MEGHAN Markle’s family drama has all the makings of an episode of Jerry Springer.
In fact, the former Suits star’s dysfunctional relatives have no doubt been causing her some headaches since she became Prince Harry’s fiancee.
Of course, front and centre is her half-sister Samantha Grant, who conveniently changed her name back to Markle in recent months. She’s done the rounds of international media since news broke of the royal relationship — even appearing on A Current Affair last week — and providing a near-constant flow of (largely unflattering) information about Meghan to anyone who’ll listen. Samantha, who’s reportedly been estranged from her half-sister for years, is even spruiking a new book, The Diary Of Princess Pushy’s Sister.
Recently, another of Meghan’s relatives decided to make headlines, telling press that she delivered “a slap in the face” when he reached out to her recently.
According to Thomas Markle Jr, he sent his half-sister a letter congratulating her on her engagement, and apologising if his personal troubles had caused her any embarrassment.
Markle Jr was thrown in jail for two days after a drunken brawl with his fiancee Darlene Blount on New Year’s Eve. Last year, he was also arrested for brandishing a gun at his fiancee during another drunken fight.
According to him, Meghan never replied to his letter, and her lawyer told his lawyer that she had said: “That’s distant family and I don’t know those people.”
As far as dysfunctional families go, Meghan’s seems to be right up there — and it’s hard to keep track of who’s who. Here’s what we know about the Markles.
DORIA RAGLAND AND THOMAS MARKLE
Meghan’s parents, Doria Ragland and Thomas W. Markle, met on the set of soap opera General Hospital in the late 1970s and were married soon after.
“My dad was a lighting director for a soap opera and my mum was a temp at the studio,” Meghan wrote in a 2015 essay for Elle UK. “I like to think he was drawn to her sweet eyes and her Afro, plus their shared love of antiques.”
Thomas, who is of Dutch-Irish origin, worked on iconic soap operas for years, even winning two Emmys for his lighting skills.
Meghan was born in August, 1981 while the couple was living in Los Angeles. They divorced six years later and the child went to live with Doria, although she still spent time with her dad.
“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,” Meghan told Esquire in 2013. “There were a lot of times my dad would say, ‘Meg, why don’t you go and help with the craft services room over there? This is just a little off-colour for your 11-year-old eyes.’”
In a post shared in 2016 on her now-deleted Instagram account, Meghan gushed over her father.
“Happy Father’s Day, daddy. I’m still your buckaroo, and to this day your hugs are still the very best in the whole wide world,” the star wrote alongside a throwback photo of the two of them.
“Thanks for my work ethic, my love of Busby Berkeley films & club sandwiches, for teaching me the importance of handwritten thank you notes, and for giving me that signature Markle nose. I love you xo -Bean,” she added.
It’s understood Thomas now lives a quiet life in Mexico.
Meanwhile, Meghan is clearly incredibly tight with yoga instructor and social worker Doria, who was photographed hanging out with her daughter and Prince Harry in the VIP box at the Invictus Games in Canada last October.
Meghan once described her mother, who is African-American, as a “free-spirited clinical therapist”. According to the former TV star, her mother took her to visit slums in Jamaica and Mexico when she was just 10 years old in a bid to raise her as a global citizen.
And it seems Harry’s a big fan of Doria too.
In the couple’s official engagement interview last November, the prince described his future mother-in-law as “amazing”, and it’s been reported that he asked for her blessing before proposing to Meghan.
SAMANTHA (GRANT) MARKLE
Barely a week goes by when we don’t hear something from Meghan’s estranged older half-sister.
Samantha Grant, 53, shares a father with Meghan, and while it’s understood they spent time together while growing up, the pair has reportedly been estranged for years.
The former actor and model, who lives in Florida, has been divorced twice and has three children. She was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2008 and uses a wheelchair.
In 2016, she told the UK’s Mirror that her little sister is “shallow”, “narcissistic” and bent on “social climbing”.
In other interviews, she claimed: “Hollywood has changed her.”
“I think her ambition is to become a princess … The truth would kill her relationship with Prince Harry,” Samantha was quoted as saying.
Samantha offered up some insight into their early family life recently, after criticising Prince Harry for calling the royals “the family [Meghan] never had”.
“Actually she [Meghan] has a large family who were always there with her and for her,” she tweeted afterwards.
“Our household was very normal and when dad and Doria divorced, we all made it so it was like she had two houses.
