Meghan Markle — best known for her role in the hit US TV series Suits — is an American actress, humanitarian campaigner, and former lifestyle blogger.
She rose to fame playing law student Rachel Zane in the popular legal drama, after parts in CSI: Miami, sci-fi show Fringe, and movies such as Remember Me and Horrible Bosses.
The 36-year-old Californian is described as a star with a social conscience. As well as being a global ambassador for World Vision Canada, she is committed to gender equality and empowering women through her work as a women’s advocate for the UN.
She has already been married once before. In September 2011, she wed film producer Trevor Engelson after dating him for six years, but the pair divorced amicably less than two years later.
In September, her engagement to Harry looked set when she graced the cover of US magazine Vanity Fair and opened up publicly about their relationship.
“We’re two people who are really happy and in love,” she revealed.
Markle has written about her mixed heritage — her father Thomas is of white Dutch and Irish descent and her mother Doria is African-American — and how it created “a grey area surrounding my self-identification”.
However she added: “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.”
She also wrote about how her parents, “who came from little”, taught her to care about others, and led by example during her childhood buying turkeys for homeless shelters at Thanksgiving and delivering meals to patients in hospice care.
Her parents divorced when she was six. Although she lived with her mother, a clinical therapist, in Los Angeles, Ms Markle also spent a great deal of time with her father, a former TV lighting artist.
She has paid tribute to “the blood, sweat and tears this man (who came from so little in a small town of Pennsylvania, where Christmas stockings were filled with oranges, and dinners were potatoes and spam) invested in my future so that I could grow up to have so much”.
She recalled how, one Christmas, he created a Barbie family for her when they were only sold in sets of white dolls or black dolls. Her new collection of dolls had “a black mom doll, a white dad doll, and a child in each colour. My dad had taken the sets apart and customised my family.”
She has a half-sister, Samantha Grant, from her father’s first marriage, who is 17 years older than her. A one-time actress and model, she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2008 and uses a wheelchair.
Ms Grant has been critical of Ms Markle since news of her relationship with Harry broke, describing her as a “shallow social climber” and claiming she shunned her since making it in Hollywood.
“The royal family would be appalled by what she’s done to her own family,” said Ms Grant.
She also has a half-brother, Thomas Markle Jr, aged 50, who has been bankrupt once, divorced twice, and faced trial on gun charges before the case was dropped. Mr Markle Jr is not thought to be in contact with his half-sister but has given interviews and shared family photos with the media.
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