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  • Rachel Burchfield

Duchess Deep Dive: Meghan

You know the Duchesses now, but do you know their origin stories? For the past two days we’ve done a “Duchess Deep Dive” into the lives of the Duchesses of Cambridge and Sussex back when they were just Kate and Meghan. Next up: Meghan.

Meghan Markle arrived at the members-only club Soho House in London for her first date with Prince Harry a fully self-actualized woman. In the summer of 2016 she was nearly 35, divorced, successful in her own right as an actress on the hit television show Suits. In this regard, she couldn’t have possibly been more different than her Duchess counterpart Kate, who met her future husband as a 19-year-old college student. She, unlike Kate, was not what Royal Watchers thought the monarchy wanted: Divorced. Biracial. American. But, it turns out, she’s exactly what the monarchy needed.

Rachel Meghan Markle was born on August 4, 1981 in Los Angeles to Thomas Markle – who worked on television shows such as Married…with Children as a lighting director and director of photography – and Doria Ragland, a former social worker and yoga instructor. Meghan, as she has always been known, was the only child of that marriage, though she has two older half-siblings from her father’s previous marriage, Samantha and Thomas Jr. Meghan’s parents divorced when she was six years old.

Meghan grew up in Hollywood and was educated at private schools, including the famous Little Red Schoolhouse in Hollywood. She first gained national attention at just 11 years old, when, after a successful campaign to get Procter & Gamble to change a national television commercial she regarded as sexist, she was featured on Nick News (does anyone else remember that show? I loved that show!) on Nickelodeon. She attended high school at Immaculate Heart High School, an all-girls Catholic private school in Los Angeles; she was Homecoming Queen there. Then it was on to the prestigious Northwestern University, where she joined Kappa Kappa Gamma, studied abroad in Buenos Aires and Madrid, and got degrees in international studies and theater in 2003.

Meghan then moved back home to L.A. to begin a career as an actress; to support herself, she worked as a freelance calligrapher. Her first on-screen role was on the soap opera General Hospital playing a nurse; she also appeared on CSI: NY and, famously, as a briefcase girl – her number was 24 – on the hit game show Deal or No Deal. She had roles on 90210 and CSI: Miami and small parts in movies such as A Lot Like Love, Remember Me, and Horrible Bosses, but her breakout role was playing Rachel – which is the best name ever as it is also her real first name and my name – on Suits, which she starred in from 2011 until her departure from acting entirely in 2018. While filming Suits, Meghan lived in Toronto and, as a side project, founded the lifestyle website The Tig, where she wrote about food, fashion, beauty, travel, and inspirational women; as a fellow blogger, it makes me love her all the more. I wish I could see The Tig now, because her messaging is one all women need – self-love, positivity, and spirituality. She closed The Tig in April 2017 as it became clear that she and Harry were the real deal; in January 2018, she closed all of her private social media accounts. Little known fact about Meghan: She is a style icon now, but back when she was only known as a semi-famous actress, she released two fashion collections with Canadian clothing company Reitmans in 2015 and 2016, before she met Harry. Both collections quickly sold out.

She dated actor and producer Trevor Engelson from 2004 until their marriage on September 10, 2011; they divorced less than two years later in August 2013, citing irreconcilable differences. She then dated chef Cory Vitello until May 2016; she met Harry about six weeks after their breakup on a blind date arranged by a mutual friend at the Soho House. She wore a blue dress, fabric of which was later woven into her wedding dress as her “something blue” when she married Harry.

The two fell in love in August 2016 when they took a trip to Botswana; the public started to become aware of the relationship by the end of the year, and in September 2017, Meghan made her first official appearance as “the girlfriend” in Toronto at the Invictus Games, which Harry created and staunchly supports. Meghan, like Kate before her, endured significant press harassment as a girlfriend of a prince, except Meghan’s was often racially motivated; it prompted Harry to speak out in support of his girlfriend, a rare move by a not-yet-engaged Royal.

Over roast chicken in their home on the grounds of Kensington Palace, Harry proposed in mid-November 2017; it was announced to the public on November 27, 2017, and Harry and Meghan were married on May 19, 2018. Their first and so far only child, Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor, was born on May 6, 2019.

Called the most “feisty and spiky” person to marry into the Firm since Prince Philip before her by historian Robert Lacey, so far – at just 13 months into her role as Duchess of Sussex – Meghan’s work is focused on women’s empowerment, girls’ education, inclusivity, and encouragement of social entrepreneurship, as well as the arts, access to education, and animal well-being. She and Harry created a separate office from William and Kate in 2019, including creating an Instagram account which broke the record for fastest account to reach 1 million followers. An outspoken feminist, one can expect to see much of Meghan’s Royal work be centered around women, as was much of the extensive charity work she did long before she ever met Harry.

Meghan’s entrance into the Firm represents so much evolution of the monarchy; the Royal Family is now as accepting as it always should have been. I truly believe each of us has a purpose on this earth, a reason why we are here; likely, Meghan thought her life’s work – as a child growing up in Hollywood – was to be an actress, but, instead, her acting career set her up to meet those that would introduce her to a Prince that would eventually become her husband and catapult her into her real life’s work: Making a difference worldwide on the global stage and serving as a symbol that being “different” is beautiful, that women have a voice, and that being a tough, fierce, opinionated, yet kind woman is the new, modern look of a centuries-old monarchy. She is proof, to me and I’m sure many others, that there are no mistakes in this life, and every step she had to take to get to today – the good and the bad – was intentionally planned for her to be able to shine in her lifelong work as Duchess of Sussex.

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