In Depth

Meghan Markle: 17 things you didn’t know about the Duchess of Sussex

From working on Deal or No Deal to being an expert calligrapher, the actor is a jack of many trades

Meghan Markle has used her new-found status to ensure the survival of a communal kitchen in west London, helping women affected by the Grenfell Tower fire.

The Duchess of Sussex, who tied the knot with Prince Harry in May, has been “making low-key visits” to the Hubb Community Kitchen for months, reports The Independent. Thanks to her involvement, it will now be able to stay open seven days a week.

Her support has enabled the kitchen to release a cookbook, Together: Our Community Cookbook, containing recipes inspired by dishes from across Europe, the Middle East, North Africa and the eastern Mediterranean, with a foreword written by Markle herself.

It is the 37-year-old's first solo project since becoming a member of the royal family, but follows a long history of charitable work.

Laying out her statement of intent, the official royal family website details Markle's goodwill work and achievements, and highlights her quote from the 2015 United Nations conference in New York: “I am proud to be a woman and a feminist.”

With her wedding to Prince Harry described as the most diverse in royal history, including a gospel choir and a passionate sermon from American bishop Michael Curry on justice and inclusion, it appears the actor-turned-duchess is determined to shake-up the centuries-old institution.

But what else do we know about the American who stole the prince’s heart?

She was baptised by the Archbishop of Canterbury

Markle was reportedly baptised by the Archbishop of Canterbury at the Chapel Royal at St James’s Palace on Tuesday 6 March. Markle is said to have been baptised at the royal family font, using holy water from the River Jordan.

The ceremony, which “formally introduces the divorced American actress to the Anglican church”, says The Daily Telegraph, was attended by her fiance Prince Harry, Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall. Neither Prince William nor the Queen were present.

The Daily Mail reported that her baptism was followed by her confirmation, which means she can join Prince Harry at Holy Communion if she wishes. Markle attended a Catholic school in Los Angeles but identifies as a Protestant.

“Miss Markle did not need to become an Anglican in order to marry Harry in church,” adds the Daily Mail. “But at the time of their engagement last November she made clear she had chosen to be baptised and confirmed out of respect for the Queen’s role as the head of the Church of England.”

She lived in Canada

Despite being born and raised in Los Angeles, Markle lived north of the border. Following the success of Suits, she relocated to Toronto, where the show is filmed, and made herself at home.

Humanitarian charity World Vision Canada named her their global ambassador and she even appeared on Instagram enjoying the great Canadian pastime – watching an ice hockey game.

It was in Toronto that Markle and Prince Harry appear to have first hit it off, during the royal’s visit to promote the Invictus Games.

She is of African-American and Dutch-Irish descent

Markle’s father, Tom, who is of Dutch and Irish descent, met her African-American mother when they were working on the set of a soap opera in the 1970s. Tom Markle later worked as a lighting director on 1990s sitcom Married…With Children, while her mother became a yoga instructor.

“While my mixed heritage may have created a grey area surrounding my self-identification, keeping me with a foot on both sides of the fence, I have come to embrace that,” Markle wrote for Elle.   

She founded The Tig

Before entering the world of British royalty, Meghan ran a lifestyle blog known as The Tig, a name derived from Tignanello red wine.

The site described itself as “a hub for the discerning palate – those with a hunger for food, travel, fashion & beauty”, adding that it was “founded by Meghan Markle, a Los Angeles native, with a love of farm to table dining, off the beaten path travel, style and timeless allure”.

She closed down the blog last year, saying: “After close to three beautiful years on this adventure with you, it's time to say goodbye to The Tig.

“What began as a passion project (my little engine that could) evolved into an amazing community of inspiration, support, fun and frivolity.

“You've made my days brighter and filled this experience with so much joy. Keep finding those Tig moments of discovery, keep laughing and taking risks, and keep being the change you wish to see in the world.”

In January 2018, she deleted her remaining social media accounts, including Instagram and Twitter, as per royal protocol. However, she joins Prince William, Kate Middleton and Prince Harry on the Kensington Palace social media accounts, which include Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

She loves dogs

Markle has two rescue dogs, a beagle named Guy and a labrador-shepherd mix called Bogart, and refers to them as “my loves” and “my boys”.

