Markle was born and raised in Los Angeles, California, and has a mixed ethnic heritage. During her studies at Northwestern University, she began playing small roles in American television series and films. From 2011 to 2017, she played Rachel Zane on the American legal drama series Suits. An outspoken feminist, Markle has addressed issues of gender inequality, and her lifestyle website The Tig featured a column profiling influential women. She represented international charity organizations and received recognition for her fashion and style, releasing a line of clothing in 2016.
From 2011 until their divorce in 2013, Markle was married to actor and producer Trevor Engelson. In 2017, she announced her engagement to Prince Harry, grandson of Queen Elizabeth II, and moved to London. She retired from acting, closed her related social media accounts, and started undertaking public engagements as part of the British royal family. Markle became Duchess of Sussex upon her marriage to Prince Harry in 2018. They have a son, Archie Mountbatten-Windsor.
Family and education
See also: Family of the Duchess of Sussex
Rachel Meghan Markle was born on August 4, 1981, in Los Angeles, California. Her mother, Doria Ragland, is a former social worker and yoga instructor living in View Park–Windsor Hills, California. Markle has often described having 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. Markle’s parents divorced when she was six years old. She has two older paternal half-siblings, Samantha Markle and Thomas Markle Jr., from whom she is reportedly estranged.
Describing her heritage in a 2015 essay for Elle, Markle stated: “My 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.” On her mother’s side, she is descended from African Americans enslaved in Georgia, and on her father’s side from European settlers.
Markle grew up in Hollywood. She was educated at private schools, beginning at age two at the Hollywood Little Red Schoolhouse. At age 11, her successful campaign to get Procter & Gamble to change a national television commercial she viewed as sexist was profiled by Linda Ellerbee on Nick News. Though she was raised as a Protestant, Markle attended Immaculate Heart High School, an all-girl Catholic private school in Los Angeles. She then attended Northwestern University, where she joined Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority and participated in community service and charity projects. She also served an internship at the American embassy in Buenos Aires, and studied for a semester in Madrid. Markle received a bachelor’s degree from Northwestern’s School of Communication in 2003, with a double major in theater and international studies.
Acting and blogging
Early in her career, Markle worked as a freelance calligrapher to support herself between acting jobs. Her first on-screen appearance was a small role as a nurse in an episode of the daytime soap opera General Hospital. 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: “Being ‘ethnically ambiguous’, as I was pegged in the industry, meant I could audition for virtually any role … Sadly, it didn’t matter: 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.”
Markle appeared in two 2010 films, Get Him to the Greek and Remember Me, and one 2011 film, Horrible Bosses. She was paid $187,000 for her role in Remember Me and $171,429 for her role in the short film The Candidate. She also appeared in episodes of Cuts; Love, Inc.; 90210; Knight Rider; Without a Trace; The League; and Castle.
Markle with co-star Patrick J. Adams at a panel discussion of Suits, Paley Center for Media, 2013
In July 2011, Markle joined the cast of the USA Network show Suits. Her character, Rachel Zane, began as a paralegal and eventually became an attorney. She completed work on the seventh season in late 2017. According to a critique in The Irish Times, Markle “actively re-positioned” her character from ingénue to “the show’s 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 “desire to crack both racial and gender glass ceilings”. While working on Suits, Markle lived for nine months each year in a rented house in the Seaton Village neighborhood of Toronto. Fortune magazine estimated that Markle was paid $50,000 per episode, amounting to an annual salary of about $450,000.
In 2014, Markle founded the lifestyle website The Tig, where she wrote about food, fashion, beauty, and travel, and profiled inspirational women. As the website grew, Markle brought in experts such as dieticians, make-up artists, and fitness and yoga instructors. The website’s audience consisted primarily of the fans of Markle and Suits. Markle reinforced The Tig’s messages of self-love, positivity, and spirituality on social media, reaching 3 million followers on Instagram, 800,000 on Facebook, and 350,000 on Twitter. She closed The Tig in April 2017, taking all of its articles offline, and deleted her social media accounts in January 2018. It was estimated that, as a lifestyle blogger, Markle earned about $80,000 annually from endorsements and sponsorships.
Markle began a relationship with actor and producer Trevor Engelson in 2004. They were married in Ocho Rios, Jamaica, on September 10, 2011, and concluded a no-fault divorce in August 2013, citing irreconcilable differences. Markle’s subsequent relationship with celebrity chef and restaurateur Cory Vitiello lasted almost two years, ending in May 2016.
Markle and Prince Harry attending church on Christmas Day, 2017
In June 2016, Markle began a relationship with Prince Harry, whom she had met on a blind date set up by a mutual friend. At the time, he was fifth in line to the British throne; his grandmother is Elizabeth II, Queen of the United Kingdom and 15 other Commonwealth realms, as well as Head of the Commonwealth. In November, the British royal family’s communications secretary released an official statement that addressed sexism, racism, and defamatory stories directed toward Markle. In September 2017, Markle and Prince Harry appeared together in public for the first time at an official royal engagement at the Invictus Games in Toronto.
