Meghan Markle has been the subject of fascination ever since rumors first surfaced that the TV actress was dating Prince Harry .
To some, it seemed like an unexpected pairing. Meghan was best known for starring on Suits and maintaining a Goop-esque lifestyle blog called "The Tig" and named after her favorite wine.
Harry was seen as a playboy for many years. But their relationship moved swiftly once it got started after they were set up on a blind date - reportedly by designer Misha Nonoo.
They spent time together in Canada with mutual friends, where Meghan filmed the USA Network TV show Suits for many years before moving to London temporarily to be with Harry. They camped out under the stars in Botswana and talked about their shared goals and love of helping others. And then, on November 27, 2017, they announced their engagement in a glamorous video where they talked about their love story.
They married on May 19 at Windsor Castle in an elaborate ceremony that was in many ways groundbreaking. Meghan walked herself down the aisle and a gospel choir sang.
Since then, Meghan has had many high and low points - from her emotional response to the Grenfell Tower fire to the way she and her husband dealt with racism.
Then came the bombshell announcement in early January that the pair would be stepping down from the roles as senior Royal Family members.
Now, as they start a new life in Los Angeles, Team Insider looks back on their relationship, Meghan's best moments and how she's dealt with her low points.
High: Walking herself up the aisle in a Givenchy wedding dress
When Meghan Markle walked herself up the aisle in a Givenchy wedding dress, it seemed to signal that not only was her wedding different than past royal ones, but that the bride herself would be unlike any other Royal Family member before her.
Before the wedding, every day there was a new rumor about the event and a new, headline-stealing moment from Meghan’s father.
He was spotted trying on suits in Mexico! He was being paid for those paparazzi pics! He hated Meghan! He loved her!
There's nothing so steeped in tradition as a royal wedding, and that tradition requires a father walking his daughter down the aisle.
When it became obvious that Thomas Markle would be unable to attend due to poor health, other options were mooted. Would her beloved yoga instructor mother Doria do the honors? Could Prince William escort her?
Instead, she proudly walked herself down the aisle in her Givenchy gown with her head held high, meeting a beaming Prince Charles halfway.
Since then, she’s seemingly done things her own way in every other respect - from childbirth to her new move back into Hollywood.
High: Celebrating black culture at the Royal Wedding
While the wedding had all the royal trimmings, Meghan undoubtedly put her stamp on the nuptials too.
Markle, whose mother Doria Ragland is African American, ensured there were strong nods to black culture throughout her wedding.
A black gospel choir sang 'Stand By Me' throughout the ceremony and Reverend Michael Bruce Curry, the first African-American bishop to preside over the American Episcopal Church, gave a stirring sermon that quoted Martin Luther King Jr. and talked passionately about love.
She also celebrated black excellence by bringing in British cello prodigy Sheku Kanneh-Mason, who played a solo.
Megan C. Hills
High: Her first public engagement
One of the UK’s worst modern disasters, the fire that left 72 dead and destroyed Grenfell Tower in West London in June of 2017, became Meghan’s first humanitarian project as a Royal Family member.
In January 2018, ahead of her wedding, Meghan visited the Hubb Community Kitchen, where women who had been displaced by the fires gathered to cook for their families and the surrounding community.
As someone who enjoyed cooking herself (her former lifestyle website, The Tig, was full of recipes), Meghan chopped and stirred alongside the women and helped them to share their recipes with the world.
Developing a cookbook whose proceeds would go to furthering the Hubb Community Kitchen and related community projects, Together: Our Community Cookbook, featured a forward by Meghan.
And her connection with the Hubb Community women has endured.
After she and Harry announced they were stepping down as senior members of the Royal Family in an Instagram post in January 2020, the couple’s return post on social media was about their continued work with the Hubb Community Kitchen.
Joined by Harry this time, Meghan reunited with the women who worked on the cookbook - in the kitchen, of course.
Megan C. Hills
Low: Dealing with racism
Ever since it emerged that Prince Harry was dating Meghan, she has been the subject of racist social media attacks and even racially-tinged headlines.
From one outlet calling her Prince Harry’s “girl straight outta Compton” to Sky News releasing a report that found she was the “subject of frequent conspiracy-led and racist attacks on social media sites”, it was noted that her trolls have called her horrific names such as the “banana baroness."
