Meghan, 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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Birth of First Child
On 15 October 2018, Kensington Palace announced that the couple was expecting the birth of their first child in spring 2019. On 6 May 2019, Meghan gave birth to a boy, whom the couple named Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor. They chose not to use a title for their son, who will simply be known as Master Archie Mountbatten-Windsor.
Stepping Back from Royal Duties
Meghan and Harry celebrated Christmas in Canada in 2019. In a statement released on 20 December 2019, the couple announced, “They are enjoying sharing the warmth of the Canadian people and the beauty of the landscape with their young son.” They returned to the United Kingdom in January 2020 and visited Canada House in London to thank Canadians for their hospitality over the holidays.
On 8 January 2020, Meghan and Harry issued a statement on their Instagram page, in which they announced “We intend to step back as ‘senior’ members of the Royal Family and work to become financially independent while continuing to fully support Her Majesty The Queen,” along with their plans to divide their time between the United Kingdom and North America. The announcement attracted widespread media coverage concerning their security arrangements, future plans and Meghan’s scrutiny by the British press.
Meghan and Harry returned to Canada on 9 January and lived in a secluded mansion on Vancouver Island. While in British Columbia, Meghan continued her philanthropic efforts by visiting local organizations, including the Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre in Vancouver.
On 18 January, the Queen issued a statement that included how she was “particularly proud of how Meghan has so quickly become one of the family” and an official statement explaining that Harry and Meghan would no longer use their HRH titles and are required to step back from royal duties. The couple kept their personal charitable patronages, including Meghan’s role as Patron of the Association of Commonwealth Universities. Harry and Meghan attended the 2020 Commonwealth Day service with the royal family at Westminster Abbey in London on 9 March. Later that month, Harry, Meghan and Archie moved to Los Angeles, California.
Less than a year later, the situation had changed. In mid-February 2021, Harry and Meghan announced that they were expecting their second child. Shortly after, American broadcaster CBS announced that the couple had been interviewed by Oprah Winfrey. On 19 February, Buckingham Palace confirmed that Meghan and Harry would not return as working members of the royal family and would surrender their royal patronages. These positions included Meghan’s role as patron of the Royal National Theatre and the Association of Commonwealth Universities.
Interview with Oprah Winfrey
On 7 March 2021, the couple’s interview with Oprah Winfrey aired on CBS. In the wide-ranging conversation, Meghan revealed her struggles with mental health, including thoughts of suicide while pregnant with her first child. Much of this, she said, stemmed from the isolation she felt within the royal family. Meghan also told Winfrey that before Archie was born, a member of the royal family expressed concern about the colour of the baby’s skin. Prince Harry clarified that neither the Queen nor Prince Philip made this remark. In another part of the interview, he criticized the royal family for not doing more to support them against racist coverage of Meghan in the British media. The behaviour of the British press and the perceived absence of support from the royal family played an important role, the couple said, in their decision to step back from royal duties. Both Meghan and Harry said they had a strong personal relationship with the Queen, but their relationships with other members of the royal family such as Charles and William had become strained.
Birth of Second Child
In June 2021, Meghan and Harry announced the birth of their second child. Lilibet "Lili" Diana Mountbatten-Windsor was born in California on 4 June 2021. According to the couple, they named their daughter after the Queen, whose nickname in the royal family is “Lilibet.” She is also named after Prince Harry’s late mother, Diana.