Meghan, Duchess of Sussex (/ˈmɛɡən/; born Rachel Meghan Markle, August 4, 1981), is an American member of the British royal family and a former actress.
Markle was born and raised in Los Angeles, California. Her acting career began while she was studying at Northwestern University. She attributed early career difficulties to her biracial heritage. Her most significant acting role is that of Rachel Zane in the American legal drama Suits, in which she starred for seven seasons (2011–2018). She simultaneously profited from a strong social media presence, including a lifestyle blog, The Tig (2014–2017). Through The Tig she gained recognition for her fashion sense, which led to creating and releasing two lines of clothing in 2015–2016. During her acting career, Markle became involved in charity work, focusing primarily on women's issues and social justice.
Markle was married to American film producer Trevor Engelson from 2011 until their divorce in 2013. She retired from acting upon her marriage to Prince Harry in 2018, and started undertaking engagements as a member of the British royal family. Since then, she has been known as Duchess of Sussex. The marriage prompted comments about having a mixed-race person in the royal family. The couple stepped down as senior members of the royal family in 2020 following a period of privacy issues and perceived hostile treatment by the British tabloids. They subsequently settled in her native California, where they are pursuing business ventures and charity work. They have two children, Archie and Lilibet Mountbatten-Windsor.
Markle claims she had some difficulty getting roles early in her career due to being "ethnically ambiguous" because "I wasn't black enough for the black roles and I wasn't white enough for the white ones." To support herself between acting jobs, she worked as a freelance calligrapher and taught bookbinding. Her first on-screen appearance was a small role as a nurse in an episode of the daytime soap opera General Hospital. Markle had small guest roles on the television shows Century City (2004), The War at Home (2006) and CSI: NY (2006). She also did several contract acting and modeling jobs, including a stint as a "briefcase girl" on the US-version of the game show Deal or No Deal. She appeared in Fox's series Fringe as Junior Agent Amy Jessup in the first two episodes of its second season.
Markle appeared in small roles in the films Get Him to the Greek, Remember Me and The Candidate in 2010 and the film Horrible Bosses in 2011. She was paid $187,000 for her role in Remember Me and $171,429 for her role in the short film The Candidate. In July 2011, Markle joined the cast of the USA Network show Suits through to late 2017 and the seventh season. Her character, Rachel Zane, began as a paralegal and eventually became an attorney. While working on Suits, Markle lived for nine months each year in Toronto.Fortune magazine estimated that Markle was paid $50,000 per episode, amounting to an equivalent annual salary of $450,000.
Meghan Markle's engagement to Prince Harry was announced on November 27, 2017 by Harry's father Charles, Prince of Wales. The announcement prompted generally positive comments about having a mixed-race person as a member of the royal family, especially in regard to Commonwealth countries with populations of blended or native ancestry. Markle announced that she would retire from acting, and began the lengthy process of becoming a British citizen, which is subject to strict immigration rules about living outside of the UK for more than 90 days.
It was reportedly agreed in advance that excess funds generated from the BBC broadcast of the wedding ceremony would go to a charity chosen by the newlywed couple. In April 2020, Feeding Britain (which provides food packages to families in food poverty) was nominated to receive £90,000 from the BBC.
After becoming engaged, Markle's first official public appearance with Prince Harry was at a World AIDS Day walkabout in Nottingham on December 1, 2017. On March 12, the 2018 Commonwealth Day service at Westminster Abbey was the first royal event she attended with the Queen. On March 23, Harry and Meghan made an unannounced day visit to Northern Ireland. In total, Markle attended 26 public engagements prior to the wedding. Meghan's first official engagement after marriage was on May 22, when she and her husband attended a garden party celebrating the charity work of the Prince of Wales.
In July 2018, Meghan's first official trip abroad as a royal was to Dublin, Ireland, alongside Harry. In October 2018, the Duke and Duchess traveled to Sydney, Australia for the 2018 Invictus Games. This formed part of a Pacific tour that included Australia, Fiji, Tonga and New Zealand. As representatives of the Queen, the couple were greeted warmly by crowds in Sydney, and the announcement of Meghan's pregnancy hours after their arrival delighted the public and media. During their visit to Morocco in February 2019, the Duke and Duchess focused on projects centered on "women's empowerment, girls' education, inclusivity and encouragement of social entrepreneurship". It is otherwise noted that Meghan participated in her husband's work as youth ambassador to the Commonwealth, which included overseas tours.
