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  • Rachel Burchfield

The duchesses’ birth families

CREDIT: GETTY Michael and Carole Middleton, Kate's parents.

Kate and Meghan’s childhoods could not have been more different. Kate, the oldest of three Middleton siblings, was raised in a very stable, structured, upper-middle class home in Berkshire, England. Meghan is the only child of her parents’ marriage, which fell apart when she was six; she was raised with the glitz and glam and grittiness of Hollywood as her backdrop. (Though an only child by her parents’ marriage, Meghan does have two half-siblings from her father’s first marriage. And these people are freaking nuts.)

Let’s take a look at the cast of characters of Kate and Meghan’s birth families:

· Michael Francis Middleton: Kate’s father, born in 1949; he was born into a wealthy family with ties to British aristocracy. He was educated at Clifton College, where he played rugby and tennis. He then went on to work for British Airways, originally intent on becoming a pilot but switching to ground crew, eventually becoming a flight dispatcher. He met his future wife, Carole Goldsmith, at British Airways; she was a flight attendant.

· Carole Elizabeth Goldsmith Middleton: Kate’s mother, born in 1955; she was raised in Southall and attended local state schools. She aspired to be a teacher, but Carole’s working class parents couldn’t afford to put her through college, so she worked as a secretary before joining the British Airways staff. She married Michael on June 21, 1980 – ironically what would become Prince William’s birthday two years later – and the couple settled in Berkshire. In 1987, Carole founded Party Pieces, a company that makes party bags; it branched into mail-order party supplies and decorations and, by 1995, both Michael and Carole were working full-time at the multimillion dollar business, which cemented the Middleton family as upper crust or, as the press likes to call it, “Upper Middleton Class” – “minted…with a smattering of blue-blooded antecedents.” Michael and Carole now live in Bucklebury Manor, a mansion set on 18 acres in Berkshire.

CREDIT: GETTY Pippa Middleton Matthews, Kate's younger sister.

· Philippa “Pippa” Charlotte Middleton Matthews: Kate’s younger sister, born in 1983; she is only 21 months younger than her older sister, Kate. Always regarded as the prettier one of the two Middleton sisters, Pippa attended the same schools as Kate – St. Andrew’s School, Downe House School, and, finally, Marlborough College, where she was a boarder. She attended the University of Edinburgh, where she received a degree in English literature; she worked at a public relations firm, in events management, and for her parents’ company Party Pieces, editing its web magazine Party Times. In 2008, British magazine Tatler named Pippa the “number one society singleton,” and her career as a socialite was cemented. Pippa is also an author of the 2012 party planning book Celebrate, and is a regular columnist for outlets like The Spectator, Waitrose Kitchen, Vanity Fair, and The Sunday Telegraph. She made a splash worldwide – er, rather, her backside did – when she was maid of honor at William and Kate’s wedding in 2011; she herself didn’t marry until May 20, 2017, when she married James Matthews, a former racecar driver turned hedge fund manager. They have one son, Arthur, born on October 15, 2018.

CREDIT: TRAVEL + LEISURE James Middleton, Kate's younger brother.

· James William Middleton: Kate’s younger brother, born in 1987; he, like his sisters before him, attended St. Andrew’s School and Marlborough College. Like Pippa, he attended the University of Edinburgh, but dropped out after a year. He was a reader at William and Kate’s wedding in 2011 and has gone on to, like his parents before him, become an entrepreneur, launching a now-defunct cake-making business, the Cake Kit Company. In 2013, he founded personalized greeting card company Boomf. He has been open about his dyslexia, his struggles with depression, and his ADHD. He is an ardent, passionate lover of dogs and remains a bachelor, though he does have a girlfriend (damnit).

CREDIT: INSIDE EDITION Thomas Markle Sr., Meghan's father.

· Thomas Wayne Markle Sr.: Meghan’s father, born in 1944; he is a retired lighting director and director of photography for television shows like Married…With Children. He is a Daytime Emmy Award winner for work on soap opera General Hospital, winning both in 1982 and in 2011. Raised in Newport, Pennsylvania, he married Rosyln Loveless in 1964, and they had two children, Samantha and Thomas Markle Jr. They divorced in 1975, and he married his second wife, Doria Ragland, in 1979. Meghan is the only child of that marriage. In 1990, he won $750,000 in the California State Lottery, but spent all of the money and filed for bankruptcy in 2016. In 2018, he was expected to walk Meghan down the aisle at her wedding to Harry, but did not attend as he was recovering from heart surgery; he also was the subject of public scrutiny after it was discovered he staged photographs for a paparazzi photographer in return for money. He now lives in Rosarito, Mexico and is estranged from Meghan, who he continually bashes in interviews to the press.

CREDIT: GETTY Doria Ragland, Meghan's mother.

· Doria Loyce Ragland: Meghan’s mother, born in 1956; she is Meghan’s best friend and closest confidante. Originally from Cleveland, Ohio, her family moved to Los Angeles when she was a baby. She has worked as a makeup artist, a business owner, a yoga instructor, and a social worker who worked in the mental health sector after graduating with a master’s degree in social work from the prestigious University of Southern California. She met husband Thomas Markle Sr. while working as a makeup artist on the set of General Hospital. She splits her time between Los Angeles and London.

CREDIT: GETTY Samantha Markle, Meghan's older half-sister.

· Samantha Marie Markle: Meghan’s older half-sister, born in 1964; divorced twice, she now lives with a boyfriend in Belleview, Florida. She was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2008 and has used a wheelchair since then. She has worked as a mental health counselor and has three children, all of whom she is estranged from; she is also deeply estranged from Meghan, whom she has not spoken to in years, despite her continual propensity to speak to the media about her. She apparently has an upcoming book, The Diary of Princess Pushy’s Sister, which I likely will not be purchasing.

CREDIT: HEAVY.COM Thomas Markle Jr., Meghan's older half-brother.

· Thomas Wayne Markle Jr.: Meghan’s older half-brother, born in 1966; he lives with his fiancée in Grants Pass, Oregon. He has been married before and has two sons, one of whom created a cannabis product, “Markle Sparkle,” to “honor” Meghan around the time of her wedding to Prince Harry. (This family is freaking weird, y’all.) Thomas Jr. works as a window fitter and was arrested in January 2017 for holding a gun to his fiancee’s head while drunk. He was later arrested in 2018 for assault. He, too, is estranged from Meghan yet continually bashes her in the press, including writing a letter to Harry asking him to call off the wedding, writing if he went through with the nuptials it would be “the biggest mistake in Royal Wedding history.” Thankfully, Harry paid no heed.

Kate and Meghan show that, no matter if your family is stable or batshit crazy, you can still become a duchess – and that you get to choose the life you want for yourself, not your upbringing.

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