Meghan, Duchess of Sussex (born Rachel Meghan Markle; August 4, 1981), is an American-born member of the British royal family. Prior to her marriage, she was a film and television actress.
Markle was born and raised in Los Angeles, California, attending private schools in the Hollywood area. During her studies at Northwestern University in Illinois, from which she graduated in 2003 with a degree in theatre and international studies, she began playing small roles in American television series and films. In 2011, she debuted in her best-known role, Rachel Zane, on the American legal drama series Suits.
In 2017, Markle announced her engagement to Prince Harry, grandson of Queen Elizabeth II, and retired from acting. She became the Duchess of Sussex on their marriage on May 19, 2018.
Rachel Meghan Markle was born on August 4, 1981, in Los Angeles, California, at West Park Hospital in Canoga Park. Her mother, Doria Ragland, a social worker and yoga instructor, as of 2017 lives in View Park–Windsor Hills, California. Markle has often described a very close friendship with her mother. Her father, Thomas Markle Sr., who lives in Rosarito, Mexico, is a retired television director of photography and lighting director, whose profession resulted in his young daughter often visiting the set of Married...with Children. Meghan's parents divorced when she was six years old. She has two older paternal half-siblings, Thomas Markle Jr. and Samantha Grant.
Describing her heritage in a 2015 essay for ELLE, she states that her "dad is Caucasian and my mom is African American. I'm half black and half white … 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. To say who I am, to share where I'm from, to voice my pride in being a strong, confident mixed-race woman."
Markle grew up in Hollywood. She was educated at private schools, beginning at age two at Hollywood Little Red Schoolhouse. At age 11, her successful campaign to get a company to change a national television commercial she viewed as sexist was profiled by Linda Ellerbee on Nick News. Markle attended Immaculate Heart High School, an all-girl Catholic private school in Los Angeles, but was raised as a Protestant. She then attended Northwestern University, where she joined Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority, and participated in community service and charity projects. She graduated from Northwestern's School of Communication in 2003 with a bachelor's degree and a double major in theater and international studies. She also served an internship at the American embassy in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and studied for a semester in Madrid, Spain.
Markle worked as a freelance calligrapher to support herself between early acting jobs. Her first appearance on screen was a small role as a nurse in an episode of the daytime soap opera General Hospital. Early in her career, Markle had small guest roles on the television shows Century City (2004), The War at Home (2006), and CSI: NY (2006). She also took on several contract acting and modeling jobs, including a stint as a "briefcase girl" on the US game show Deal or No Deal. She appeared in Fox's series Fringe as Junior Agent Amy Jessup in the first two episodes of its second season. Markle had some difficulty getting roles early in her career. In 2015, she wrote: "I wasn't black enough for the black roles and I wasn't white enough for the white ones, leaving me somewhere in the middle as the ethnic chameleon who couldn't book a job."
In July 2011, Markle joined the cast of the USA Network show Suits, playing Rachel Zane. The character began as a paralegal and eventually became an attorney. Markle completed work on that series' seventh season in late 2017. According to a critique in The Irish Times, Markle deftly and actively re-positioned her character from ingenue to moral conscience and gave viewers the unique portrayal of a daughter, whose African American father is in a position to help her career and advance her strong desire to break several racial and gender "glass ceilings". She appeared in two 2010 films, Get Him to the Greek and Remember Me, and one 2011 film, Horrible Bosses. She also appeared in episodes of Cuts; Love, Inc.; 90210; Knight Rider; Without a Trace; The League; and Castle.
From 2014 to 2017, Markle was founder and editor-in-chief of lifestyle website The Tig. She derived the name from Tignanello red wine. One of The Tig's features was Tig Talk, a column that profiled women including Jessica Alba, Gail Simmons, Ella Woodward, Daphne Oz, Elizabeth Hurley, Lauren Bush Lauren, Ivanka Trump, Dianna Agron and Jessica Stam. In April 2017, she closed The Tig. Markle developed an adept and polished social media presence − at the time of its closing, her Instagram account had 1.9 million followers. In January 2018, Markle deleted her social media accounts and, in a statement issued by Kensington Palace, thanked "everyone who has followed her social media accounts over the years".
In November 2016, Markle and Canadian clothing company Reitmans released lines of women's fashion workwear and casual-wear. The lines, based on her personal style, described as "aspirational girl next door", and that of her Suits character, quickly sold out. In 2010, Markle was paid $187,000 for her role in Remember Me and $171,429 for her role in the short film The Candidate. For her role on Suits, Fortune magazine estimated that Markle was paid $50,000 per episode, amounting to an annual income of about $450,000. In addition, it was estimated that, as a lifestyle blogger, she earned about $80,000 annually from endorsements and sponsorships. In 2017, her total net worth was estimated at $5 million. In 2018, she was among the nominees for the 2018 Teen Choice Awards in the category "Choice Style Icon".