Following the birth of Archie Windsor, BBC host Danny Baker was fired after tweeting a photo of a chimpanzee, claiming it was Meghan and Harry’s “royal baby” - though Baker later insisted he had not thought through the racist connotations of the picture and was "revolted" with himself.
As early as 2016, when Harry and Meghan first began dating, Prince Harry released a statement calling out the “racial undertones of comment pieces; and the outright sexism and racism of social media trolls and commenters.”
Although Meghan has never publicly commented on her treatment, she was caught on camera saying “they don’t make it easy” after singer Pharrell called her and Prince Harry’s interracial relationship “significant” at a premiere for The Lion King.
In spite of this, Meghan has over the course of her royal career celebrated her black heritage - from adding meaningful touches to her Royal Wedding and declaring that she was “here as a woman of colour” over the course of her Africa tour.
Megan C. Hills
High/Low: The celebrity-packed baby shower at The Mark
Before Meghan Markle was a Duchess, she wasn’t just an actress on a legal drama beloved by middle America. She was an influencer, who seemingly had hopes of becoming a lifestyle icon - a Gwyneth Paltrow for folks who didn’t believe in jade eggs, a Reese Witherspoon for non-southerners.
With her now-defunct lifestyle blog The Tig, she shared her musings on avocado toast, her glamorous vacations with celebrity pals and her favorite recipes (she loved a sexy zucchini pasta).
But when she married Harry, she had to leave it all behind - the gifting suites, the sponsored content, the constant ability to keep up with her followers on the ‘gram.
Of course, she traded it in for a royal wedding and A+-list friends, but it’s hard to take the influencer out of the former USA Network actress.
Her baby shower was her time to shine in her own way. It wasn't regal - but it was A-list and very Hollywood (despite taking place in New York City).
Her friends were there but so were celebrities the rest of the world didn’t even know that she knew - Oprah’s best friend, for instance.
There even appeared to be some influencer freebies - and it was Away luggage, which was seen being wheeled into The Mark Hotel.
Women who marry into the Royal Family generally expect to give up their old life, whether that entails working at Party Pieces or being an actress in California.
But her baby shower felt like one last gasp of the old Meghan - it was extravagant, bougie and held at New York's most exclusive hotel.
Critics said it could have been a quieter affair, with fewer A-listers and paparazzi pictures - but if (supposedly) every girl dreamed of marrying a prince growing up, why can’t one girl dream of being a Hollywood superstar with a prince and Oprah’s BFF by her side?
High: Bringing classic American minimalism to traditional royal formalwear
From her first public appearance with Prince Harry at the Invictus Games in September 2017, Meghan made it clear that whatever her royal role turned into, she would make it her own.
Wearing LA-based MOTHER Denim jeans (the style is The Looker Ankle Fray, FYI), Meghan dressed up the classic American jeans and t-shirt combo with designer-friend Misha Nonoo’s white button-up Husband Shirt.
“I believe this look also informs us of Meghan’s belief system,” said Dawnn Karen, fashion psychologist and author of Dress Your Best Life. “She is an advocate for human rights, and not only is this look relaxed, but it’s egalitarian and gender-neutral,” she added, also noting that the classic style was similar to what the late Princess Diana wore during a trip to discuss landmines Bosnia in 1997.
“Meghan tends to have a penchant for clean lines, a tailored silhouette and softer color palettes,” Karen noted of how Meghan’s style remained the same throughout her time in the Royal Family.
During her official outings, she also had a tendency to work American designers and brands into her wardrobe.
For more formal occasions, she would go the high-fashion route, pairing a dress by NY-based Brandon Maxwell with a traditional British Burberry trench coat while in New Zealand in 2018 or combining NY-based Carolina Herrera with French brand Dior for an engagement in Morocco in 2019, for example.
Often times, she’d even sport more affordable finds (something Kate Middleton is known for, too), like J.Crew, Club Monaco and Everlane.
During her two years as a senior member of the Royal Family, Meghan was particularly fond of a belted dress - a simple, yet sleek style that both former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy and Old Hollywood actress turned Princess of Monaco Grace Kelly often wore.
