Meghan Markle has quickly become a household name both for her role in the celebrated television drama Suits and now as the Duchess of Sussex. If you look back on her life up until her marriage to Prince Harry of the British Royal family, it makes sense that she was destined for the public eye. It was almost as if it was fate that she would end up marrying a prince. Her parents, Doria Loyce Ragland and Thomas Markle could never have predicted that she would end up marrying the second son of the people’s princess, Lady Diana. Coincidentally Prince Harry’s parents married on July 29, 1981, just days before Meghan was born. It is amazing that within a few days of Meghan’s birth that over 750 million people were watching the marriage procession of Prince Charles of Wales and Lady Diana Spencer, and then 37 years later they would go on to watch Prince Harry and Meghan get married. But how exactly did Meghan’s Los Angeles life lead her to this royal conclusion?
One could say, like all beginnings, that Meghan was shaped by her family, specifically her parents. Doria and Thomas had something of a whirlwind Hollywood romance. They were both involved in the television industry, but unlike Meghan, they were behind the scenes rather than in front of the camera.
Thomas and Doria met on the set of General Hospital in the late 1970s. He was a lighting director and she was a temporary assistant makeup artist.
Tying the Knot
After a short courtship, the two decided to take the plunge and get married. The two enjoyed their Hollywood romance. They married on December 23, 1979, at the Self-Realization Fellowship Temple. There was a bit of an age gap between the two, 12 years to be exact, with Thomas aged 35 and a major height difference, a whopping 13 inches.
Doria being the shorter one! This was by no means a fancy affair, and both the bride and groom opted for laid back attire. But the most exciting part was to come in roughly two years: the birth of Rachel Meghan Markle on August 4, 1981.
The Childhood Years
Meghan had the kind of childhood most hope for. Her mother adored her, nicknaming her Flower and a father who was actively involved with her parenting. This was something that had apparently been missing from his first marriage, as one of his two children from his previous marriage described him as a “workaholic.”
In fact, Thomas junior actually lived with them until he was around 14. However, allegedly not everything was as idyllic as it may have seemed from the outside and the neighborhood which Meghan grew up in had its troubles.
Not Built to Last
Unfortunately, Meghan’s so-called blissful childhood was not meant to last and like Thomas’ previous marriage, his one with Doria began to fall apart. Within 4 years the two were already separated, with Meghan just two years old. Just because the marriage did not last does not mean that Meghan was present for the divorce.
Instead, her parents did everything in their power to provide a stable home life for her. In fact, the three would even vacation together. They quickly established a routine for joint parenting that allowed each parent to spend time with her while providing all the support that a young child needs.
Thomas would pick Meghan up for the weekend and return her to her mother’s house on Sunday evenings. Meghan then had a set schedule with both her mother and father as soon as she returned home. The three would park themselves in front of the television and tune in for the popular game show Jeopardy!
The arguments usually associated with divorces were not had around Meghan, instead, she was surrounded by love and support from all sides.
When her parents’ divorce was finally concluded in 1987 Meghan got her first taste of the limelight. Thomas had continued his work as a lighting director and was then working on the sitcom Married with Children. He then began to work as the director of photography on the show until 1996.
During this time Meghan was often found wandering around the set and interacting with the stars. It was this experience during her formative years that led her to pursue acting.
Not only did Meghan decide she wanted to be an actress, but she was also acutely aware of how fortunate she was and that not all were as lucky as she. The famous poster of Rosie the Riveter was hung up on her wall, imploring her with the motto “We Can Do It!”
This poster exposed her to feminism and equality. Women are just as capable as men. This knowledge would shape her personal roles within the activist world.
Meghan’s parents themselves were instrumental in her ingrained need to give back to society and become involved with causes she deemed worthwhile. The example of giving back to society was always modeled for her. If her father or mother had something they could give such as clothing or extra change to someone, then they would give it to someone in need.
These small acts of kindness taught her the importance of humanity and being grateful for all that you have.
First Foray in to Activism
Meghan’s first foray into activism was when she was around 7 years old. She was watching a commercial for a school project about how their messages influence consumers. A commercial for Robitussin cough syrup came up and said “Dr. Mom.” This struck Meghan as odd, what about “Dr. Dad?”
Another commercial for Ivory dishwashing liquid discussed women as the ones who need to clean pots and pans. It bothered Meghan that these ads were blatantly sexist.
Meghan decided to tackle these sexist commercials head-on. She wrote to Proctor & Gamble and outlined the issues with their advertising campaigns and the fact that they target women as being only capable of cleaning or tending to children. She asked that the commercial for soap refer to ‘people’ instead of ‘women.’
Not only did they change the commercial to say people, but the letter Meghan sent to them and other prominent feminist figures went viral at the time.
First TV Segment
One of the people to receive a letter from Meghan was Linda Ellerbee, who was a news anchor for Nickelodeon at the time. She decided to feature Meghan on her show in a segment detailing her activism and how she had worked to effectively create change within an advertising campaign.
This is no small feat to achieve at such a young age, and it was just the beginning. This small act led to Meghan’s continued activism in adulthood.
As a public figure for her work as an actress, she became involved with many high-profile women’s issues. She raised awareness for adolescent girls in India who were in dire need of feminine hygiene products in order to continue their schooling.
She also became an ambassador for World Vision, with a primary focus on the Clean Water project which involved travel to Rwanda. She became extremely hands-on with her activism prior to her royal marriage.
Meghan and Harry’s union was unlike any other marriage within the British royal family. As with any royal marriage, genealogists were all over Meghan’s roots and whether or not there was a prior familial connection to the royal family.
They were not disappointed. As Kate and Will are 14th cousins, Meghan and Harry are 17th cousins.
Meghan and Harry share a common ancestor: Edward III. Apparently, Meghan’s father, Thomas, is related to him through the Reverend William Skipper who landed in America in 1639. There are supposedly some other much more removed ancestors that tie her via her father to the royal family from the 1400s.
It is thought that the great-grandfather of Jane Seymour, Sir Philip Wentworth is also a relation. They are extremely distant cousins, but it must be interesting to know that they have family ties stretching that far back.
As denoted by Meghan’s mother’s maiden name, Ragland, she does, in fact, have ancestors who came to Jonesboro sometime around 1830. Her ancestor Richard, was given his employer’s last name, which was Ragland. William Ragland was a Methodist who came from England.
When Richard was liberated he continued with the Ragland name. Genealogists took great delight in imparting this piece of knowledge regarding Meghan’s historical background.
Happily Ever After
All of these experiences, family history, childhood, acting, and activism led Meghan to go on a fateful blind date with Prince Harry. Her parents have shaped her, and her activism has given her a voice that demands to be heard. Now, she is center stage as the newest member of the royal family.
It will be interesting to see what roles she embarks on in her role as Duchess of Sussex, and how her history will shape the future of the royal family.