A historic wedding celebration will be held in just a matter of months. Royal officials announced November 27 that Prince Harry got down onto one knee and asked American-born actress Meghan Markle to marry him. A royal wedding will be held sometime in the spring.
Prince Harry reportedly popped the question to Markle several weeks ago, and the two have since made their engagement public. Markle flaunted the ring that Prince Harry designed in front of Kensington Palace in London following the formal announcement.
Markle, 36, was born in Los Angeles, California and is best known in the entertainment industry for her work as Rachel Zane on the legal drama series Suits. While marrying an American actress breaks all kinds of barriers, Markle’s ethnicity also makes history for the royal family. Markle is biracial and has been outspoken about the racism and hatred she and her family have been faced with, whether it be in their community or by media.
Here’s what you need to know about Markle’s ethnicity and background:
1. Markle’s Father is White & Mother is Black
Markle’s father, Thomas Markle, is white, and her mother, Doria Radlan, is an African American. It was the late 1970s when her parents met, her father working as a lighting director for a soap opera and her mother working as a temp at the production studio.
The couple ended up getting married, and Doria gave birth to Meghan on August 4, 1981 in Los Angeles. Doria earned her master’s degree in social work from the University of Southern California and now works as a psychotherapist and yoga instructor. Thomas Markle won an Emmy for his lighting direction and often had Meghan on sets, including Married … with Children. He’s of German, Dutch, English, Irish and Scottish descent.
The family lived in a home in The Valley in Los Angeles, with a surrounding neighborhood that wasn’t diverse, Markle has said. She stated that oftentimes while walking around the neighborhood, Doria would be mistook for her nanny. Markle’s parents ended up getting a divorce.
2. Markle Has Spoken & Written About the Racism her Family has faced
In a December 2016 op-ed piece to Elle Magazine, Markle opened up on her background, upbringing and mixed-race. She wrote that she’s often asked by people: “What are you?” She said that she tells them her various occupations and hobbies before they often ask something along the lines of, “Where are your parents from?”
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“While I could say Pennsylvania and Ohio, and continue this proverbial two-step, I instead give them what they’re after: ‘My dad is Caucasian and my mom is African American. I’m half black and half white,’” Markle said in the article.
Being biracial “paints a blurred line that is equal parts staggering and illuminating,” she wrote.
Markle recalled a time in 7th grade when she was asked to complete a census for her English class where you had to put a check mark inside a box stating your ethnicity, either white, black, Hispanic or Asian. She became dumbfounded when there was no option for half-black and half-white, she said.
“There I was (my curly hair, my freckled face, my pale skin, my mixed race) looking down at these boxes, not wanting to mess up, but not knowing what to do,” she wrote in her piece. “You could only choose one, but that would be to choose one parent over the other – and one half of myself over the other.”
Markle said that her teacher told her to check the “Caucasian” box, “Because that’s how you look,” she wrote. She said that she put her pen down and became confused, noting that she decided not to check a box.
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In another instance when she was older, Markle recalled being home on college break when her mother was called the “N” word while leaving a concert parking lot.
My skin rushed with heat as I looked to my mom. Her eyes welling with hateful tears, I could only breathe out a whisper of words, so hushed they were barely audible: ‘It’s OK, Mommy.’ I was trying to temper the rage-filled air permeating our small silver Volvo.
In the years that followed the incident, Markle said she came to embrace who she was and worked to express her voice as a “strong, confident mixed-race woman” as much as possible.
3. When It Was Revealed the Couple Were Dating, Markle Was the Subject of Several Articles With Racial Overtones
When it was first reported that Markle and Prince Harry were dating, the couple became the subject of numerous racist and sexist right-wing tabloid headlines. Her race became a talking point of several publications, with The Daily Mail in 2016 reporting on her upbringing and the Los Angeles neighborhood she lived in. An article mentioned the crimes which occurred in the area and the gang activity around where her mother still resides.
In 2016, Markle became the most-Googled actress of the year after headlines in the U.K. media were running virtually every day about her. Prince Harry and Kensington Palace took exception to the relentlessness of the media, issuing an official statement November 8, 2016, which condemned doing so.
“(Prince Harry) has rarely taken formal action on the very regular publication of fictional stories that are written about him and he has worked hard to develop a professional relationship with the media, focused on his work and the issues he cares about,” the statement said. “But the past week has seen a line crossed. His girlfriend, Meghan Markle, has been subject to a wave of abuse and harassment. Some of this has been very public — the smear on the front page of a national newspaper; the racial undertones of comment pieces; and the outright sexism and racism of social media trolls and web article comments.”
The statement appeared to work, as her race was rarely mentioned in publications from them on, with numerous outlets removing virtually all references to it.
4. Prince Harry’s Engagement to Markle is Historic for Several Reasons
By being engaged to Prince Harry, Markle became the first American to be officially engaged to a British royal. After their royal wedding, Markle may become the first American to be given the title of Her Royal Highness, TIME reported. The historic engagement announcement represents a far more inclusive royal family.
Up until the announcement, only one minority has ever married into European royalty — black American designer Angela Brown (princess of Lichtenstein). While Markle’s ethnicity is certainly one groundbreaking factor, her religion and being a divorcee is another. Markle was married for two years, but got divorced in 2013. She started dating Prince Harry in July 2016.
Harry’s father, Prince Charles, was divorced from Princess Diana before marrying Camilla in 2005. As PEOPLE Magazine noted, Camilla was also divorced. So, while being divorced isn’t a huge factor, religion has always seemed to be.
Since 2015, the rules have been eased so that only the first six in line to the throne have to ask Queen Elizabeth for her permission to get married — Harry is fifth in line. Either way, Director of the London Centre for Public History Anna Whitelock, told TIME that Markle’s race nor background would be issues.
“I think the Queen would have done so, happily,” Whitelock told the publication. “I don’t think her being mixed race would have been at all significant for the Queen.”
Markle is a known Catholic and attended a private school, Immaculate Heart Covent school, in Los Angeles. Typically, senior members of the royal family were forbidden to wed a Catholic because Prince Harry’s grandmother is the head of the Protestant Church of England. But with the rules ease in 2015, following the birth of Prince George, things changed.
5. Markle Has Used Her Voice to Raise Money & Awareness for Those Less Privileged Living in Africa
In 2016, Markle became the global ambassador for World Vision Canada, where she frequently traveled to Rwanda to take part in the Clean Water Campaign. It’s an initiative which works to provide clean and safe drinking water to those who live there.
Her charitable biography on the organization’s website states that Markle gained interest in working with the charity after taking a visit where she met 25 students who now have access to clean water. While on the visit, Markle taught that group of students to paint using watercolors with water taken from the pipeline.
“The contrast between communities that do and do not have access to clean water had a great impact on me,” she wrote on her biography, encouraging contributions. “One borehole can bring life-giving water to as many as 500 people! I’m on a mission to build wells in Africa, and I’m asking each of you to join me and see how many wells we can build together.”
In addition to that, Markle’s been involved in several other causes. That includes being an advocate for the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women.