Meghan Markle's family: The diplomat uncle, the yoga teacher mother and the cannabis-growing nephew

Harriet Alexander
- The Mega Agency

It's not every day the meeting of a make-up artist and a lighting director sets the scene for a royal love story, but that's exactly what happened in Meghan Markle's case.

The now-retired American actress, who is expecting her first child this Spring, didn't come from a similar upbringing to her royal-ready Middleton sister-in-law. The Duchess of Sussex (born Rachel Meghan Markle) was born in Los Angeles on August 4, 1981 and quite literally grew up in Hollywood.

Though her parents - Doria Ragland and Thomas Markle Snr - divorced when she was six, her extended family's story does not end there. In fact, it takes unlikely and estranged turns towards a diplomat uncle, cannabis-growing nephew, and beyond.

As Meghan prepares to welcome her baby with Prince Harry, here we take a look at her family, many of whom are never far from the headlines.

Doria Ragland, Meghan Markle's mother

Doria Ragland, 62, 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 Snr, a lighting director in Hollywood. The pair married in 1979 and Ms Markle was born two years later.

Meghan Markle pictured as a child in Rwanda with her mother Doria Credit: TIM STEWART NEWS LIMITED

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.

Meghan Markle with her moother Doria, who has a masters in social work Credit: TIM STEWART NEWS LIMITED 

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.

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 travelled with her daughter to her wedding ceremony from their overnight accommodation at Cliveden House Hotel, Berkshire, to St George’s Chapel. She is now preparing to welcome her first grandchild.

Meghan's family tree

Thomas Markle, Meghan's father

Born in Pennsylvania, of Dutch-Irish descent, soon-to-be-grandfather Thomas Markle Snr, 74, 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 Loveless, 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.

Baby Meghan Markle lies on the chest of her father Thomas Credit: TIM STEWART NEWS LIMITED 

Mr Markle moved to Mexico after retiring and was declared bankrupt in June 2016. The Duchess has described her father as the "most hardworking father you can imagine".

He has reportedly still not met Prince Harry but gave his blessing to the Prince over the phone when asked for Meghan's hand in marriage.

Mr Markle intended to travel from Mexico to the UK to meet his future son-in-law (and the rest of his royal family) before walking Ms Markle down the aisle.

Meghan Markle pictured as a toddler with her father Thomas Credit: TIM STEWART NEWS LIMITED

Following alleged dealings with the paparazzi to take advantage of Meghan's major moment, he said he would avoid the ceremony for fear of embarrassing his daughter.

The pictures, which appeared to be staged, showed Mr Markle getting measured for what was thought to be his wedding suit, looking at pictures of his daughter and Harry while in an internet cafe, and reading a picture book about Britain while having a coffee. 

He then pulled out of the wedding four days before the ceremony, after falling unwell and required heart surgery. 

He claimed his failure to fly would also force him to cancel appointments with the Queen, Prince Philip, Prince of Wales, Duchess of Cornwall and Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.

Since the wedding, he has made frequent pleas through the media to speak to Meghan which he claims have been mostly ignored, bar a private letter he released to the public last month.

Meghan Markle’s uncles

Michael Markle

Of Thomas Markle Senior’s two brothers, the eldest, Michael, had a profound impact on Meghan's early life. The 80-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 in 2018, 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 60-year-old daughter, Trish Gallup,  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 is the 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 52-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 has spoken fondly of Meghan Markle, his half-sister Credit: AKGS

He was arrested in January 2018 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, 54, 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, 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.

Samantha Markle has lashed out at her half-sister, Meghan, in several interviews Credit: Splash News 

She also caused a stir 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 were not invited to the wedding. 

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

Tyler, 27, 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 position.

Meghan Markle's nephew Tyler Dooley is a Cannabis farmer who is planning a new drug called Markle's Sparkle Credit: Mega

The family are keen on the burgeoning industry. TJ, 28, reportedly gives marijuana to his dog for pain relief, while Tracy frequently sells advertising space to marijuana dispensaries. 

On arriving in London for the wedding in May last year,, 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 2018, 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.

Meghan Markle and Trevor Engelson in 2006 Credit: Billy Farrell/Patrick McMullan/Getty

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.

Engelson is due to marry nutritionist Tracey Kurland in just over one month- almost exactly a year after Meghan and Prince Harry's own nuptials - on May 11.

During his Miami-based bachelor party in March footage emerged of friends toasting (perhaps roasting) the groom, joking: "If it wasn't for Trev I wouldn't believe that I could marry a future princess, so now I gotta...what princess is available right now, I'm coming for you girl."

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