How Meghan went from a seedy Los An­ge­les ten­e­ment to a Palace

DAVID JONES, who spent weeks talk­ing to her fam­ily and friends, on the am­bi­tion she in­her­ited from her fa­ther – and the hippy side she got from her mum . . .

Daily Mail - - Front Page - by David Jones

Meghan’s brother will prob­a­bly toast the mo­men­tous news with a pint of Worker’s ale in the Cedar Tree sa­loon, his rowdy lo­cal bar in Ore­gon.

her fa­ther, an al­to­gether less gre­gar­i­ous char­ac­ter, will doubt­less re­flect on it qui­etly at his beach-house on Mex­ico’s windswept Pa­cific Coast. For a ma­ter­nal un­cle, who runs his own church in Florida, it will be a time for joy­ful prayer.

The un­usual, out- of-the-way places where Meghan Markle’s en­gage­ment to Prince harry was be­ing cel­e­brated yes­ter­day are a stark re­minder of her un­con­ven­tional back­ground, which I un­cov­ered dur­ing many weeks spent re­search­ing her fam­ily his­tory.

Much has also been made of her her­itage, as the mixed-race de­scen­dant of plan­ta­tion work­ing slaves, a sub­ject about which she has spo­ken mov­ingly and in­sight­fully, de­scrib­ing how she learned to cher­ish her roots — and over­come prej­u­dice — with care­ful nur­tur­ing from her par­ents.

her Cau­casian fa­ther, Thomas, and africanamer­i­can mother, Do­ria, bought her a set of Bar­bie dolls with a black mother and white fa­ther, and she was ad­vised never to tick boxes on school forms re­quest­ing her to de­clare her eth­nic­ity, but to leave them blank.

Many feel this bi-racial back­ground makes Meghan uniquely qual­i­fied to be­come a mem­ber of the Royal Fam­ily in di­verse, mod­ern-day Bri­tain, and that she will en­hance their pop­u­lar ap­peal, par­tic­u­larly among the younger gen­er­a­tion. I wholly con­cur.

For her for­ma­tive ex­pe­ri­ences — her mother would take her on ed­u­ca­tional trips to see first-hand how the poor­est peo­ple live, to help her ap­pre­ci­ate her rel­a­tively com­fort­able life — have pro­foundly in­flu­enced her char­ac­ter and made her the strong, com­pas­sion­ate, in­de­pen­dent woman harry will marry.

Yes, she can ap­pear self-pos­sessed, some­times even a tad too keen on per­sonal pro­mo­tion, yet be­hind her beauty and piz­zazz lies a gen­uinely car­ing char­ac­ter, and whether she is cham­pi­oning women’s rights in the Third World or cam­paign­ing for green is­sues, her con­vic­tions are deeply held.

In­deed, in her de­ter­mi­na­tion to fight in­jus­tice — and in her abil­ity to min­gle in both the hum­blest and high­est cir­cles, be­guil­ing all she meets — Meghan is re­mark­ably sim­i­lar to Princess Diana. Those who know her be­lieve she is des­tined to win sim­i­lar ado­ra­tion among the Bri­tish peo­ple.

More­over, it might be be­cause she shares so many of his mother’s traits that harry has cho­sen Meghan over a string of ap­par­ently more ap­pro­pri­ate pre­vi­ous girl­friends. AMID

the eu­pho­ria, how­ever, we should sound a note of cau­tion, for Meghan’s sto­ry­book as­cent from seedy Los an­ge­les ten­e­ment block to gilded palace has not been en­tirely plain sail­ing.

Cer­tain chap­ters of her life re­main un­charted wa­ters — her two pre­vi­ous long- t e r m re­la­tion­ships, as well as her time as an in­tern in ar­gentina — and there are any num­ber of sharks among her rel­a­tives and for­mer friends keen to cap­i­talise on her good for­tune.

Then there is her ex-hus­band, hol­ly­wood pro­ducer Trevor en­gel­son. he is yet to ex­plain why Meghan abruptly ended their mar­riage, in 2011, but will surely draw on per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence for his forth­com­ing com­edy TV show, about an amer­i­can whose wife leaves him for a prince.

These are just the ‘ known un­knowns’ in Meghan’s past, to bor­row a phrase. With the de­tails of at least one other long-term re­la­tion­ship — her two years with the Cana­dian celebrity chef Cory Vi­tiello — yet to emerge, who can say what might yet sur­face? sO WhO is the girl who has so cap­ti­vated Prince harry? On her fa­ther’s side, Meghan de­scends from english, Ir­ish and Dutch set­tlers who sailed across the at­lantic in the 18th cen­tury to live in an amer­ica then fight­ing for in­de­pen­dence from Bri­tain.

