When Kate Middleton married Prince William in 2011, a tremendous portion of the media attention wasn’t on Kate at all. It was focused on Kate’s younger sister, Pippa Middleton, and her extended family. The same phenomenon holds true for Meghan Markle, the Suits actress-turned-royal set to marry Prince Harry on May 19. With the announcement of their engagement, every detail of Markle’s past is magically interesting to the general public — including her family background.
Certain members of Markle’s extended family have been trying to steal Markle’s spotlight, especially after the royal wedding invitations were sent out – and they discovered they weren’t on the guest list. Markle’s older half-sister, Samantha Grant, has openly criticized Markle and Prince Harry for not inviting her and other family members to the wedding ceremony. “At issue is not a matter of closeness as more than 1000 complete strangers are invited. Family is family,” she tweeted. “Out of respect, tradition, and humanitarianism, the Markles should be invited.”
So, who are these people? How are they related to Markle? Why aren't they invited to the wedding? According to Meghan: An American Princess by Andrew Morton, Markle hasn't seen her father's branch of the family, including Samantha, since 2011. Let’s go through the Markle family tree, and figure out the various degrees of estrangement. But first, a random fact: According to Andrew Morton’s biography, one of Markle’s distant relatives, Mary Bird, may have worked in Windsor Castle for Queen Victoria. She was playing the long game.
The Mom: Doria Ragland
Unlike most of Markle’s extended family, Doria Ragland is someone who will definitely be invited to the wedding. After all — she’s the momma and has a pet name for Markle, her only child. According to Markle’s now-shuttered lifestyle blog, Ragland calls her “Flower.” The wedding won’t be Ragland’s first introduction to royalty, either. Ragland met Harry back in September at the Invictus Games.
Doria and Meghan’s father, Tom Markle, separated when Markle was 2, and divorced when Markle was 6. Following the separation, Markle lived with Doria full-time. By all accounts, it seems Doria and her daughter have a very close relationship. "We can just have so much fun together, and yet I'll still find so much solace in her support," Markle said of her mother in Glamour in August. "That duality coexists the same way it would in a best friend."
Markle credits Ragland with instilling in her the drive to do humanitarian work and give back. Ragland, a clinical therapist and yoga instructor, took her daughter traveling when she was young.
“My mother raised me to be a global citizen, with eyes open to sometimes harsh realities. I must have been about 10 years old when we visited the slums of Jamaica. I had never seen poverty at that level and it registered in my glazed brown eyes. 'Don’t look scared, Flower,'” she said. “'Be aware, but don’t be afraid,'” Markle wrote in a post on The Tig.
The Dad: Thomas Markle
Markle’s parents, Doria Ragland and Thomas Markle, met on the set of General Hospital. Ragland was training to be a makeup artist, and Thomas worked as a lightning technician and cinematographer. Thomas was 12 years Ragland’s senior. They were married in 1979, and Rachel Meghan Markle was born in 1981.
By that point, Thomas had already been married. He met his first wife, Roslyn Loveless, when he was 19 and she was 18; they married the following year. Thomas and Loveless had two children: Yvonne, who now goes by Samantha, and Thomas Junior.
Following the divorce, Thomas continued to work as a lightning designer and cinematographer on TV shows. He was even nominated for an Emmy. Markle described her early exposure to the Hollywood world she’d soon enter into on her blog, The Tig: “There I was, behind the scenes of a glossy soap opera and a TV sitcom, surrounded by famous actors and their glam teams, multi-million dollar budgets, and crew lunches that always included filet mignon and enough sweets to make you think you were at Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory.”
Markle saw her father regularly after the divorce. Currently, Thomas lives in Mexico. He hasn’t met Harry yet, but he will likely be attending the wedding. “I know how proud he will be to take her arm and walk her down that aisle,” said Thomas Junior, Thomas’ son, in Meghan: An American Princess. “But I also know how terrified he will be. If he doesn’t go he will regret it for the rest of his life. He is not just representing his family, he is representing America.”
The Half-Sister: Samantha Grant
As we mentioned, Samantha Grant, a 52-year-old writer and health counselor based in Florida, has been vocally critical of Markle, her sister 17 years her junior. Grant’s first media appearance arrived in November 2016, soon after Markle and Harry began dating. She called Markle a “shallow social climber.” Grant also claimed that Markle hadn’t spoken to her since her diagnosis of multiple sclerosis in 2008. Grant is planning to release a book, The Diary of Princess Pushy’s Sister with more details about growing up with Markle.
In his biography of Markle, Andrew Morton explained that Samantha and Markle grew apart significantly as adults — and had never been close as kids. “Meghan wanted nothing to do with her,” Morton wrote. Trouble arose when, soon before the engagement, Tom Markle gave Markle’s new phone number to Samantha. Apparently, Samantha sent Markle a text about resuming their relationship. Markle was livid. Doria demanded Tom never give out their daughter’s cell phone number again.
Grant’s 18-year-old daughter, Noel Rasmussen, told the Daily Mail not to take her mother’s comments about Markle at face value. "You can essentially write a book full of lies but it's not a tell all. It's literally just going to be her versions, her ramblings, of things that have happened. None of it is going to be true,” she said of the book.
The Half-Brother: Thomas Markle Junior
Like Samantha, Thomas is significantly older than Markle. He was 14 years old when she was born. The last time Markle saw Thomas Junior — or any member of the Markle side of the family — was at her grandmother’s funeral in 2011.
On March 26, Thomas Junior's son, Tyler Dooley, and his ex-wife, Tracy, went on Good Morning Britain to speak about their chances of attending the wedding. “Chances are, I don’t think that we are going to get the invitations and that’s just fine. We’re okay with that. But we’re supporting her on and just having a good time, so proud of her,” Dooley said. Instead of attending the wedding, Dooley is developing a marijuana strain for the royal wedding.