Despite her Hollywood success and storybook royal romance with Britain’s Prince Harry, Meghan Markle’s life hasn’t been easy. Meghan’s life has changed substantially in the years since she married Prince Harry in May 2018 and welcomed her first son Archie in May 2019, with Meghan and Harry shocking the world by announcing in 2020 that they would be stepping away from their British royal duties. Meghan’s brief time as a member of the royal family was marked by turmoil, an escalation of the personal and professional challenges she’d faced in the years before she met Harry. Despite her seemingly-unshakable public persona, her road to happiness has been marked with romantic woes and Hollywood struggles and then, as a duchess, newfound issues with her family in America and her adopted nation of Britain.
With Meghan, Harry, and Archie leaving Britain to forge new paths as civilians outside the royal family, a more peaceful lifestyle seems to be waiting ahead for the starlet. And as any fan of the actress-turned-duchess would attest, she’s earned it. Read on for the many difficulties and tragedies Meghan Markle has weathered in her path towards happiness.
Meghan Markle’s parents divorced
Meghan Markle’s parents, Doria Ragland and Thomas Markle Sr. raised Meghan together before divorcing when she was young. “My dad is Caucasian and my mom is African American … It was the late Seventies when my parents met, my dad was a lighting director for a soap opera and my mom was a temp at the studio,” Meghan wrote in a 2015 Elle essay about her upbringing, in which she described the unkind perceptions that met her parents’ interracial marriage. “They moved into a house in The Valley in LA, to a neighborhood that was leafy and affordable. What it was not, however, was diverse. And there was my mom … [neighbors] assumed she was the nanny.”
Meghan recalled to Elle a racially-charged interaction with a “closed-minded” college classmate, who implied her parents’ races had to do with their divorce. “‘You said your mom is black and your dad is white, right?”” Meghan remembered the woman asking, adding that it “makes sense” they were divorced. “I understood the implication,” she explained.
Meghan also told Esquire that her unique family dynamic included spending time with her father while he worked on the sitcom Married… with Children, which brought her into contact with “off-color” material for her young age. “Every day after school for 10 years, I was on the set of Married… with Children, which is a really funny and perverse place for a little girl in a Catholic school uniform to grow up,” she said.
She experienced racism in Hollywood and beyond
Meghan Markle’s path to Hollywood success came with some racial speed bumps. Markle has been open about the challenges that she’s experienced because of her biracial identity, describing herself in a 2015 Elle essay as an “ethnic chameleon who couldn’t book a job.” Markle revealed that the characters she auditioned for in Hollywood often were assigned a specific race. “There couldn’t possibly be a more label-driven industry than acting, seeing as every audition comes with a character breakdown: ‘Beautiful, sassy, Latina, 20s’; ‘African American, urban, pretty, early 30s’; ‘Caucasian, blonde, modern girl next door,'” she wrote, adding that her “ethnically ambiguous” status often meant she “wasn’t black enough for the black roles and [she[ wasn’t white enough for the white ones.”
Markle’s experiences with racism only grew more public when she married into the British royal family. The press and public’s bigoted treatment of Markle was widely seen as a potential reason why she and Prince Harry stepped away from the monarchy. “A young couple have been hounded out of the country by the intrusive and racist treatment of the rightwing press,” British Labor Party politician Rebecca Long-Bailey told The Guardian in 2020. “Women of color in public life are subject to bullying, harassment, disrespect and smears – and all the while are expected to be grateful that they’re getting any attention at all.”
Meghan Markle battled low self-esteem into her twenties
Like many other young women, Meghan Markle struggled with her self-image as a teenager into her twenties. In a since-deleted 2014 post on her lifestyle blog The Tig (via The Express), Markle wrote about the groups that left her “grappling with how to fit in” during her school years. “My high school had cliques: the black girls and white girls, the Filipino and the Latina girls,” she wrote “Being biracial, I fell somewhere in between. So every day during lunch, I busied myself with meetings – French club, student body, whatever one could possibly do between noon and 1 pm – I was there … so that I wouldn’t have to eat alone.”
Navigating Hollywood in her twenties presented a new set of challenges for her self-esteem, she claimed. “My 20s were brutal – a constant battle with myself, judging my weight, my style, my desire to be as cool/as hip/as smart/as ‘whatever’ as everyone else,” she wrote. “I must have been about 24 when a casting director looked at me during an audition and said, ‘You need to know that you’re enough. Less makeup, more Meghan.'”
She went through a divorce
Following the divorce of Meghan Markle’s parents when she was young, Markle experienced an annulment of her own. Markle and ex-husband Trevor Engelson (pictured above) began dating in 2004. After a lengthy courtship, the couple eventually married in September 2011, with tabloids reporting that their nuptials included a four-day-long party in Jamaica, including bikinis, barbecue, and beach games.
