Who is Do­ria Ragland?

She loves yoga, danc­ing to soul mu­sic and has strong hu­man­i­tar­ian val­ues. Wil­liam Lan­g­ley says Prince Harry’s mother-in-law will be a breath of fresh air in the some­times-stuffy House of Wind­sor.

Australian Women’s Weekly NZ - - THE ROYAL WEDDING - AWW

She’s a 61-year-old yoga teacher and New Age-style ther­a­pist who lives in an ochre-painted bun­ga­low around the cor­ner from rock star Tina Turner’s for­mer Los An­ge­les home. In the his­tory of the House of Wind­sor, there hasn’t been a mother-in-law like Do­ria Ragland.

Do­ria raised her only child alone af­ter her mar­riage broke down. Meghan was six when her parents di­vorced, and she and her mother have an ex­traor­di­nar­ily close re­la­tion­ship. One which has known dif­fi­cult times, fam­ily frac­tures, ro­man­tic heart­break, and may now be tested in ways that nei­ther of them can quite cal­cu­late. “Sure, ev­ery­one’s happy about things,” says Meghan’s un­cle, Joe John­son, a 68-year-old re­tired sign-painter, “but let’s not pre­tend there won’t be prob­lems for Do­ria.”

The chilled, faintly bo­hemian world that Do­ria in­hab­its could scarcely be fur­ther re­moved from the one her 36-year-old ac­tress daugh­ter now en­ters as wife of the sixth-in-line to the Bri­tish throne. Do­ria’s mod­est home sits on a wind­ing, palm-lined stretch of LA’s busy An­ge­les Vista Boule­vard, in a so­cially-mixed dis­trict of the sprawl­ing Cal­i­for­nian me­trop­o­lis.

A ran­dom sam­pling of Do­ria’s neigh­bours sug­gests that few have even heard of Prince Harry, or can muster very much in­ter­est in the glit­ter­ing nup­tials.

“It’s al­ways nice when two peo­ple fall in love,” says Ber­nice Neely, who lives a few doors along from Do­ria, “but I didn’t know a thing about any of this un­til all the news crews came along. I think they’re good peo­ple.

Will this be on TV?”

“Harry’s the one with red hair, right?” chuck­led neigh­bour Sher­rie Quinn. “It’s great, but I don’t think it’s go­ing to af­fect peo­ple’s lives much around here.”

Be­fore her en­gage­ment last November, Meghan de­scribed her mother in a so­cial me­dia post as: “Dread­locks. Nose ring. Yoga in­struc­tor. Free spirit. Lover of potato chips and lemon tarts. And if the DJ cues Al Green’s soul clas­sic Call Me, just for­get it. She will swivel her hips into the sweet­est lit­tle dance you’ve ever seen, sway­ing her head and snap­ping her fin­gers to the beat like she’s been danc­ing since the womb. And you will smile. You won’t be able to help it. You will look at her and you will feel joy. I’m talk­ing about my mom.”

Which is just as well. For, amid all the ex­cite­ment over the royal wed­ding, the woman who shaped this most in­trigu­ing of royal brides has been largely over­looked.

Do­ria was born into a poor black

fam­ily, the de­scen­dants of slaves, in Cleve­land, Ohio, where her father, Alvin Ragland, sold sec­ond-hand fur­ni­ture from a mar­ket stall. Hop­ing to im­prove their lot, the Raglands up­rooted to Cal­i­for­nia in the late 1950s, and set­tled in Fair­fax, a Los An­ge­les dis­trict. Alvin and his wife, Jeanette, di­vorced soon after­wards, but not be­fore se­cur­ing Do­ria a place at one of the bet­ter lo­cal schools, Fair­fax High, where fel­low for­mer pupils remember her wear­ing a “wild Afro” and groov­ing to soul mu­sic.

Af­ter leav­ing, Do­ria took var­i­ous short-lived jobs, in­clud­ing sell­ing in­cense and crys­tal mala beads to lo­cal hip­pies, be­fore land­ing an ap­pren­tice­ship as a make-up artist at a Sunset Boule­vard stu­dio mak­ing the still-run­ning TV soap opera, Gen­eral Hos­pi­tal.

