It was the second of four days of celebrations to mark the queen’s Platinum Jubilee, 70 years on the throne. (Photo by Matt Dunham/WPA Pool/Getty Images)

The ‘South Park’ episode

In speaking out and telling their story of what they endured from the royal family and the British press, Meghan and Harry have given interviews and had a documentary on Netflix. But in being so public about their privacy concerns, they drew new criticism.

In February 2023, “South Park” put out an episode with Meghan and Harry lookalikes who were supposedly royalty from Canada on a “Worldwide Privacy Tour,” which was the title of the episode.

A spokesperson for the couple shot down rumors that the couple had considered suing “South Park” creators over the episode and also lambasted the idea that celebrities asking for privacy could not still work in the public eye.

“They are choosing to share their story, on their terms, and yet the tabloid media has created an entirely untrue narrative that permeates press coverage and public opinion. The facts are right in front of them,” the statement read, in part.