Tuesday 22 October 2019

Meet Meghan Markle's family: The yoga teacher, the diplomat and the cannabis farmer

Britain's Prince Harry (L), his US fiancee Meghan Markle (C), and Britain's Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, attend a service of commemoration and thanksgiving to mark Anzac Day in Westminster Abbey in London on April 25, 2018
Britain's Prince Harry (L), his US fiancee Meghan Markle (C), and Britain's Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, attend a service of commemoration and thanksgiving to mark Anzac Day in Westminster Abbey in London on April 25, 2018

Harriet Alexander

Meghan Markle's family has taken the spotlight in the final days before her wedding, with her father revealing he no longer plans to attend the ceremony and her half-sister discussing allegedly-staged photos on Loose Women.

Meghan Markle's extended family has hit the headlines repeatedly over the past few months, with one newspaper describing it as a "motley collection of individuals who, between them, have a long record of boozing, bust-ups and bankruptcies".

Yet Meghan Markle is close to her "free-spirited" mother Dori Ragland – who is still expected to travel with Ms Markle to the church on Saturday – and her "thoughtful, inspiring" father, with the actress having written lovingly of her relationship with both her parents.

Here is a look at Britain's Prince Harry's future in-laws as Prince Harry and Ms Markle prepare to tie the knot in just a few days at St George's Chapel in Windsor Castle.

Doria Ragland, Meghan Markle's mother

Doria Ragland, 60, was born in Los Angeles to an antique dealer father and a mother who was a nurse.

She attended the Fairfax High School, where she was remembered as bright and friendly - the teenager with the "Afro" hairstyle who loved listening to Marvin Gaye and dining out at a local Mexican taco joint with friends.

After school she worked as a make-up artist, which is how she met her husband, Thomas Markle, a lighting director in Hollywood. The pair married in 1979 and Ms Markle was born two years later.

The family moved into a house in The Valley, LA, to a neighbourhood that Ms Markle described as "leafy and affordable".

Ms Ragland and Mr Markle divorced in 1987, but remained friends. Ms Ragland took a job as an air stewardess, meaning their daughter was frequently cared for by her father.

She later returned to university to obtain a masters in social work, following on from her BA in psychology.

She now lives in the house she inherited from her father in 2011 in the Crenshaw area of LA.

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Prince Harry's girlfriend Meghan Markle (right) is pictured with her mother Doria Ragland during the Invictus Games Closing Ceremony Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Canada

Ms Ragland and her daughter are extremely close - Ms Ragland once drove a car with the number plate MEGNME - and Ms Markle has spoken of her pride in her free-spirited mother, with her dreadlocks and nose ring.

Ms Ragland is due to travel with her daughter to the ceremony on Saturday, travelling from their overnight accommodation at Cliveden House Hotel to St George’s Chapel by car.

Thomas Markle, Meghan's father

Born in Pennsylvania, of Dutch-Irish descent, Thomas Markle Snr, 72, made his way to Hollywood where he worked as a lighting director.

He worked for many years on the set of the television show Married With Children, and his work on long-running series General Hospital earned him nine Daytime Emmy nominations, of which he was twice named the winner.

He was also reportedly chosen to oversee the lighting for the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics as well as the 1986 Oscar ceremony.

Prior to meeting Doria Ragland, he had been married to Roslyn, with whom he had two children - Samantha, now 52, and Thomas Jr, now 50.

Mr Markle and his daughter were very close, with the young Meghan accompanying him on film sets and being cared for by him while her mother was travelling as an air stewardess.

Since retiring, Mr Markle moved to Mexico. He was declared bankrupt in June 2016. Miss Markle has described her father as the "most hardworking father you can imagine".

Thomas Markle Jr on Channel 7's Sunday Night

He has not met Prince Harry, but has spoken to him on the phone and has given his blessing to the Prince asking for his daughter's hand in marriage.

Mr Markle was to meet the Royal family for the first time this week, however he has cancelled his plans to travel to the UK for the ceremony.

Thomas Markle, 73, said he would no longer be flying to Britain on Monday, after embarrassing disclosures about his alleged dealings with the paparazzi.

He also reportedly told the US showbusiness website TMZ that he had suffered a heart attack six days earlier, but had checked himself out of hospital and had been intending to travel for the ceremony on Saturday.

The wedding plans have since been called into question, as Mr Markle was to walk his daughter down the aisle on Saturday.

Meghan Markle’s uncles

Michael Markle

Of Thomas Markle Senior’s two brothers, the eldest, Michael, had a profound impact on her early life. The 78-year-old is a retired US diplomat and Air Force veteran who lives in Florida. His wife, Toni, died of cancer in 2012.

During his State Department career, he reportedly worked in Ottawa, Bucharest, Berlin and Guam, and when Meghan was 20 years old, she planned to follow in his footsteps with a potential career in diplomacy.