They sought pros­per­ity in Penn­syl­va­nia and new hamp­shire with vary­ing suc­cess. among her white an­ces­tors are wealthy landown­ers and a lowly gas sta­tion pump at­ten­dant. They also in­clude a fa­ther and son who fought for the Union­ist north in the Civil War.

I am also told her pa­ter­nal great­grand­fa­ther, ‘ Papa Ike’ Markle stood 7ft 2in tall, with freak­ish strength to match. his physique has passed down the male gen­er­a­tions: Meghan’s fa­ther, Thomas, now 73, is 6ft 3in and is said to top 20st, thanks to a weak­ness for junk food.

an­other in­ter­est­ing char­ac­ter is her un­cle Fred, 75, an east­ern Ortho­dox Catholic priest who bap­tised Markle ba­bies in the river, and later founded his own church in Florida. her fa­ther’s other brother, Mick, 77, a for­mer se­nior pub­lic ser­vant, is com­fort­ably re­tired on the Ore­gon coast.

her ma­ter­nal ances­try is no less fas­ci­nat­ing. her mother, Do­ria Ragland’s 19th- cen­tury an­ces­tor toiled on the ge­or­gia cot­ton plan­ta­tions be­fore be­ing eman­ci­pated af­ter abra­ham Lin­coln abol­ished slav­ery in 1865, where­upon he took the name Wis­dom to mark his free­dom.

It marked the be­gin­ning of Meghan’s fore­bears’ coura­geous strug­gle to rise through amer­i­can so­ci­ety, which re­mained mired in racial prej­u­dice for a fur­ther cen­tury.

They worked as house­hold ser­vants and in fac­to­ries be­fore, in the Thir­ties, her great-grand­mother broke into the pro­fes­sional ranks to be­come a teacher.

Meghan’s ma­ter­nal fam­ily pa­tri­arch, her dandy­ish grand­fa­ther, alvin, ran an­tique shops, and veered be­tween bank­ruptcy and wealth (he built up an en­vi­able col­lec­tion of vin­tage cars).

Those be­witch­ingly flinty eyes, pe­tite fig­ure and ‘ caramel’ com­plex­ion (as she calls it) come from her mother. her dis­tinc­tive curv­ing nose is very much a Markle trait. her per­son­al­ity bor­rows from both par­ents.

she has de­scribed her­self as a free­wheel­ing ‘Cal­i­for­nian hippy’, and em­braces al­ter­na­tive cul­ture, like her mother, a yoga teacher.

her fe­ro­cious work ethic de­rives from her fa­ther, though one hopes she has not in­her­ited the melan­cholic streak that has some­times blighted life, for this soli­tary man (he is now hid­ing in a sea­side town in north-West Mex­ico, and has not been seen pub­licly since harry and Meghan be­gan dat­ing).

how­ever, Meghan’s pen­chant for act­ing cer­tainly comes from Thomas, who de­vel­oped a pas­sion for theatre pro­duc­tion at school

and kept his colour- blind­ness se­cret to be­come an award­win­ning cin­e­matog­ra­pher.

He was in his mid- 30s, and di­vorced with two teenage chil­dren — Meghan’s half-brother, Tom Ju­nior, and half- sis­ter, Saman­tha — when he met Do­ria. She was 12 years younger and temp­ing in the Hol­ly­wood stu­dio where he worked. They mar­ried in 1979, and two years later — on Au­gust 4, 1981 — Meghan was born.

She has por­trayed her child­hood as idyl­lic — and doubt­less, through the prism of time, that is how it ap­pears. Cer­tainly, she was doted upon by her par­ents.

‘When Meg­gie was born, Dad was a com­pletely changed man,’ Tom Ju­nior told me. ‘Be­fore then, his work took pri­or­ity over ev­ery­thing. I re­mem­ber when she came home from hos­pi­tal, he had dec­o­rated the bath­room with lit­tle an­gels and fairies. He would keep hold­ing her up to the mir­ror so she could see her­self in his arms.

‘The look on his face was price­less. Meghan was a lit­tle princess long be­fore she met Harry.’

How­ever, there was an un­pleas­ant un­der­cur­rent to her home life, which Meghan never men­tions. Ac­cord­ing to Thomas Ju­nior, his sis­ter Saman­tha, who was 16 when Meghan was born, also wanted to be an ac­tress, and was jeal­ous of her — par­tic­u­larly when their fa­ther started tak­ing Meghan with him to the stu­dios and show­ing her off to his show­biz friends.