The show’s light­ing di­rec­tor was a big-framed, bearded di­vorcee called Tom Markle. He was white, 12 years older than Do­ria and twice her size, but they hit it off im­me­di­ately, and were mar­ried within a few months of meet­ing. The 1979 wed­ding was an Eastern mys­tic-style af­fair, con­ducted by a saf­fron-robed lo­cal Yogi known as “Brother Bhak­tananda”. Meghan ar­rived on Au­gust 4, 1981.

Do­ria isn’t giv­ing in­ter­views but it is safe to say that she hasn’t changed too much since those free-wheel­ing early days. Her pet name for Meghan is “Flower” (as in flower child), and she has in­stilled her daugh­ter with those same strong lib­eral val­ues that come both from her 1960s up­bring­ing and Do­ria’s own per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence of dis­crim­i­na­tion.

As Joe, her half-brother, says: “Do­ria has seen life from both sides, and she’s very okay with what she is now. I don’t think she’s go­ing to be too wor­ried about meet­ing royal peo­ple.”

In the early days of their mar­riage, Tom’s ca­reer flour­ished (he later won an Emmy award), and the Raglands lived com­fort­ably in a ha­cienda-style villa on the Pa­cific coast. But his long work hours and per­fec­tion­ism are said to have taken a toll on his home life, and in 1987 the cou­ple di­vorced.

Do­ria has never re­mar­ried, and there are no ac­counts of post-Tom re­la­tion­ships. For sev­eral years af­ter the di­vorce she ap­pears to have

“Do­ria has seen life from both sides, and she’s very okay with what she is now.”

strug­gled fi­nan­cially, mov­ing home sev­eral times, and even­tu­ally be­ing de­clared bank­rupt in 2002, with large credit card debts and re­port­ing only $10,000 in as­sets.

Since then her for­tunes have im­proved. She re­trained as a ther­a­pist, work­ing at an LA hos­pi­tal, and de­vel­oped a side­line as a yoga in­struc­tor. A fur­ther boost came with the take-off of Meghan’s ca­reer – be­gin­ning with small, walk-on parts, which led to her land­ing the part of Rachel Zane in the hit US tele­vi­sion le­gal drama, Suits.

Now Do­ria has her own role to play. Sug­ges­tions that she will move to London to be at her daugh­ter’s side may be wide of the mark, but as the big­gest in­flu­ence on Meghan’s life, her pres­ence will in­evitably be felt. How should Harry cope?

Bri­tish re­la­tion­ship spe­cial­ist and au­thor Linda Blair says it would be highly ad­vis­able for the prince to stay on the right side of his mother-in-law. “In­ten­tion­ally or not,” she warns, “women tend to model them­selves on their moth­ers. So fall­ing out with your mother-in-law is re­ally like crit­i­cis­ing your wife.”

Harry can take some en­cour­age­ment from the warm re­la­tion­ship be­tween his brother, Wil­liam, the Duke of Cam­bridge, and his hands-on moth­erin-law, Ca­role Mid­dle­ton. Ca­role is a con­stant pres­ence in the lives of the Duke, his wife Kate and their three chil­dren. “Ca­role has suc­ceeded in be­ing in­volved and ap­pre­ci­ated, while know­ing how to give the cou­ple some space,” says royal writer

Mar­cia Moody. “She’s set some­thing of a tem­plate.”

Some pun­dits have spec­u­lated that Harry and Wil­liam, hav­ing lost their mother, Diana, trag­i­cally early in life, are the kind of men who will in­stinc­tively bond with their moth­ers-in-law. Not nec­es­sar­ily as sub­sti­tutes, but as rep­re­sen­ta­tives of ma­ter­nal love.

Yet Ca­role, 63, hails from solid, English, mid­dle-class stock, and un­der­stands the na­ture of roy­alty in a way that Do­ria – 8000km away in a place where the aris­toc­racy con­sists of movie stars – can’t be ex­pected to. Still, the early signs are good, with Harry, who first met Do­ria at last year’s In­vic­tus Games in Toronto, de­scrib­ing her as “amaz­ing”.

“In­ten­tion­ally or not, women tend to model them­selves on their moth­ers.”

Meghan has a close re­la­tion­ship with her mother and proudly sup­ported Do­ria when she grad­u­ated with a masters de­gree in so­cial work (op­po­site).

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