Meghan (HRH The Duchess of Sussex)

Her Royal Highness (HRH) The Duchess of Sussex, née Rachel Meghan Markle (born 4 August 1981 in Los Angeles, California), is a philanthropist, a former actress and the wife of HRH The Duke of Sussex (Prince Harry). Meghan has a strong connection with Canada and has described herself as an “honorary Canadian.” She lived in Toronto, Ontario, while filming the television legal drama Suits and, in 2016, she became a Global Ambassador for World Vision.

Meghan Markle
During their first visit to Northern Ireland on 23 March 2018, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle visited Catalyst Inc., an independent, non-profit organisation which works to build a community of innovators in Northern Ireland.

Early Life and Family

Meghan was born in 1981, the daughter of Thomas Markle Sr. (born 1945), a television lighting director who was the co-recipient of two daytime Emmy Awards, and Doria Ragland (born 1956), a social worker and yoga instructor. Her father has German, Dutch, Irish and English ancestry, and her mother is African-American. Meghan’s parents divorced when she was six years old.

In 2015, Meghan wrote about her experiences growing up biracial in ELLE Magazine. “While my mixed heritage may have created a grey area surrounding my self-identification, keeping me with a foot on both sides of the fence, I have come to embrace that,” she stated. “To say who I am, to share where I'm from, to voice my pride in being a strong, confident mixed-race woman.”

In 2011, Meghan married film producer Trevor Engelson, following a seven-year relationship. They divorced in 2013.

Education

Meghan attended the Immaculate Heart High School, a private Roman Catholic school (though she was not raised as a Roman Catholic). In 2003, Meghan graduated from Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, with a dual degree in theatre and international relations. She speaks French and Spanish.

Acting Career

Meghan was familiar with the television industry from a young age, spending time on the set of the series Married with Children, where her father was the lighting director. She pursued a career as an actress, initially receiving small roles in films and television series, as well as on the game show Deal or No Deal.

In 2011, Meghan earned the role of Rachel Zane on the television legal drama Suits and lived in Toronto during the filming of the series. Meghan described herself as an “honorary Canuck” and celebrated Canada Day with the rest of the Suits cast. According to Meghan’s official biography on the royal family’s website, “She feels very connected to Canada, as it became a second home to her.”

From 2014 to 2017, Meghan wrote and maintained a blog, The Tig, which focused on food, fashion and lifestyle, as well as feminism and social issues. She was also a brand ambassador for Reitmans.

Philanthropy

Meghan displayed a strong interest in philanthropy from an early age and volunteered in a soup kitchen in Los Angeles as a teenager. Her philanthropic work focuses on social justice and women’s empowerment. At the 2015 UN Women’s conference, Megan stated, “I am proud to be a woman and a feminist…. We need a global understanding that we cannot implement change effectively without women's political participation."

In 2014, Meghan became a counsellor with One Young World, a global forum for youth leaders. In 2015, she became the UN Women’s Advocate for Women’s Political Participation and Leadership, and in 2016, she became a Global Ambassador for World Vision. Meghan has travelled to Rwanda and India in support of her philanthropic work. In lieu of wedding gifts, Harry and Meghan requested donations to selected charities.

Relationship with Prince Harry

Meghan and Harry were introduced by a mutual friend in June 2016 and began a relationship away from the public eye, vacationing in Botswana together that summer. In the autumn of 2016, the press learned of the relationship. Harry issued an unprecedented statement confirming their relationship and criticizing “the attempts of reporters and photographers to gain illegal entry to her home” in Toronto.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle going to church at Sandringham on Christmas Day 2017.

Meghan and Harry made their first public appearance as a couple in 2017 at the Invictus Games in Toronto, where Meghan and her mother attended the closing ceremonies. After Harry and Meghan’s engagement was announced on 27 November 2017, Meghan moved to the United Kingdom and began to undertake royal duties with Harry.

Wedding

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry were married at St. George’s Chapel, Windsor, on 19 May 2018. The Queen bestowed the titles of Duke of Sussex, Earl of Dumbarton and Baron Kilkeel on Prince Harry on his wedding day. Meghan is therefore styled the Duchess of Sussex.

Meghan wore a white silk wedding dress without embellishment, designed by Clare Waight Keller of the House of Givenchy. The five-metre veil was embroidered with floral emblems from each of the 53 nations in the Commonwealth. The bunchberry (Cornus canadensis) represented Canada.

Meghan travelled to the chapel by carriage with her mother. Meghan’s father did not attend the ceremony, reportedly on the grounds of ill health. She was escorted down the aisle by her future father-in-law, Prince Charles. Meghan was attended by six child bridesmaids and four page boys, including Ivy, John and Brian Mulroney, three of the grandchildren of former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney.

The Queen hosted a wedding breakfast for all the guests, and Charles hosted an evening reception for the couple and 200 guests. In contrast to previous royal brides, Meghan gave a speech at the reception, thanking the guests and paying tribute to Harry and her mother.

Meghan received a new coat of arms after her marriage, depicting the state flower of California and three quills to represent “communication and the power of words,” as well as a songbird to represent Meghan.


Further Reading

  • Leslie Carroll, American Princess: The Love Story of Meghan Markle and Prince Harry (2018)

  • Andrew Morton, Meghan: A Hollywood Princess (2018)

  • Katie Nicholl, Harry: Life, Loss and Love (2018)