Her love for dogs helped her settle into the royal family, with the Queen’s corgis taking a shine to her when she first met the monarch. Markle said they were “laying on my feet during tea, it was very sweet”.

She is an expert calligrapher

Many Hollywood actors have anecdotes about time spent waiting on tables while searching for their big break, but Markle had a more unusual talent to get her through the lean years – her handwriting.

While trying to break into acting, she worked as a freelance calligrapher and counted Dolce & Gabbana among her clients. Markle told Esquire she attributes her talent to six years at a Catholic school, “when kids actually had handwriting class”.

She met Harry on a blind date

Meghan and Harry met through a mutual friend, who set them up on a blind date in London. In an interview with the BBC’s Mishal Husain, the pair admitted they didn’t know much about each other until they met.

“I was beautifully surprised when I walked into that room and saw her... I thought, I am really going to have to up my game here and make sure I’ve got a good chat,” said the prince.

It must have worked, as within a few weeks the couple were camping under the stars in Botswana together.

The royal said it was “hugely refreshing” to get to know someone who wasn’t in his circle of acquaintances, while Meghan said: “Everything that I have learned about him, I learned through him as opposed to having grown up around different news stories or tabloids, whatever else. Anything I learned about him and his family was what he would share with me, and vice versa. So for both of us it was a very authentic and organic way to get to know each other.”

She has been married before

Markle was previously married to LA production company manager Trevor Engleson, tying the knot in a Jamaican beach wedding in September 2011, after more than seven years of dating. However, just short of two years later, it was all over - the pair were reported to have separated in August 2013.

Since her divorce, Markle has been linked with Northern Irish golfer Rory McIlroy and Canadian celebrity chef Cory Vitiello, before rumours about Prince Harry started to fly.

She was a ‘briefcase girl’

The UK’s Deal or No Deal might have Noel Edmonds, but America’s version of the game show has Howie Mandel and 26 glamorous models who bring out boxes offering up to $1m. In 2006, Markle was in the line-up, responsible for holding box number 24.

The job as a “briefcase girl” came after Markle had gone to college and worked in the public affairs department of the US embassy in Buenos Aires, Argentina. She says she would therefore put it in the “category of things I was doing while I was auditioning to try to make ends meet”. It was a “learning experience”, she told Esquire magazine: “It helped me to understand what I would rather be doing.”

Markle recalled that for some reason her box was never chosen by contestants. “I would end up standing up there forever in these terribly uncomfortable and inexpensive five-inch heels just waiting for someone to pick my number so I could go and sit down,” she said.

She was too poor to fix her car

In an interview on Entertainment Tonight, Markle revealed there was once a time when she was so strapped for cash she couldn’t afford to fix her “beat up, hand-me-down Ford Explorer Sport”.

Its doors were jammed shut, she said, so she spent months clambering through the boot and over the seats to the front.

“The clicker wouldn’t open the front doors and I couldn’t afford to fix this car and this was how I got from one audition to the other,” she added. “So what I would start to do is literally go to these auditions, park at the back of the parking lot and I would open my trunk… and crawl into the back of my car to the front seat to drive off to my next audition.”

Markle said the Ford Explorer sounded like a “steamboat engine” when she started it up and that her licence plate was tied to the bumper with a bungee cord.

She wrote to Hillary Clinton at the age of 11

Like Harry, Markle spends a lot of her spare time on humanitarian work and is particularly passionate about women’s rights. In 2014, she spoke about gender equality at the annual conference of One Young World, but her interest in social issues goes back much further.

Aged 11, the actor launched a one-girl campaign against a sexist soap advert, writing to then first lady Hillary Clinton to voice her objections.

“I saw this ad for dish soap powder that said, ‘Women all over America are fighting greasy pots and pans,’” Markle told the Daily Mail’s Piers Morgan. “I was so angry. So I wrote to all sorts of people including Hillary Clinton and the soap’s manufacturer… It worked. They altered the wording from ‘women’ to ‘people’.”

Charity is more important to her than acting

When forced to choose between her meet-and-greet duties as a Hollywood star and her altruistic interests, Markle says she always chooses the latter.

“I’ve never wanted to be a lady who lunches,” she wrote in a blog post. “I’ve always wanted to be a woman who works. And this type of work is what feeds my soul, and fuels my purpose. The degree to which I can do that both on and off camera is a direct perk of my job.”