Markle’s engagement to Prince Harry was announced on November 27, 2017, by Clarence House and Kensington Palace. The announcement prompted generally positive comments about the possible social significance of a mixed-race member of the royal family. Markle announced that she would retire from acting, and began the process of becoming a British citizen. In preparation for the wedding, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, baptized 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 was held on May 19 at St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle.
After the wedding, the Duke and Duchess originally lived at Nottingham Cottage in London, on the grounds of Kensington Palace. The couple later moved to Frogmore Cottage in the Home Park of Windsor Castle. The Crown Estate refurbished the cottage for a cost of £2.4 million to the taxpayer, with the couple picking up expenses beyond restoration and ordinary maintenance. Their office was moved to Buckingham Palace. On May 6, 2019, the Duchess gave birth to Archie Mountbatten-Windsor, who is seventh in line to the throne.
Markle greeting the public in Belfast, March 2018
Markle was politically vocal before joining the British royal family. She backed Hillary Clinton during the 2016 United States presidential election and described Clinton’s opponent, Donald Trump, as “misogynistic” and “divisive”. The same year, when the referendum on the United Kingdom’s membership of the European Union resulted in 51.9% of voters being in favor of Brexit, Markle expressed her disappointment on Instagram and posted a placard saying: “If EU leave me now, you take away the biggest part of me.” This, as well as her recommendation of Noam Chomsky’s book Who Rules the World?, led Emine Sar of The Guardian to conclude that Markle would become “the most leftwing member of the royal family”. Members of the royal family are politically neutral by convention, and Dickie Arbiter, former press secretary to Prince Charles, expects the Duchess to follow suit. Historian Robert Lacey said she was the most “feisty and spiky” person to marry into the royal family since her grandfather-in-law Prince Philip.
After the engagement, Markle’s first official public appearance with Prince Harry was at a World AIDS Day walkabout in Nottingham on December 1, 2017. 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, she attended the Commonwealth Day service at Westminster Abbey on March 12. The couple made their first visit to Northern Ireland on March 23. Markle carried out a total of 26 public engagements prior to the wedding.
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex welcomed to New Zealand, October 2018
The Duchess’s first official engagement after the wedding came on May 22 when she and her husband celebrated the charity work of his father, Prince Charles. Her first trip abroad at the request of the British government was to Dublin, Ireland, in July 2018. The Duchess takes part in her husband’s work as youth ambassador to the Commonwealth, which includes overseas tours. The first such trip was to Australia, Fiji, Tonga and New Zealand in October 2018. Despite the dwindling support for the monarchy in Australia, the couple were greeted by crowds in Sydney, and the announcement of the Duchess’s pregnancy hours after their arrival was received enthusiastically by the public and media. During their visit to Morocco in February 2019, the Duke and Duchess focused on projects centered on “women’s empowerment, girls’ education, inclusivity and encouragement of social entrepreneurship”.
In 2018, Time magazine included Markle on its list of the 100 Most Influential People in the World, and placed her on its shortlist for Person of the Year. She was also chosen as one of the most influential women in the United Kingdom by Vogue magazine. As part of setting up their separate office or ‘court’ in 2019, the Duke and Duchess created an Instagram social media account, which broke the record for fastest account to reach 1 million followers. The Duchess is expected to accompany her husband to South Africa together with their son on the Duke’s tour of Southern African countries in fall 2019.
Fashion and style
As editor-in-chief of The Tig, Markle became known for her fashion sense. She released two fashion collections with Canadian clothing company Reitmans in 2015 and 2016. The lines were based on her personal style and that of her Suits character, described as “aspirational girl next door”, and quickly sold out.
Markle at the New York Fashion Week in 2013
Markle has cited Emmanuelle Alt as her style inspiration. In an interview with Glamour, the Duchess said that she favored “that French way of styling, where if your outfit is pulled together, then something’s got to be dishevelled—your hair, your make-up”. In her youth, Markle’s “sensibility had always been relaxed California girl style” consisting of jeans, cut-offs and flip-flops. She usually prefers “streamlined dresses” with “neutral colors” and bateau necklines, and likes “monochromatic and tonal dressing”. She has worn outfits and ensembles by a wide variety of fashion designers.
In December 2017, Markle caused a surge in interest in Scottish retailer Strathberry after carrying one of their handbags to a public event shortly after her engagement. This was reported as an indication that her fashion choices would produce her own version of the Kate effect. It has been speculated that Markle’s effect would be greater, as she has a strong appeal in America. After Markle and Prince Harry’s first appearance as a couple, brands Mackage, Birks, R&R Jewelers, Crown Jewelers and Everlane noted an upswing in their website hits and sales.