Markle began a relationship with actor and producer Trevor Engelson in 2004. They married in Ocho Rios, Jamaica, on September 10, 2011, and divorced in August 2013.
In June 2016, Markle began a relationship with Prince Harry, who was then fifth in line to the British throne. Prince Harry and Markle met on a blind date that a mutual friend set up. The press began to report the relationship in October 2016. On November 8, 2016, the British royal family's communications secretary released an official statement that addressed a "wave of abuse and harassment" directed toward Markle. The statement described sexism, racism and defamatory stories directed at her. During a September 2017 interview with Vanity Fair, Markle spoke in public for the first time about her love for Prince Harry. Later that month, they made their first public appearances together at an official royal engagement at the Invictus Games in Toronto.
While working on Suits, Markle lived in a rented house in the Seaton Village neighborhood of Toronto, Canada, where the show is filmed. She lived in Canada for nine months each year, making a few close friends. She moved out in late November 2017 after work on the seventh season had been completed.
Markle's engagement to Prince Harry was announced on November 27, 2017. By then, she had met Queen Elizabeth II, Harry's paternal grandmother, several times. The engagement announcement prompted generally positive comment about the possible social significance of a mixed-race member of the royal family. The ring Harry gave Markle consists of a large central diamond from Botswana, with two smaller diamonds from the jewellery collection of his mother, Diana, Princess of Wales. Following the engagement, Markle announced she would retire from acting. After becoming engaged, Markle began the years-long process of becoming a British citizen.
In preparation for the wedding, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, baptised Markle and confirmed her into the Church of England on March 6, 2018. The private ceremony, performed with water from the River Jordan, took place in the Chapel Royal at St James's Palace. The marriage ceremony took place on May 19, 2018, at St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle. After the wedding, the couple live at Nottingham Cottage in London, in the grounds of Kensington Palace.
Markle's first official public appearance with Harry after their engagement was a walkabout in Nottingham on December 1, 2017, in connection with World AIDS Day. They were invited to celebrate Christmas 2017 with the royal family at the Queen's Sandringham estate. In early 2018, Markle accompanied Harry on his engagements in Brixton, Cardiff, Goldsmiths' Hall, and Edinburgh. On February 28, 2018, Markle made her first joint official engagement with Harry at the first annual forum of The Royal Foundation, "Making a Difference Together". Markle became the fourth patron, alongside Harry and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, after her marriage into the royal family. Markle and Harry marked International Women's Day by attending an event in Birmingham hosted by the Stemettes. Along with the Queen and other members of the royal family, Markle attended the Commonwealth Day service at Westminster Abbey on March 12, 2018. The couple made their first visit to Northern Ireland on March 23, 2018. Markle carried out a total number of 26 public engagements prior to the wedding.
The Duchess's first official engagement after the wedding came on 22 May, when she and her husband attended Prince Charles' 70th birthday garden party to celebrate his charity work. Her first trip abroad at the request of the British government is to Dublin, Ireland. In June 2018, Kensington Palace announced that the couple would tour Australia, Fiji, Tonga and New Zealand around the time of the Invictus Games which will be held in Sydney in October 2018.
Markle was a counselor for international charity One Young World. She attended its 2014 and 2016 summits. At the 2014 summit in Dublin, she spoke on the topics of gender equality and modern day slavery. Also in 2014, she traveled to Afghanistan and Spain as part of the United Service Organizations Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Holiday Tour.
In 2016, Markle became a global ambassador for World Vision Canada, traveling to Rwanda for the Clean Water Campaign, the agency's campaign to provide safe, clean drinking water, and she traveled to India to raise awareness of issues concerning women. Upon returning from India, she penned an op-ed for Time magazine concerning stigmatization of women in regard to menstrual health. She has also worked with the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women as an Advocate. She identifies as a feminist.
In 2018, she was included in Time magazine's "100 Most Influential People in the World". She was also chosen as one of the most influential women in Britain by Vogue magazine.
Since her marriage to Prince Harry, Meghan is a princess of the United Kingdom entitled to the style of Royal Highness, as well as the titles of Duchess of Sussex, Countess of Dumbarton and Baroness Kilkeel. She is styled as "Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Sussex", and she is the first person to hold that title.
Her mother is descended from African Americans enslaved in Georgia, and her father from German, English, and Irish settlers. One of her possible forefathers, Heinrich Martin Merckel, emigrated to the United States from Lampertsloch, an historically German-speaking town in Alsace, and later changed the spelling of his name to Markle, Meghan's family name. Among her father's distant ancestors are Captain Christopher Hussey, King Robert I of Scotland, Sir Philip Wentworth and the latter's wife, Mary Clifford, a descendant of King Edward III of England.