“No one was estranged — she was just too busy.
“Meg’s family (our family) is complete with sister, brother, aunts, uncles, cousins, and the glue of our family, our amazing completely self-sacrificing father. She always had this family … Marrying merely extends it.
“She has a large family. She always did. Our dad is amazing and completely self-sacrificing. We made it so that she had two houses. How fun it was!”
Since then, Samantha has apologised to Meghan (via the press) for her regular criticisms and made it clear she’s still angling for an invitation to the royal wedding in May.
“I’d be lying to say that I wouldn’t be hurt if I didn’t get an invite but that’s really up to her.”
THOMAS MARKLE JR
Thomas Markle Jr, 50, is also the son of Thomas Markle, Meghan’s father. He’s a few years younger than his sister Samantha, with whom he’s reportedly also estranged.
Both Samantha and Thomas Jr were reportedly living with their father and little sister Meghan while he was married to Doria — up until the pair divorced in 1987.
Thomas Jr now has two children of his own — Meghan’s nephews — from a previous marriage which lasted 11 years. He lives in Oregon and works as a window fitter.
Thomas Jr has had a few run-ins with the law in recent years. In 2012, he was arrested for allegedly holding a gun to a woman’s head during a drunken argument.
More recently, he was thrown in jail for two days after a drunken brawl with his fiancee Darlene Blount on New Year’s Eve. Last year, he was also arrested for brandishing a gun at her during another drunken fight.
Thomas Jr hit out at Meghan this week for denying she knows him after he asked her for protection from the media.
“She said, ‘That’s distant family and I don’t know those people.’ That’s pretty harsh,” Thomas Jr told In Touch magazine.
But according to big sister Samantha, he hasn’t even spoken to Meghan since they were kids.
“They weren’t close. The last time Tom saw Meg they were 12,” she said.
She also revealed that Thomas Jr has a history of alcohol and substance abuse.
Meghan’s niece Noelle Rasmussen jumped to the future royal’s defence last year after her own mother criticised her.
The 19-year-old daughter of Samantha Grant is also not on speaking terms with her mum, who she claims is “abusive” and a “liar”.
In an interview, Noelle claimed her mother’s tell-all book, The Diary Of Princess Pushy’s Sister, would be fuelled by hate and her longstanding jealousy of her half-sister.
“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 told the Mail Online.
Noelle, an anthropology student based in Albuquerque, claimed her mother loathes Meghan, and has spent years telling the rest of their family about it.
She said: “When [Meghan] started dating Prince Harry, [Grant] got an interest in Meghan which she had never had before.
“She wanted to be nice, to be friends, to say how much she loves her sister — but after years of telling me and the rest of the family how much she hates Meghan, how much of a narcissist Meghan apparently is and what a horrible woman Meghan is, which isn’t true at all.
“ … She’s just completely bashed Meghan, said the most horrible things about her to the entire family, and just been completely jealous of her.
“She hasn’t shown her any type of love or appreciation unless she wants money. That’s it.”
According to Noelle, Meghan is a “very, very nice person”.
“She is very sweet, very genuine. She is nothing like my mother. She is actually the complete opposite — she is just a great, great woman.”
Ashleigh Hale, 31, is the other daughter of Samantha Grant, and is said to have been the inspiration behind her aunt Meghan’s character on legal drama Suits.
As a child, Ashleigh was reportedly brought up by her grandparents, along with her brother Christopher, because of personal problems their mother was dealing with at the time.
Before she deleted her social media, Meghan posted photos of herself with Ashleigh, alongside sweet captions praising her pro bono legal work.
In one Twitter post, Meghan promoted Ashleigh’s role with a non-profit organisation called Gray Haven, set up to fight the trafficking of vulnerable adults and children.
She wrote: “Please help victims of human trafficking! Support @thegrayhaven (my niece, Ash, does pro bono work for them!)”
It was accompanied by a photo of Meghan and Ashleigh in the back seat of a car.
In another post, back in 2012, Meghan shared a picture of a bouquet sent to her by Ashleigh.
“The most beautiful flowers from my niece, Ash. xoxo,” she said in the caption.
Last year, before news of Harry and Meghan’s engagement broke and she quit Suits, a source told UK publication Express that the pair have remained close over the years, and catch up whenever they can.
“Meghan has spoken to her about what it’s like to work at a law firm. And if Meghan does marry Prince Harry then Ashleigh will definitely have a starring role in the ceremony.”