As part of establishing a separate office from Kensington Palace in 2019, the Duke and Duchess created an Instagram social media account, which broke the record for the fastest account to date to reach a million followers. In August 2019, Meghan and her husband were criticized by environmental campaigners for using private jets regularly when taking their personal trips abroad, which would leave more carbon footprint per person compared to commercial planes. The criticism was in line with the reactions the royal family faced in June 2019, after it was revealed that they "had doubled [their] carbon footprint from business travel".
In January 2020, Meghan and Harry returned to the UK from a vacation in Canada and announced that they were stepping back from their role as senior members of the royal family, and would balance their time between the United Kingdom and North America. A statement released by the Palace confirmed that the Duke and Duchess were to become financially independent and cease to represent the Queen. The couple would retain their HRH stylings but not be permitted to use them. The formal role of the Duke and Duchess was subject to a twelve-month review period, ending in March 2021. Meghan's final solo engagement as a senior royal was a visit to Robert Clack School on March 7, 2020, in Dagenham ahead of International Women's Day.
In summer 2019, before announcing their decision to step down in January 2020, the couple were involved in talks with Jeffrey Katzenberg, the founder of the now-defunct streaming platform Quibi, over a possible role in the service without gaining personal profits, but they eventually decided against joining the project. Until February 2021, Meghan and Harry remained president and vice president respectively of The Queen's Commonwealth Trust (QCT). Periodically, online QCT chat sessions were conducted and uploaded to YouTube for general public viewing. In June 2020, they signed with the Harry Walker Agency, owned by media company Endeavor, to conduct public speaking engagements. In September 2020, the Sussexes signed a private commercial deal with Netflix "to develop scripted and unscripted series, film, documentaries, and children programming for the streaming service". In December 2020, it was announced that she had invested in Clevr Blends, a coffee company based in Southern California. In the same month, Meghan and Harry signed a multi-year deal with Spotify to produce and host their own programs through their audio producing company, Archewell Audio. The debut episode of the podcast, a holiday special, was released on the service in December 2020.
In April 2021, the couple were announced as campaign chairs for Vax Live, an event organized by Global Citizen to increase access to COVID-19 vaccinations. They also announced their support for a vaccine equity fundraiser initiated by the same organization.The Bench, a picture book written by Meghan,
was published in June 2021 by Random House Children's Books. It is based on her perception of the relationship between her husband and their son. The book received a mixed response; it garnered praise for its illustrations and messaging but was criticized for its structure and writing. Following its release, Meghan, alongside Archewell, donated 2,000 copies of The Bench to libraries, schools, and other nonprofit programs across the United States.
In January 2018, Markle became interested in the Hubb Community Kitchen run by survivors of the Grenfell Tower fire. She visited the kitchen regularly, and suggested that the displaced women publish a cookbook to assist in funding for the group.Together: Our Community Cookbook, her first charity project as Duchess of Sussex, was announced in September. In March 2021, Meghan used proceeds from the cookbook to donate £10,000 to the UK-based charity Himmah to assist them with stocking the group's food bank, provide them with equipment and help the Salaam Shalom Kitchen, the only Muslim and Jewish community kitchen in the UK.
In March 2020, it was announced that Meghan's first post-royal project would be the narration of Disneynature's documentary Elephant, which was released on April 3. In support of elephants, Disneynature and the Disney Conservation Fund would donate to Elephant Without Borders for species conservation in Botswana. In April 2020, Meghan volunteered with her husband in a private capacity to personally deliver foods prepared by the Project Angel Food to Los Angeles residents amidst the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States. In July 2020, she spoke in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
In 2019 Meghan was a contributor and guest editor for the September issue of British Vogue and highlighted the works of 15 women from different areas, who were described as "Forces for Change".Edward Enninful, editor-in-chief of the British Vogue, later revealed that the issue had become the "fastest-selling issue in the history of British Vogue". In the same issue, it was announced that she had collaborated with a number of British fashion houses and stores to launch a capsule collection, called The Smart Set, in September 2019 to benefit the charity Smart Works. The collection sought to help "unemployed and disadvantaged women", through selling items "on a one-for-one basis, meaning an item is donated for each item purchased". Taking advantage of "the Meghan effect" (driving consumer purchases), in 10 days the collection provided a year's worth of clothes for the charity.