Unfortunately for the newlyweds, her marriage to the producer corresponded with her landing her breakout role on the USA Network drama Suits, which filmed in Canada eight months out of the year. With Markle shooting in Toronto while Engelson stayed behind in Los Angeles, the distance allegedly contributed to the couple’s eventual divorce in 2013, considering the amount of time the duo spent apart. A report in Woman’s Day claimed that Markle and Engelson found maintaining a long-distance relationship to be challenging and that their marriage began to fall apart.
By August 2013, their relationship was over, and Markle and Engelson ended their marriage in a no-fault divorce. Markle may have ended her marriage by mail, according to claims by royals biographer Andrew Morton in his 2018 book Meghan, A Hollywood Princess. “A wealthy entrepreneur friend claimed the marriage ended so abruptly that Meghan sent Trevor her diamond wedding and engagement rings back by registered mail,” he wrote (via The Express), also claiming that Engelson angrily denied an interview request for the book, telling him about Markle, “I have zero to say about her.”
Her friends urged her not to date Harry
As an American, Meghan Markle has admitted that she didn’t grasp how the British media would treat her relationship with Prince Harry. Meghan has claimed that her British friends warned her against dating Harry, fearing the negative repercussions on her life. Speaking to ITV as part of the 2019 documentary Harry and Meghan: An African Journey, Meghan described, “When I first met my now-husband my friends were really happy because I was so happy, but my British friends said to me, “I’m sure he’s great but you shouldn’t do it because the British tabloids will destroy your life,” she said. “And I very naively [thought], ‘I’m American, we don’t have that there, what are you talking about, that doesn’t make any sense.'”
As Meghan would, unfortunately, come to realize, her British friends’ warnings about the tabloids would turn out to be accurate, with Meghan and Prince Harry struggling with negative press coverage. As she told ITV, she didn’t agree with the longstanding idea of British stoicism referred to as the “stiff upper lip.” “I’ve said for a long time … it’s not enough to just survive something, I think that’s not the point of life. You’ve got to thrive, you’ve got to feel happy, and I think I really tried to adopt this British sensibility of a stiff upper lip, but I think that what that does internally is probably really damaging.”
Did Meghan Markle feud with Kate Middleton?
In the years leading up to Prince Harry and Meghan Markle announcing they were stepping away from their royal duties in January 2020, Markle was dogged by rumors that she and her sister-in-law, Prince William’s wife Kate Middleton, were embroiled in a feud. Buzz continued to swirl years after Meghan and Prince Harry’s wedding in 2018, with Tatler reporting in 2020 that Meghan and Kate had an argument in the weeks leading up to Meghan’s wedding, insisting that her young bridesmaids, including Kate’s three-year-old daughter Charlotte, would not wear tights during the ceremony. “Kate is furious about the larger workload,” the Tatler article claimed, pointing to Harry and Meghan’s departure from their royal duties as a new source of stress on Kate. “Of course she’s smiling and dressing appropriately but she doesn’t want this. She feels exhausted and trapped.”
While the royals issued a statement shooting down the Tatler article as inaccurate, the story wasn’t the first time the press surmised about the bad blood between the wives of the British royal brothers, Prince William and Harry. In 2019, Us Weekly reported that Meghan and Kate had an unpleasant exchange over Christmastime 2018 about their frustrations with each other, with rumors following them throughout 2019 claiming that the friendly moments they shared in public were actually PR stunts, covering up their rocky relationship.
Meghan Markle suffered a miscarriage
In a heartbreaking op-ed in The New York Times, Meghan Markle revealed that she suffered a miscarriage in July 2020. While changing the diaper of her first child, Archie, the Duchess of Sussex wrote that she “felt a sharp cramp” and immediately knew something was wrong. “I dropped to the floor with him in my arms, humming a lullaby to keep us both calm, the cheerful tune a stark contrast to my sense that something was not right,” she wrote. “I knew, as I clutched my firstborn child, that I was losing my second.”
The former Suits actress leaned on the strength of her husband as they mourned together. “Sitting in a hospital bed, watching my husband’s heart break as he tried to hold the shattered pieces of mine, I realized that the only way to begin to heal is to first ask, ‘Are you OK?'” she wrote. The moment made Markle realize the power of what she called her “off-the-cuff” reply to an ITV reporter who asked a similar question in reference to her combative relationship with the press.
Markle further revealed that the essay was an effort to not only dispel the “taboo” surrounding miscarriage, but to also discuss the polarization and isolation that left most of the world “feeling more alone than ever” in 2020. In the grief we all share, she found hope: “For the first time, in a long time, as human beings, we are really seeing one another. Are we OK? We will be.”