Balancing the two is not always easy. Markle once attended a glamorous Bafta ceremony immediately after meeting "grassroots female leadership" in the Gihembe refugee camp in Rwanda on behalf of UN Women.

“While my two worlds can coexist, I’ve learned that for me, being able to keep a foot in both is a delicate balance – because while they are not mutually exclusive, guiding my heart though the swinging pendulum from excess to lack of access is sometimes challenging,” she said.

Her social awareness was sparked by the LA riots

Markle was 11-years-old when the 1992 riots broke out in Los Angeles. They stemmed from the acquittal of four white police officers over the savage beating of a black motorist, Rodney King, in 1991.

Five days of chaos rocked the Californian city, leaving more than 50 people dead, thousands injured and more than 1,000 buildings destroyed or damaged. A state of emergency was declared and dusk-to-dawn curfews were enforced from 30 April to 4 May 1992.

“Markle thinks her social awareness began during the South-Central riots,” says Vanity Fair. She told the magazine how she was sent home early from school because of the riots and mistook the ash from street fires for snow.

Just a few years later in the wake of the King case, Markle recalls in her essay for Elle, her mother was “called the ‘N’ word” by an impatient driver. “I shared my mom's heartache, but I wanted us to be safe,” she writes. “We drove home in deafening silence, her chocolate knuckles pale from gripping the wheel so tightly.”

She backs the #MeToo movement

Markle is a long-time supporter of women’s and girls’ rights, and has recently stressed “how important it is to strengthen campaigns like Time’s Up and #MeToo”.

Women “don’t need to find a voice. They have a voice,” Markle told the first annual forum for the Royal Foundation, the philanthropic organisation currently run by Prince William, the Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry. “They need to feel empowered to use it, and people need to be encouraged to listen.”

“We’re seeing so many campaigns - #MeToo, and Time’s Up. There is no better time than to really continue to shine a light on women feeling empowered and people really helping to support them, men included in that,” Markle added. “It makes such a tremendous difference.”

She has expensive taste

As you would expect with one of the most famous women in the world, fashion’s biggest names have been falling over themselves to design outfits for the new duchess.

According to one royal expert, the sum total of the the 36-year-old’s royal wardrobe since she tied the knot in May doesn’t come cheap.

From her Givenchy wedding gown and Oscar de la Renta maxi, to Prada shirts and Goat dress, author Katie Nicholl has told Entertainment Tonight that Meghan’s outfits since saying “I do” to Prince Harry are worth upwards of £750,000.

Yet if dressing to impress is part of the job of being a royal, it is also big business for fashion brands.

Meghan only has to step out with an outfit or accessory from a certain designer - be it Hiut, Strathberry or Marks & Spencer - “and sparks a frenzied shopping spree across the world causing fashion houses to sell out of stock in minutes”, says Elle.

As a result, “Meghan's choice of designer garments isn't only fashion savvy but a major business boon for retailers”, the magazine says.

But while the fashion haul may seem a lot, Nicholl is quick to point out that Meghan’s expensive wardrobe is part of the job of being a royal.

“Meghan is now an ambassador for the royal family. Look at the publicity she has brought in the run-up to the wedding. I'd argue that it's worth every penny,” she added.

Harry is her ‘surprise stylist’

The new Duchess of Sussex is already known the world over for her fashion sense, but according to a new report, Prince Harry might have more to do with Meghan's style than anyone previously realised.

The Daily Mail says Harry has been advising Meghan about her royal engagement outfits, as she transitions into the family. Apparently, “she often looks to her new husband for advice on what to wear to official engagements”, the paper said.

“The joke is that Harry is Meghan’s surprise stylist,” a source told the Daily Mail.

“He gives his views on what he thinks looks best, rather than helping her follow royal protocol on hemlines or anything like that.”

Meanwhile, a source revealed that Stella McCartney, who designed the white halter-neck dress Meghan wore to her wedding reception in May, is “working on a few more outfits” for the 36-year-old.

“Harry always comes to design meetings and fittings to give his opinions on the looks,” a source said, according to the New York Post.

“Meghan is always asking Harry’s opinion. She really wants his views.”

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