Sussex Royal and Archewell
In February 2018, Markle and fiancé Harry attended the first annual forum of The Royal Foundation. After marriage Meghan became the foundation's fourth patron alongside Prince Harry, Prince William and his wife, Catherine. In June 2019, it was announced that Harry and Meghan would split from the charity and establish their own foundation. Nevertheless, the couples would collaborate on mutual projects, such as the mental health initiative Heads Together. The following month, "Sussex Royal The Foundation of The Duke and Duchess of Sussex" was registered in England and Wales. However, it was confirmed on February 21, 2020 that "Sussex Royal" would not be used as a brand name for the couple following their step back from public life as working royals. On August 5, 2020, Sussex Royal Foundation was renamed "MWX Foundation" and dissolved the same day.
In March 2021, it was reported that the Charity Commission for England and Wales was conducting a review of the Sussex Royal organization in a "regulatory and compliance case" regarding its conduct under charity law during dissolution. Representatives for the couple claimed that Sussex Royal was "managed by a board of trustees" and that "suggestion of mismanagement" directed exclusively at the Duke and Duchess would be incorrect. The commission later concluded that the foundation did not act unlawfully, but criticized the board of directors for expending a "substantial proportion of funds" to setting up and closing the charity.
In April 2020, Meghan and Harry confirmed that an alternative foundation (in lieu of Sussex Royal) would be called "Archewell". The name stems from the Greek word "arche", which means "source of action"; the same word that inspired the name of their son. Archewell was registered in the United States. Its website was officially launched in October 2020.
In 2014, Markle founded her own lifestyle blog The Tig. She wrote about food, fashion, beauty, travel and inspirational women. The viewing audience consisted primarily of the fans of Markle and Suits. Promotion of the blog on other social media platforms targeted 3 million followers on Instagram, 800,000 on Facebook, and 350,000 on Twitter. In April 2017, The Tig closed. In January 2018, Markle took all articles offline and deleted her social media accounts. It is estimated that Markle's social media activities annually earned her about $80,000 from endorsements and sponsorships.
Markle became known through The Tig for her fashion sense, releasing two fashion collections with Canadian clothing company Reitmans in 2015 and 2016. The lines were based on her personal style and that of her Suits character. Markle has cited Emmanuelle Alt as her style inspiration.
Shortly after her engagement to Prince Harry in 2017, Markle caused a surge of interest in Scottish retailer Strathberry after carrying one of its handbags to a public event. This was reported as an indication that her fashion choices would produce a variation of the Kate Middleton effect. After Markle and Prince Harry's first appearance as a couple, brands Mackage, Birks, R&R Jewelers, Crown Jewelers and Everlane noted an upswing in their website hits and sales. It was speculated that Markle's effect would be broader internationally because she already had a strong American appeal. Consequently, the United States saw a boost in yellow gold jewelry sales in the first quarter of 2018.
In 2018, Tatler named Meghan with other senior royal women on its list of Britain's best dressed people. Following the announcement of her pregnancy she appeared in a Karen Gee dress that resulted in the Australian designer's website crashing. Fashion website Net-a-Porter ranked Meghan as one of the best dressed women in 2018. and was nominated for the 2018 Teen Choice Awards in the category Choice Style Icon. In 2019, British brand Reiss reported a growth in profits after Meghan was seen wearing a mini-dress by them on International Women's Day.
