The former Meghan Markle’s family dramas are expected to take center stage on March 7, 2021, when she sits down for a major interview with talk show host Oprah Winfrey.
Indeed, when you boil it all down the only family member – on either her side or Prince Harry’s – that the Duchess of Sussex is said to get along with is her mother, Doria Ragland.
She’s too distant from her mother’s extended family to have invited them to the wedding. Her famously toxic relationship with her half-siblings on her father’s side – who have trashed her in the press – is well-known. Her relationship with her father is completely estranged, and she’s expected to address it to Winfrey.
And now her relationship – and Harry’s relationship – with his family, the Royal Family, seems broken beyond repair.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Meghan’s Mom, Doria Ragland, Is a Social Worker With Whom She Remains Close
The one positive family relationship Meghan seems to have is with her mom, Doria Ragland.
Meghan Markle’s mother is a yoga instructor and social worker. Doria Ragland met with Queen Elizabeth II and her husband, Prince Philip, the day before the Royal Wedding. She has also met with other members of the Royal Family, including Prince Charles and Prince William. Judging from photos that emerged after the tea, the meeting with Elizabeth II went well:
It was widely believed an engagement was imminent after Doria joined Meghan and Prince Harry in a private box to watch the Invictus Games.
First picture of Prince Harry, Meghan Markle and her mother Doria together – courtesy of top Daily Mail photographer Mark Large pic.twitter.com/7tp211ilhY
— Rebecca English (@RE_DailyMail) October 1, 2017
In 2016, Meghan wrote a tribute to her mom on Instagram, complete with a photo of her mother in a graduation cap and gown. She has spoken about their close relationship. “Always proud of this beautiful woman,” she wrote on Mother’s Day. “This was when she graduated from USC with a masters in social work. Honoring my mom, Doria, and all the amazing mamas in our lives.”
Doria’s Facebook page says she works in social work at Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services in California. She says she went to Fairfax High School and lives in Los Angeles. She is friends on Facebook with “Meghan Markle Engelson,” which was Meghan’s married name (Meghan Markle is divorced from Trevor Engelson). On another mother’s day, Meghan referred to her mother on Instagram as her “hot mama.” However, she has since quit the job.
2. Meghan’s Parents Divorced When She Was a Young Child & Her Relationship With Her Dad Is Currently Not Existent
Meghan is the daughter of divorced parents: Meghan’s parents divorced when she was six, according to UK Daily Mail. She is no longer speaking with her father.
Their relationship broke down when Thomas Markle posed for paparazzi pictures leading up to the wedding. When outed, he then suffered a heart attack and could not attend. He says their relationship ended when Meghan wrote him a letter that he perceived as an attack on him; she sued a British tabloid for publishing part of it. In addition, Thomas Markle’s children with another marriage have trashed Meghan in vitriolic terms in the news media.
Meghan has written openly about what it is like being bi-racial, especially growing up. Her mother is black, and her father is white. She penned a moving essay for Elle Magazine, which includes many anecdotes about her parents. The article discusses “creating her identity and finding her voice as a mixed race woman.”
In the article, Meghan explains how people repeatedly inquire “where she is from,” when she knows what they are really after: “My dad is Caucasian and my mom is African American. I’m half black and half white.”
She eloquently wrote, “Being biracial paints a blurred line that is equal parts staggering and illuminating.” However, the essay is uplifting. She concludes, “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. To say who I am, to share where I’m from, to voice my pride in being a strong, confident mixed-race woman.”
You can read the full Elle essay here.
3. Meghan’s Dad Worked on Soap Operas in Hollywood
— Katapult Enterprises (@KatapultEnt) May 19, 2018
Tom Markle is currently retired and living in Mexico. He once had a career in Hollywood, however.
According to the Sun, Tom Markle, Meghan’s dad, “is of Dutch-Irish origin, and was born in 1945. Thomas is a former television lighting director working on iconic US shows including Married with Children and General Hospital.” The Sun adds, “In 2011 he won a Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Achievement in Lighting Direction for a Drama Series for his work on General Hospital, a long-running US soap. He was married to Meghan’s mother, Doria Ragland, in 1979 – but they divorced in 1988.”
Meghan wrote about her childhood in an essay in Elle Magazine. In it, she says that her parents met in the late Seventies when her father “was a lighting director for a soap opera and my mom was a temp at the studio. I like to think he was drawn to her sweet eyes and her Afro, plus their shared love of antiques. Whatever it was, they married and had me.”
They moved to a non-diverse area of LA, where Meghan laments that her mother would be mistaken for the nanny, according to Elle Magazine. Meghan “spent time on film sets as a child because her father Thomas was a lighting director on the series Married with Children and General Hospital,” reports UK Express.
She has described her father as the “most hardworking father you can imagine” and said, “My father was the lighting director on two television shows as I was growing up,” UK Express reports.
According to UK Daily Mail, both of Meghan’s parents have filed for bankruptcy; her mother in 2002 “over a $52,750 credit card bill.” Her father is a lighting director thought to be in Mexico, reports Daily Mail.
