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Before she was a royal, The Duchess of Sussex led a relatively normal life. We delve into her childhood and uncover all the need-to-know details about Meghan Markle’s parents.
She’s one of the most photographed and talked about public figures in the world. With her life catapulted into the spotlight shortly after she met Prince Harry and married the Duke of Sussex in a fairytale Windsor wedding.
Decades before her royal romance though, Meghan Markle was just a regular California girl – growing up from humble beginnings in a life worlds away from Buckingham Palace. We take a look back at her childhood and life with Meghan Markle’s parents in downtown LA.
Who are Meghan Markle’s parents?
Meghan Markle was born on 4 August 1981 to proud parents Doria Ragland and Thomas Markle Snr.
Mum Doria is a trained yoga teacher and social worker who lives in View Park-Windsor Hills in Los Angeles.
Whilst dad Thomas Markle Senior is a retired Daytime Emmy-award winning lighting director who resides in Rosarito, Mexico.
Meghan maintains a close relationship with her mother, who calls Meghan her ‘bud’ or ‘flower’. And Doria even has her own guesthouse to stay in when visiting Prince Harry and Meghan’s LA home.
The 64-year-old was one of the first people to be introduced to Harry when they began privately dating in 2016. She even accompanied her daughter to the Invictus Games in Toronto 2017 when Harry and Meghan made their public debut as a couple.
Fast forward a year and Doria was thrust further into the spotlight during Prince Harry and Meghan’s wedding in May 2018. She spent the night before the big day with Meghan at Clivedon House. And escorted her daughter to St George’s Chapel in Windsor on the morning of her nuptials. In addition to her daughter tying the knot, Doria’s royal wedding highlight was revealed as her meeting with the Queen.
Always on hand, Harry and Meghan even spent their first wedding anniversary with Doria a year later. And Doria moved in to the couple’s former home – Frogmore Cottage – to help out when Archie Harrison was born.
Meghan previously opened up on her pride and closeness with her mother: “My mum’s a yoga instructor, but she does social work, as well, and she works specifically with the geriatric community. For me to watch this level of life-long sensitivity to nurturing and caregiving, but at the same time my mum has always been a free spirit. She’s got dreadlocks and a nose ring. She just ran the LA Marathon. We can just have so much fun together, and yet, I’ll still find so much solace in her support. That duality coexists the same way it would in a best friend.”
According to biography Finding Freedom, Doria also counts Oprah Winfrey as a good friend:
“The former talk show host, who had been introduced to Meghan by a friend, reached out to Doria to offer her support when she was first swept up in the media storm,” writes authors Omid Scobie and Carolyn Durand. “It turned out that on occasion they went to the same church, the Agape International Spiritual Centre in Los Angeles.”
Thomas Markle Senior
Meghan and her father were close during her childhood, yet the relationship between the Duchess of Sussex and Thomas Markle is now estranged.
Thomas was involved in a staged paparazzi shoot months before his daughter’s wedding. With the Daily Mail uncovering CCTV footage of the 77-year-old posing for set-up photos of him undergoing a wedding suit fitting and researching the royal family.
Thomas claims that he agreed to take part in order to “change my image”, highlighting how the press had previously printed “derogatory” photos of him “taking the garbage out.”
“So I thought this would be a nice way of improving my look. But obviously that all went to hell,” he told Good Morning Britain in an interview.
Shortly after the incident was brought to life in the British press, Thomas shared a statement with TMZ stating that he would not be going to Meghan’s wedding because of the photos.
Meghan confirmed his non-appearance in a palace statement, two days before her nuptials:
“Sadly, my father will not be attending our wedding. I have always cared for my father and hope he can be given the space he needs to focus on his health,” she shared.
It appears that the relationship never fully repaired following Thomas’ paparazzi deal with the press. He has since done further interviews claiming that the two haven’t spoken since before the wedding. And has stressed that he would like to reconnect.
“I’d like to say again. I’m sorry for what I’ve done. This was two years ago. But I’ve tried to make it up to her,” he told Australia’s Channel 9.
Meanwhile, Meghan touched on her relationship with her father in Harry and Meghan’s Oprah interview.
“I mean, I look at Archie,” she says. “I think about this child and I go I can’t, I genuinely can’t imagine doing anything to intentionally cause pain to my child.”
She goes on to to compare him to her mother Doria: “She’s remained in silent dignity for four years watching me go through this.”
How did Meghan Markle’s parents meet?
According to Andrew Morton in his biography, Meghan: Hollywood Princess, Doria and Thomas initially met through work.