Meghan would sport an array of casual takes on the style, like her Banana Republic trench dress in October 2019 or her blue Veronica Beard belted dress that she wore in both 2018 and 2019.
And, of course, she also knew how to dress it up. Most memorably, Meghan wore a belted dress by American designer Ralph Lauren to Prince Louis’ christening in 2018, which Karen noted was olive green - a color “indicative of rebirth and hope.”
Even on her wedding day in May 2018, Markle kept to a more minimalist style, albeit, a very expensive one.
Though she chose British designers for her ceremony and reception dress, Markle’s looks were both classic - Clare Waight Keller of Givenchy designed a gown that featured ¾-length sleeves and a bateau neckline for the ceremony, and Stella McCartney created a high neck and silk crepe reception dress that Markle paired with Princess Diana’s aquamarine ring.
“I believe that Meghan brought American modernity to the Royal Family,” Karen said of her sartorial choices. “She has allowed the Royal Family to be viewed as contemporary and emergent - Meghan is American, she’s a divorcée, she is a woman of color and she is very vocal,” she said, adding, “Her choices tended to reflect her balancing of being an American and a British royal.”
High: Refusing a post-birth photo shoot on the Lindo Wing steps
In the past, members of the Royal Family including Princess Diana and Kate Middleton have taken to the steps of the Lindo Wing at St. Mary’s Hospital to introduce their children to the world.
But in recent years the tradition has been branded “unrealistic” by critics, as the photo call typically takes place immediately after the mother has spent arduous hours giving birth.
Meghan and Harry decided against the tradition.
Instead, they chose to keep their birth private and do a photocall on their own terms.
A statement released by Buckingham Palace read, “Their Royal Highnesses have taken a personal decision to keep the plans around the arrival of their baby private. They look forward to sharing the exciting news with everyone once they have had an opportunity to celebrate privately as a new family.”
When Meghan gave birth to Archie Harrison Mountbatten Windsor on May 6 it was Prince Harry who announced the news of his birth to cameras as she recovered out of the limelight.
They later presented Archie to the world together on May 8 at Windsor Castle, where Prince Harry walked out carrying their son as Meghan watched proudly on - a subtle decision (normally the royal mother brings out the baby) and one that was seen to buck gender stereotypes.
Megan C. Hills
Low: Dealing with problematic family members
Meghan Markle’s father Thomas and her half-sister Samantha have become regulars in the UK media.
The two have done tell-all newspaper interviews and appeared on shows such as Good Morning Britain, where they have both made disparaging claims about the Duchess - including Thomas accusing Prince Harry and Meghan of “destroying” the monarchy and turning it into “Walmart with a crown on.”
For the most part, Meghan and the Royal Family have remained quiet on the issue.
Early on in the media storm - when Thomas was found to have staged photographs for a paparazzo in the lead up to the royal wedding - Meghan and Harry defended him and called for “understanding and respect to be extended to Mr Markle in this difficult situation.”
But things hit boiling point when her father granted the Mail on Sunday access to a letter Meghan had written him ahead of the royal wedding, from which extracts were later published.
This resulted in Meghan filing a lawsuit against the paper for allegedly misrepresenting her with “clear malicious intent” (which the outlet denies) and while she is not suing her father, he has declared his intention to testify should the case go to trial.
Megan C. Hills
Low point: Furore over private jet use
Meghan and Harry came under fire in the summer of 2019 when newspapers reported they had taken four private jet trips in 11 days, a claim supported by grainy shots of Meghan emerging from a plane with their son Archie.
It was not good timing - 2019 had seen a ramping up of environmental protests all over the world as increasingly dire scientific findings had raised the threat of climate change to a global emergency.
Harry had also spoken passionately in the September issue of Vogue, guest-edited by Meghan, about the need for us all to curb our habits to save the planet.
"We are the one species on this planet that seems to think that this place belongs to us, and only us” he had said.
The Sussex Royal Instagram account had also implored everyone to realise how “every choice, every footprint, every action makes a difference” in the battle against global warming.
