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‘Unusually Compassionate’: How Meghan Markle’s Unique Early Life Has Prepared Her for Motherhood

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Before she was the Duchess of Sussex or even a famous actress, Meghan Markle was just a young girl growing up in Los Angeles. From the moment it was revealed that she and Prince Harry were dating, people all around the world clamored for more details about the soon-to-be royal and her early life. How old is Meghan Markle? What’s Meghan Markle’s mother like? Where can you find photos of baby Meghan Markle? And now that Meghan’s pregnant and expecting her first child with Prince Harry, we can’t help but wonder how her background and upbringing will influence the type of parents Meghan and Harry will be. 

Meghan Markle As a Kid

There’s still a lot we don’t know about Meghan Markle — and may never know, now that she’s a member of the tight-lipped British royal family. But from past interviews and old posts on her now-deleted Instagram and website, The Tig, we can piece together certain passages of Meghan Markle’s early life.

On August 4, 1981, at 4:46 a.m., Meghan made her royal entrance at West Park Hospital in Canoga Park, a neighborhood in Los Angeles. Meghan Markle’s mother, Doria Ragland, and father, Thomas Markle, had been married just a few years after first meeting in the late ’70s. Back then, Thomas was working as a lighting director for General Hospital, and Doria was a temp at the studio. 

After Meghan was born, she lived with her parents in The Valley — aka San Fernando Valley — a popular section of Los Angeles. In a 2015 essay for Elle, Meghan writes about grappling with her racial identity in her culturally homogeneous neighborhood. “There was my mom, caramel in complexion with her light-skinned baby in tow, being asked where my mother was since they assumed she was the nanny.” 

Meghan Markle’s Baby Pictures With Her Mother

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Baby Meghan and Mum Doria #thetig #meghanmarkle

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Meghan Markle’s Family Picture as a Baby

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Though she writes about her initial confusion about what ethnicity to tick off on a mandatory census, her parents helped her “find [her] own truth” and fostered a lifelong confidence that’s evident today. All in all, Meghan’s childhood was generally happy — as evidenced by the ear-to-ear smiles in all of the Meghan Markle baby photos we’ve seen. 

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Meghan’s parents divorced when she was six years old, and Meghan went to live with her mother. As a young girl, the future Duchess of Sussex made headlines when she was 11 years old for writing a letter to Procter & Gamble criticizing its Ivory dish soap commercial because of the sexist undertones of its tagline: “Women all over America are fighting greasy pots and pans.” 

The duchess recounted the pivotal moment in a 2015 speech she gave on International Women’s Day, saying it was her father who encouraged her to write the letter to not only Procter & Gamble, but also influential and powerful people, like Hillary Clinton, lawyer Gloria Allred, and journalist Linda Ellerbee. After Meghan’s letter, Procter & Gamble eventually changed the tagline from “women all over America” to “people all over America.”

As a student at Immaculate Heart High School, an all-girls Catholic school in Los Angeles, Meghan made an impression as a “unusually compassionate person,” according to her former teacher, Maria Pollia. When she was 13, Meghan said she volunteered at a soup kitchen on Skid Row in Los Angeles, an area of the city that has a reputation for being dangerous. “I was young, and it was rough and raw down there, and though I was with a great volunteer group, I just felt overwhelmed,” she said during an interview for the book The Game Changers: Success Secrets From Inspirational Women Changing the Game and Influencing the World

It wasn’t until Meghan’s instructor, Mrs. Pollia, told the class about her own experiences volunteering at soup kitchens on Skid Row that Meghan felt inspired to go back. “Megan approached me after class and said, ‘You know, when I was about 13 I volunteered at a kitchen on Skid Row and I was really scared,” Pollia recalled Meghan saying. “But I really, really, really want to go back. How did you do it? How do you go there?” 

Eventually, Meghan became something of a regular at the soup kitchen, returning for her entire junior and senior year. “She created relationships with the people who were at the kitchen because she would come back,” Pollia remembered. “She used to come back and talk to me and catch me up on how was Betty, how was Joe, how was his dog. [Meghan] knew everyone’s name. She knew everyone’s story. And that is what gave her joy, is really connecting with people.”

Meghan attended Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, after graduation, earning a bachelor’s degree in theater and international studies. After college, Meghan landed small roles in TV shows like General Hospital and CSI: NY. She also famously held briefcase #24 on the game show Deal or No Deal. However, it was her role in the USA show Suits that garnered her the most attention pre-Prince Harry. From 2011 to 2018, she she starred as the paralegal Rachel Zane — a role the real Meghan is immensely proud of.

“In making a choice like that [to have a biracial woman play the dream girl], the Suits producers helped shift the way pop culture defines beauty,” Meghan wrote in her piece for Elle. “The choices made in these rooms trickle into how viewers see the world, whether they’re aware of it or not. Some households may never have had a black person in their house as a guest, or someone biracial. Well, now there are a lot of us on your TV and in your home with you. And with Suits, specifically, you have Rachel Zane. I couldn’t be prouder of that.”

It was during her stint as Rachel that Meghan was introduced to her future husband. Though it remains unclear how exactly Meghan and Prince Harry first met (there are unconfirmed rumors that they were set up by a mutual friend), one thing’s for sure: the happily married couple couldn’t look more in love. 

As we await the royal announcement of the birth of Meghan and Harry’s baby, we just know the pair will make wonderful parents. Meghan’s kind and caring personality, coupled with her determination to stand up for what’s right and to always fight for the little guy reminds us so much of Princess Diana. And Harry’s underrated ability to easily relate to children will ensure his child always has someone to confide in. In other words, the newest royal baby (and hopefully many royal babies to come) will have some excellent role models.

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