Saman­tha, 52, who suf­fers from mul­ti­ple scle­ro­sis and uses a wheel­chair, now de­nies any re­sent­ment, though when news of the royal ro­mance first broke she re­port­edly made cruel re­marks, say­ing Meghan had ne­glected her fam­ily since be­com­ing fa­mous.

When Meghan was five, her par­ents di­vorced. She lived with her mother dur­ing the week, and her fa­ther — who rented a plethora of run­down Hol­ly­wood apart­ments — at week­ends.

How­ever, no ex­pense was spared to pay for her ed­u­ca­tion, first at the Lit­tle Red School­house, whose past pupils in­clude El­iz­a­beth Tay­lor, then the ex­pen­sive Im­mac­u­late Heart Ro­man Catholic girls’ school. Her fa­ther’s re­ported $500,000 (£375,000) lot­tery win must have con­sid­er­ably eased the bur­den of fees.

De­spite her emerg­ing beauty, I came across only one, fleet­ing boyfriend from her school­days. Meghan was rather a tomboy, ac­cord­ing to So­nia Ar­dakani, the mother of her best school friend, Susie, who re­calls how the girls would do good deeds such as serv­ing at a soup kitchen for the home­less.

Meghan seemed ‘ born’ for the role that now awaits her, said Mrs Ar­dakani. For Meghan’s com­pas­sion shone through, she says, and never more so than when So­nia’s hus­band was shot by a crazed gun­man who walked into the garage he ran. Meghan was the first to visit him, pray­ing for hours be­side his hos­pi­tal bed.

Yet she had sharp el­bows, she says. ‘The thing I re­ally ad­mired about her is that she would fight, tooth and nail for the things she wanted in life . . . and Meghan al­ways got what she wanted.

Per­haps so, but they didn’t come quickly. She at­tended univer­sity in Illi­nois (where her clos­est friend was a gay stu­dent named Lar­nelle Foster, who told me his un­sus­pect­ing mother har­boured hopes they might marry), study­ing theatre with in­ter­na­tional re­la­tions, and do­ing an in­tern­ship at the Amer­i­can em­bassy in Buenos Aires in her gap year.

In­tent on a screen ca­reer, she re­turned to LA, but the only work on of­fer was de­mean­ing, so she played upon her looks and fig­ure. In one for­get­table film, her char­ac­ter didn’t have a name. In the cred­its, she was sim­ply ‘Hot Girl’.

SHE

was also re­quired to pa­rade the stage in a crim­son mini-dress, sheer tights and five-inch heels, as a ‘suit­case girl’ on the TV quiz show Deal Or No Deal.

We might have thought her ro­mance with En­gel­son, a go-get­ting New Yorker fast mak­ing his mark in Hol­ly­wood (with whom she be­gan liv­ing, in 2005, in a tiny, bun­ga­low, off Sun­set Boule­vard) might have helped her climb the greasy pole. Alas not.

Her mixed eth­nic­ity seemed to de­ter cast­ing di­rec­tors, who ei­ther found her ‘not black enough or not white enough’, she says. She had all but aban­doned her dreams of star­dom when, in 2010, she suc­cess­fully au­di­tioned for the role of a sassy le­gal as­sis­tant in Suits.

She and En­gel­son had fi­nally mar­ried, in Ja­maica in 2011 (Meghan wore a yel­low polka-dot bikini for the post-nup­tial beach drink­ing games), but the part re­quired her to re­lo­cate to Toronto, where the show is filmed.

There, Meghan was feted by a chic new set of friends, among them the daugh­ter of a for­mer Cana­dian prime min­is­ter and celebrity chef Cory Vi­tiello, who be­came her boyfriend.

It is not clear whether she and En­gle­son were still mar­ried when that ro­mance be­gan, but a close friend told me the gen­eral as­sump­tion was that the af­fair pre­cip­i­tated their di­vorce, and that her de­ci­sion to leave her hus­band, in 2013, came ‘to­tally out of the blue’.

Equally mys­te­ri­ous are the tim­ing and rea­son for Meghan’s split, two years later, from Vi­tiello. Did she leave him be­cause she fell for Harry?

Such de­tails are for an­other day, how­ever. To­day the toast should be to a thrillingly un­con­ven­tional fu­ture princess.

Fam­ily ties: Meghan with her mother, right, as a baby with her fa­ther top, and, left, with older sis­ter Saman­tha

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