In 2018, Tatler named the Duchess on its list of Britain’s best dressed people, praising her for redefining “modern royal style with every subsequent appearance”. Following the announcement of her pregnancy, the Duchess appeared in a Karen Gee dress which resulted in the breakdown of the designer’s website. She was ranked one of the best dressed women in 2018 by fashion website Net-a-Porter, and was nominated for the 2018 Teen Choice Awards in the category Choice Style Icon.
Markle and sportsmen Brian Urlacher and Doug Fister address the audience during a USO show at Naval Station Rota, Spain, December 6, 2014.
Markle was a counselor for international charity One Young World. At the 2014 summit in Dublin, she spoke on the topics of gender equality and modern-day slavery. Also in 2014, she toured Afghanistan and Spain with the United Service Organizations.
In 2016, Markle became a global ambassador for World Vision Canada, traveling to Rwanda for the Clean Water Campaign. In 2016, after a trip to India focused on raising awareness for women’s issues, 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. The Duchess is a vocal feminist and intends to use her role as a member of the royal family to continue supporting women’s rights and social justice.
Markle became interested in the Hubb Community Kitchen, run by the survivors of Grenfell Tower fire, in January 2018. She visited the kitchen regularly throughout 2018, and suggested that the displaced women publish a cookbook to obtain funding for it. Together: Our Community Cookbook, her first charity project as Duchess of Sussex, was announced in September.
In February 2018, she attended the first annual forum of The Royal Foundation; she became the foundation’s fourth patron, alongside Prince Harry, his brother Prince William, and sister-in-law Catherine, after her marriage into the royal family. In June 2019, it was announced that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex would split from the charity and establish their own charity foundation by the end of 2019. However, the couples will reportedly collaborate on mutual projects, such as the mental health initiative Heads Together.
Her patronage of the Royal National Theatre, the Association of Commonwealth Universities, Smart Works, and Mayhew reflects her earlier interests in the arts, access to education, women’s empowerment, and animal well-being, respectively. The Duchess was appointed the vice president of the Queen’s Commonwealth Trust, which focuses on projects involving children and welfare of prisoners, in March 2019.
Titles, styles, and arms
Upon her marriage to Prince Harry, Meghan became a princess of the United Kingdom entitled to the style of Royal Highness, as well as 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.
Coat of arms of the Duchess of
|2002||General Hospital||Jill||1 episode (aired November 14, 2002)|
|2004||Century City||Natasha||“A Mind is a Terrible Thing to Lose” (season 1: episode 4)|
|2005||Cuts||Cori||“My Boyfriend’s Back” (season 1: episode 5)|
|2005||Love, Inc.||Teresa Santos||“One on One” (season 1: episode 9)|
|2006||1 vs. 100||Herself||Mob member number 7|
|2006||The War at Home||Susan||“The Seventeen-Year Itch” (season 1: episode 17)|
|2006||CSI: NY||Veronica Perez||“Murder Sings the Blues” (season 3: episode 7)|
|Deal or No Deal||Herself||Holder of Case #24; 34 episodes|
|2008||Good Behavior||Sadie Valencia||Television movie|
|2008||90210||Wendy||“We’re Not in Kansas Anymore” (season 1: episode 1)|
“The Jet Set” (season 1: episode 2)
|2008||‘Til Death||Tara||“Joy Ride” (season 3: episode 2)|
|2008||The Apostles||Kelly Calhoun||Television movie|
|2009||Knight Rider||Annie Ortiz||“Fight Knight” (season 1: episode 14)|
|2009||Without a Trace||Holly Shepard||“Chameleon” (season 7: episode 15)|
|2009||Fringe||Junior FBI Agent Amy Jessup||“A New Day in the Old Town” (season 2: episode 1)|
“Night of Desirable Objects” (season 2: episode 2)
|2009||The League||Random Girl||“The Bounce Test” (season 1: episode 2)|
|2010||CSI: Miami||Officer Leah Montoya||“Backfire” (season 8: episode 20)|
|2010||The Boys & Girls Guide to Getting Down||Dana||Television movie|
|2011–2018||Suits||Rachel Zane||Series regular (seasons 1–7)|
|2012||Castle||Charlotte Boyd/Sleeping Beauty||“Once Upon a Crime” (season 4: episode 17)|
|2014||When Sparks Fly||Amy Peterson||Hallmark Channel television movies|
|2016||Dater’s Handbook||Cassandra Brand|
|2005||A Lot like Love||Passenger on plane|
|2010||Get Him to the Greek||Tatiana||Uncredited|
|2010||The Candidate||Kat||Short film|
|2013||Random Encounters||Mindy||UK Title: A Random Encounter|