The situation with Tom Markle certainly turned into a soap opera. Meghan’s father admitted that he staged photos of himself doing things like looking at photos of Meghan and Harry in an Internet cafe in Mexico, where he lives. Then, when a furor erupted, he said he’d had a heart attack and wouldn’t want to embarrass the Royal Family, so he wasn’t walking Meghan down the aisle. Then he told TMZ that he wanted to walk her down the aisle. Finally, he told the entertainment site that he was undergoing heart surgery and couldn’t walk her down the aisle at all, at which time Prince Charles said he was stepping in to do the honor.
4. Meghan’s Half Siblings Have Trashed Her in the Press
Meghan’s half sister Samantha Grant (Samantha Markle) has been the most outspoken in her hateful commentary against her sister.
Samantha is Tom Markle’s daughter through his first marriage; she has criticized Meghan relentlessly in the press, accusing Meghan of mistreating their father, UK Daily Mail reports. The half-sister, Samantha Grant, is the product of Thomas Markle’s first marriage to Roslyn Markle, and is considerably older than Meghan.
Samantha Grant called Meghan “narcissistic and selfish,” UK Daily Mail reports. According to The Sun, Grant is planning a tell-all book on the family. “Mum-of-three Samantha Grant, also known as Samantha Markle, is a 52-year-old former actress and model, who lives in Florida, US,” the site reports. She is in a wheelchair because of multiple sclerosis, the site reports.
Grant accused Meghan of not supporting her family and being overly ambitious, supposedly changing once she found success in Hollywood. “Samantha Grant doesn’t have a relationship with Meghan Markle and she never has. As they were 17 years apart, they were never raised in the same house. Meghan was raised an only child by her loving parents,” a source told E! News in April. It is widely believed that Markle Grant is coming out of the woodwork in an effort to capitalize on her sister’s fame.
— Just Hollywood (@justhollywood2) January 18, 2017
Meghan also has a half brother, Thomas Markle Jr., who has defended Meghan, and then trashed her, according to UK Daily Mail. Grant’s mother, Rosyln, also defended Meghan and told The Daily Mail that Grant once referred to Meghan’s mother as the “maid” because she was black. Tom Markle Jr. wrote a nasty letter to Harry urging him not to marry his sister and sharply criticizing her. He has accused her recently of changing and acting like a bully.
Thomas Markle Jr. rwas accused of a “drunken altercation with his girlfriend.”
UK Express reported in January 2017 that “Thomas Markle Jr, 50, has been charged with menacing, pointing a firearm at someone and unlawful use of a weapon, according to police.” The site notes, “Thomas Jr is a window fitter who lives in Grants Pass with his girlfriend Darlene Blout, 36. His sons – Tyler, 27, and Thomas Dooley, 25, also live nearby.”
The ex-wife of Meghan’s half brother, Tracy Dooley, said in an interview that Thomas Jr. was “happy and proud” of Meghan, adding, “They used to be very close but there has been some separation over the years. The last thing he would want to do is hurt her.”
5. Meghan’s Mother Has Half Siblings
Doria’s mother was named Jeannette Johnson, an insurance company secretary. She was Doria’s father Alvin Ragland’s first wife and died in 2000 at age 71. Alvin’s second wife was named Ava Burrow Ragland. According to WRCB, she was “a kindergarten teacher for Hamilton County schools at Normal Park and Woodmore Elementary from 1991-1993.” Ava was 29 and Alvin 53 when they married, Daily Mail reported.
Ava Burrow’s Facebook page says she is a teacher at Morongo Band of Mission Indians, “studied Art and Education at uci/msu,” went to Notre Dame Academy in Los Angeles, is divorced, and lives in Indio, California. She is from Los Angeles.
The UK Daily Mail hired a genealogist, Elizabeth Banas, to conduct extensive research into Meghan’s family history and found that her mother’s side is also mixed race. The British news site reported that Ava Burrow “is still alive” and “worked for Hamilton County Schools in Tennessee before they moved to California.”
According to Sky News, Doria Ragland has three siblings, a half brother named Joseph Johnson, a sister named Saundra Johnson, and a half-brother, Alvin Joffrey Ragland, who was the child of Ava Burrow and Alvin Ragland Sr.
Joseph Johnson and Saundra Johnson are the children of Jeannette and her first husband, also named Joseph Johnson. Jeannette divorced twice.
“We’re not invited unless our invitation got lost in the mail,” Joseph Johnson, 68, told Daily Mail. Saundra Johnson declined to comment.
Joseph Johnson spoke to Daily Mail, which revealed that Meghan was a bridesmaid at her aunt Saundra’s wedding. “She was always a special child, so happy,” Joseph Johnson told the British news site. “Right from the start it was clear she was special and had a magical quality about her. She always had a happy demeanor.” Daily Mail also ran a slew of family photos along with its interview with Joseph Johnson.
“Meghan was raised in a household of strong women because there were no men on the scene,” Joseph Johnson told Daily Mail. Meghan also has cousins through her mother’s side of the family.