The couple also appeared to duck out of spending time at Balmoral Castle that summer - where Royal Family members traditionally gather with the Queen - and had flown to Sir Elton John’s house in the south of France for a break. As criticism mounted, Sir Elton, who was a close friend of Harry’s late mother Princess Diana, jumped in to defend the couple:
"I am deeply distressed by today's distorted and malicious account in the press surrounding the Duke and Duchess of Sussex's private stay at my home in Nice last week" he wrote, "Prince Harry's mother, Diana Princess of Wales was one of my dearest friends. I feel a profound sense of obligation to protect Harry and his family from the unnecessary press intrusion that contributed to Diana's untimely death. After a hectic year continuing their hard work and dedication to charity, David and I wanted the young family to have a private holiday inside the safety and tranquillity of our home. To maintain a high level of much-needed protection, we provided them with a private jet flight."
Sir Elton added that he had honoured Harry’s commitment to the environment by donating to a carbon offsetting scheme to cover the flight. Though Chief Scientist for Greenpeace UK Dr Doug Parr told Evening Standard Insider that carbon offsetting is “very difficult to do reliably, making sure emissions cuts are genuine and permanent.”
Harry later defended the family’s use of private jets as a necessary safety measure. "I came here by commercial. I spend 99% of my life travelling the world by commercial," Harry said at the launch of an eco-tourism project in Amsterdam. "Occasionally there needs to be an opportunity based on a unique circumstance to ensure that my family are safe - it's generally as simple as that."
Low: Saying she's 'not ok' in an ITV documentary
"Not many people have asked if I’m ok ... it’s a very real thing to be going through behind the scenes."
Meghan reveals to ITV's @tombradby the intense media spotlight has left her struggling to cope while becoming a mum #HarryAndMeghan https://t.co/Uy21iE6ozJ pic.twitter.com/kZqhZV66OL— ITV News (@itvnews)October 18, 2019
When interviews from Harry and Meghan’s African tour began to air in October of 2019, it became clear to the public the toll public criticism, particularly in the months of being a new mom, had taken on Meghan.
Speaking with ITV News, the reporter Tom Bradby asked about Harry's attempts to protect Meghan from negative press, especially after seeing how it affected his own mother, as Meghan appeared to hold back tears.
Bradby’s comment to Meghan that he didn’t “know what the impact on your physical and mental health of all the pressure that you clearly feel under of all" made the Duchess open up.
She discussed the pressures of being pregnant and a new mom while being under large amounts of scrutiny as a royal newlywed, saying no-one had really asked how she was.
"And thank you for asking, because not many people have asked if I’m ok... it’s a very real thing to be going through behind the scenes."
High: Interaction with a cheeky schoolboy
For International Women’s Day Meghan made a secret trip to Robert Clack Upper School in Dagenham to ask men to "value the women in your lives".
While on stage she invited the school’s head boy, Aker Okoye, to join her, where she greeted the 16-year-old with a hug.
When the teen first came up to the microphone he exclaimed: “She really is beautiful, innit?"
This lead to Meghan having a good laugh and shaking her finger at Okoye with a smile before praising his “incredible confidence”.
Okoye said he “had to speak the truth” about Meghan.
Her speech was especially targeted at schoolboy aged males, urging them to “continue to value and appreciate the women in your lives and also set the example for some men who are not seeing it that same way".
Meghan’s speech seemed to make a mark of Okoye as well, as after the event he wrote a letter to Prince Harry to make sure he was in the clear after “cuddling” his wife, and to also praise her for her incredible speech.
High: The 'Hollywood' comeback photo
If we needed any reminder of Meghan’s ability to dazzle, one was delivered with full force when she returned from Canada for her first joint red carpet appearance with Prince Harry at the Endeavour Fund Awards on 5th March.
One viral shot of the couple - captured in seconds by photographer Samir Hussein - captured their comeback moment with all the romance of a Hollywood movie, as they swept into the building under an umbrella, the downpour around them sparkling like diamonds.
Unlike other members of the Royal Family, Harry and Meghan have always been particularly fluent in their public displays of affection. They regularly arrive for engagements holding hands or linking arms, unlike William and Kate who adopt a more formal pose in front of cameras.
So perhaps the Sussexes’ subsequent decision to move to Meghan’s home state of California should come as no surprise: whether or not they decide to pursue a showbiz lifestyle in tinseltown, this is a couple built for Hollywood. The ‘Markle sparkle’ will be missed.