“The couple had met on the set of ABC’s drama General Hospital where she was training as a make-up artist and he was well established as the show’s lighting director,” Morton writes. “In spite of the twelve-year age difference – the couple very quickly fell for one another.
After a brief courtship, the two were married on 23 December 1979 at the Self-Realization Fellowship temple on Sunset Boulevard, just east of Hollywood. The wedding venue, based on the teachings of Yogananda, was Doria’s choice, who had recently retrained as a yoga instructor.
Almost a year on from their nuptials, Doria feel pregnant with her first child and the couple’s first child together.
Meghan was the third child for Thomas Senior, who shared two children – son Thomas Jr and daughter Samantha (previously Yvonne) from his first marriage to Roslyn Loveless.
Are Meghan Markle’s parents still together?
No, Meghan Markle’s parents separated when Meghan was two-years-old, going onto divorce five years later in 1988.
After her parents divorce, aged six, Meghan lived mostly with her mother, but spent lots of time with her father at weekends.
Meghan herself recalls that despite the separation, relations between Doria and Thomas stayed amicable.
“What’s so incredible, you know, is that my parents split up when I was two, [but] I never saw them fight,” she told Vanity Fair in 2017. “We would still take vacations together. My dad would come on Sundays to drop me off, and we’d watch Jeopardy! eating dinner on TV trays, the three of us. . . . We were still so close-knit.”
Meghan Markle upbringing: what was her childhood like?
She’s proud of her West Coast heritage, opening up about her upbringing on her now-defunct lifestyle website, The Tig.
“I was born and raised in Los Angeles, a California girl who lives by the ethos that most things can be cured with either yoga, the beach or a few avocados.”
She’s also proud of her mixed race heritage and recalls one sweet memory from her childhood that celebrates this.
In another blog post for The Tig, Meghan shared that one christmas she “had been fawning over a boxed set of Barbie dolls.”
“It was called The Heart Family and included a mum doll, a dad doll, and two children,” she wrote. “This perfect nuclear family was only sold in sets of white dolls or black dolls. On Christmas morning, swathed in glitter-flecked wrapping paper, there I found my Heart Family: a black mum doll, a white dad doll, and a child of each colour.”
Turns out dad Thomas had bought two sets and created a barbie family representative of their own. And this is something she continue to champion.
In an essay for Elle in 2015, Meghan wrote about her dual heritage:
“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.”
Now, she works full time to raise awareness of important charitable causes, and Meghan has always been an activist – even at the young age of 11. Whilst at home, she saw a Proctor and Gamble advert, with words that suggested ‘doing the dishes’, is just for ‘mum’, or women in general. Meghan disliked the messaging, deeming it sexist, and wrote a powerful letter of indignation to influential women such as Hillary Clinton to try to get it changed. It worked, and the wording was changed to ‘people’ instead, to include everyone, of all genders.
Meghan Markle’s school years
Meghan was educated at private schools her whole life. She first attended Hollywood Little Red Schoolhouse nursery when she was just two years old.
The Duchess of Sussex was later a student at the Immaculate Heart High School in LA – a private girls school.
Meghan has revealed in the past that she’d often spend her afternoons after the school day with her dad, on set of Married…with Children. Speaking to Esquire magazine back in 2013, she said, “Every day after school for 10 years, I was on the set of Married … with Children, which is a really funny and perverse place for a little girl in a Catholic school uniform to grow up.
“There were a lot of times my dad would say, ‘Meg, why don’t you go and help with the craft services room over there? This is just a little off-color for your 11-year-old eyes.’”
Whilst there, the Duchess’s passion for acting was clear. As she reportedly performed in many theatrical productions over the years, before graduating in 1999 at the age of 18.
After her school years, Meghan scored a place at the prestigious Northwestern University. Based in Illinois, it is widely regarded as one of the best schools in the US.
She chose to double major in two subjects, Theatre and International Relations. Both arguably, a brilliant indicator of her future careers as an actress and a British royal family member.
In an interview with Marie Claire, Meghan revealed that she almost swapped acting for politics. “I had always been the theater nerd at Northwestern University,” she confessed. “And I knew I wanted to do acting, but I hated the idea of being this cliché—a girl from L.A. who decides to be an actress.
“I wanted more than that, and I had always loved politics, so I ended up changing my major completely, and double-majoring in theater and international relations. By my junior year I had finished most of my credits, and I applied for an internship at the U.S. Embassy, so I ended up working in the embassy in Buenos Aires for a few months.”