Meghan and Harry obtained a formal apology in May 2019 from the Splash News for privacy invasion, and the Duchess launched a lawsuit against The Mail on Sunday and MailOnline over the publication of a letter she had sent to her father. The couple had a legal warning issued to the press in general in January 2020 after the publication of paparazzi photographs. The Duchess subsequently received support from more than 70 female MPs from different parties who in an open letter condemned the use of "outdated, colonial undertones" against her in some national media outlets. In February 2021, the High Court of Justice found that the Daily Mail had invaded the Duchess's privacy by publishing the letter, and she won her claim for "misuse of private information and copyright infringement" in May 2021.
In March 2020, the couple took Splash UK to court after Meghan and her son were photographed without permission in Canada during a "private family outing". The case was settled later that year with Splash UK agreeing to no longer take unauthorized photos of the family. The Duke and Duchess announced in April that they would no longer cooperate with the Daily Mail, The Sun, Daily Mirror and Daily Express. They won an apology in October from American news agency X17 for taking photographs of their son at their home using drones. In March 2021, it was reported that an American private investigator unlawfully handed over personal details about Meghan to The Sun, including her Social Security number, cellphone number and address, when she first started dating Harry in 2016. Meghan and her husband condemned the "predatory practices" of the British tabloids, while The Sun stated that the investigator "was instructed clearly in writing to act lawfully", and they did not "use the information he provided for any unlawful practice".
In 2021, shortly before the Duchess and Duke were due to be interviewed by Oprah Winfrey, The Times reported that the Duchess's press secretary, Jason Knauf, complained that her conduct at Kensington Palace had caused two personal assistants to quit and had undermined the morale of a third employee, prompting an investigation by Buckingham Palace. Criticism of the Duchess for twice wearing earrings gifted from Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in 2018, after he was accused of complicity in the assassination of Jamal Khashoggi, appeared at the same time. Her representatives denied her awareness of the accusations against Mohammed bin Salman, and said The Times was being used by Buckingham Palace for "a smear campaign" against her.
The television special Oprah with Meghan and Harry was broadcast on CBS on March 7, 2021. Meghan spoke about her personal and royal life and public pressure. She discussed contemplating suicide during her time as a working royal and talked about a perceived lack of protection for her and her son while being part of the royal institution. There was a wide and polarized reaction to the interview with the British media outlets questioning the veracity and context of claims made by the couple.
In June 2021, Jonny Dymond of the BBC reported, quoting "a good palace source", that the couple had not sought the permission of the Queen before naming their daughter with her personal family nickname. Lawyers for the couple subsequently accused the BBC of defamation and sent letters out to various media orgazisations saying the report was false and defamatory, and the allegations should not be repeated." The BBC had "no immediate response" to the allegations, while Buckingham Palace did not comment.
Quarterly 1st and 4th Gules three lions passant guardant in pale Or armed and langed Azure (England), 2nd Or a lion rampant Gules armed and langued Azure within a double tressure flory counterflory (Scotland), 3rd Azure a harp Or stringed Argent (Ireland), the whole differenced by a label of five points Argent, the first, third and fifth points charged with an escallop Gules (Prince Harry); Impaled with a shield Azure a feather bendwise Argent quilled Or between two bendlets Or all between two like feathers Argent quilled Or (Markle).
On the dexter side the lion used as a supporter by the Duke of Sussex and to the sinister a songbird Argent wings spread, unguled Or and gorged with the coronet of the Duke of Sussex.
The blue background of the shield represents the Pacific Ocean off the California coast, while the two golden rays across the shield are symbolic of the sunshine of the Duchess's home state. The three quills represent communication and the power of words. Beneath the shield on the grass sits a collection of golden poppies, California's state flower, and wintersweet, which grows at Kensington Palace. The songbird with wings elevated as if flying and an open beak represents the power of communication.
^Swerling, Gabriella; Ward, Victoria; Tominey, Camilla (March 8, 2021). "Prince Harry and Meghan's 'secret wedding' an exchange of vows and not legal ceremony". The Daily Telegraph. sources within both the Church of England and those working for the Sussexes moved to clarify that the vows presided over by the Most Rev Justin Welby in the garden did not constitute a legal marriage. Instead, the "marriage" was merely a personal and private exchange of vows between the couple.