It was through Michael’s connections that Meghan was able to secure a prestigious at the American embassy in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

After enrolling at Northwestern University in Illinois, Spanish speaker Meghan travelled to Argentina for her senior year in 2003. She completed a double major in Theatre and International Relations.

"So I'm 20 years old, in Buenos Aires, in a motorcade, doing that whole thing. I thought for sure I would still have a career in politics,” she told Vogue a decade later.

In an interview with the Mirror earlier this year, Michael spoke of his role in the process.

“I knew the ambassador, and I asked him if he could help, as her application was a little on the late side,” he said. As a result, he was surprised not to be invited to his niece’s wedding. “I don’t understand why she has been so indifferent towards me. It’s uncalled for. I helped her out, and I didn’t ask for anything in return. This whole invitation thing has not been played out very well. I never did anything to embarrass Meghan. It seems to me they handled the arrangements poorly.”

Michael has a 58-year-old daughter, Trish Gallup,  who runs her own who runs her own chauffeur business.

Frederick Markle

Meghan’s other paternal uncle, Frederick, is a reclusive cleric who also lives in Florida. There, he leader and sole minister of the small Eastern Orthodox Catholic Church, reportedly going by the name Bishop Dismas.

According to the Daily Mail, Frederick lives in a secluded woodland property and “lives like a hermit”, shunning technology. He has refused to speak about his niece’s marriage, as have his two sons, Nick and David, and ex-wife Theresa.

Meghan Markle's siblings

Half-brother Thomas Markle Jr

The 50-year-old window fitter lives in Grant’s Pass, Oregon.

He said his family was “like The Dukes of Hazzard and The Simpsons, versus the Royal family” – but has spoken fondly of his half-sister, with whom he grew up in Los Angeles.

He was married for 11 years to Tracy Dooley, with whom he has two sons – Thomas and Tyler.

Thomas Markle Jr's mugshot

He was arrested in January for holding a gun to girlfriend Darlene Blount’s head in a drunken argument. Mr Markle and Miss Blount are now engaged.

Half-sister Samantha Grant

Samantha Grant, 52, lives in Florida and is a wheelchair user and suffers from multiple sclerosis.

She discussed the allegedly staged images of her father's on Loose Women on Monday, saying she was “entirely the culprit”, convincing her father that it would be to his advantage to show himself in a positive light.

“It was my suggestion that to benefit him and to benefit the Royal Family and that everyone looked good, and they depict you as you are,” she said.

She also caused a stir in April when she announced she was writing a book entitled The Diary of Princess Pushy’s Sister.

Despite not having spoken to her in nine years, Ms Grant lashed out at Ms Markle in numerous interviews. She since says she was misquoted.

The Dooleys

Ms Markle's sister-in-law Tracy Dooley, and her sons Tyler and TJ, are among the family members who have not been invited to the wedding.

Ms Dooley, who was married to the former actress's half-brother, was pictured arriving at Heathrow Airport this week. She has previously told ITV's Good Morning Britain she had not received an invitation to the ceremony at Windsor Castle on Saturday, admitting she had not seen Ms Markle for 20 years. The Dooleys announced on Facebook they had arrived in the capital.

Tyler, 25, who uploaded an image of the Imperial War Museum, as well as a photograph of the inside of a hotel room, is a cannabis farmer who considers himself a 'pioneer' in the legal production of the drug in California. He is reportedly keen to develop a new cannabis strain called 'Markle's Sparkle', in aid of his cousin's wedding.

The family are keen on the burgeoning industry. TJ, 26, reportedly gives marijuana to his dog for pain relief, while Tracy frequently sells advertising space to marijuana dispensaries.

On arriving in London, Ms Dooley posted on her Facebook page – called "Royal Wedding with the Dooley Markles" – that she hoped Ms Markle's father was "well, healthy and happy".  She wrote: "Just glad to have landed safely and hoping for Tom senior to be well, healthy, & happy. I wish the same for Meghan Prince Harry, my children, friends, family and those who need our prayers and love. Peace, love and good works."

In April, the page, which appears to be run by Ms Dooley, shared an article headlined "Meghan Markle snubs nephew and his mum with no invite to Royal wedding." It was accompanied with the caption: "Beyond blessed to be any part of this momentous occasion. We'll be front and center at Windsor cheering Meghan and Prince Harry on."

Trevor Engelson, Meghan's ex-husband

New York-born film and television producer Trevor Engelson, 41, was married to Ms Markle for two years, until 2013.

The pair married on the beach in Jamaica in 2011, tying the knot at the Jamaica Inn in Ocho Rios, in front of around 100 guests.

They are believed to have been dating for seven years before they married.

Their August 2013 divorce cited irreconcilable differences, and their work schedules - he is based in Los Angeles, while she began filming legal drama Suits in Toronto the year they married.

He is working on a show about a man whose wife runs off with a prince.


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