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From Hollywood to HRH, the rise of Meghan Markle

Ahead of the publication tomorrow of Andrew Morton's fascinating biography of the soon-to-be royal, Meadhbh McGrath traces the actor's journey from a Los Angeles family where racial tensions were evident to the privileged environs of Buckingham Palace

With just weeks to go before the royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, curiosity around the former TV actress has reached fever pitch.

For writer Andrew Morton, best known for his 1992 biography Diana: Her True Story, it was a golden opportunity. Morton lives part of the year in Pasadena, California - just a few miles from where the 36-year-old Suits star grew up - and was ideally placed to chronicle the soon-to-be duchess's early life.

In the months since the engagement was announced, we've heard revealing tales from Meghan's estranged family members, along with books by royal correspondents and even an adult colouring book. But Meghan: A Hollywood Princess has sparked particular interest because of Morton's history with Princess Diana, from whom he allegedly received secret cassette recordings about the breakdown of her marriage to Prince Charles.

Based on interviews with Meghan's family, friends, teachers and colleagues, Morton's book claims to reveal the true story of her rise to royalty. Ahead of the book's publication, we highlight some of the most intriguing and surprising details...

Her childhood home was fractured by racial and familial tensions

The daughter of a black woman from Los Angeles, Doria Ragland, and a white Pennsylvanian, Thomas Wayne Markle, Rachel Meghan Markle (also nicknamed 'Bud' and 'Flower' by her family) was born with two white half-siblings, Yvonne (now called Samantha) and Tom Jnr.

Yvonne didn't take well to her father's new girlfriend and would refer to her as "the maid" and practice black magic in the house, according to Tom Jnr. The situation deteriorated after Meghan arrived and Yvonne grew jealous of the attention focused on her half-sister.

Her father took an unusual approach to discipline

Tom Jnr recalls an occasion where he and his friends smoked weed in the sitting room while Meghan was in the nursery. After announcing that he was going to change her nappy, Tom Snr returned to the sitting room with a full nappy and proceeded to eat the 'contents' with a spoon, prompting the boys to scarper. It wasn't until later that he revealed he had filled a fresh nappy with chocolate pudding, in a scheme to stop the boys from smoking around Meghan.

Princess Diana was Meghan's childhood role model

Like many girls growing up in the 90s, Meghan idolised Diana and was devastated by her death. Morton recalls how she wept as she watched the funeral at school and played old videos of Diana's wedding to Prince Charles with friends, but notes that she was more interested in her humanitarian work than her style or royal status. Inspired by Diana, Meghan and a classmate collected clothes and toys for disadvantaged children. One childhood friend is quoted as saying: "She wants to be Princess Diana 2.0."

She was politically engaged from a young age

From the age of 10, Meghan debated everything from the presidential race to the beating of Rodney King. Along with her letter-writing campaigns and travelling with her mother to the slums of Jamaica and Mexico, she led an anti-war protest on school grounds after a classmate expressed worries about his older brother serving in the Gulf.

She considered a career in diplomacy

Meghan caught the acting bug early, taking the lead in a school production of How The Grinch Stole Christmas (while classmate Scarlett Johansson was relegated to the chorus). But while completing her degree in theatre and international relations at Northwestern University, she took an internship at the US Embassy in Buenos Aires and went as far as taking the Foreign Service Officer test, but she didn't pass.

She knew long ago to give Donald Trump a wide berth

When her agent called about an audition that required a "body-conscious outfit", Meghan sucked up her pride and landed a role as a 'briefcase babe' on Deal Or No Deal. The women's dresses were so tight that an assistant had to put on their skyscraper heels, but they were paid around $800 per episode and recorded up to seven episodes a day. Male celebrities would often tour the set after a taping of Deal Or No Deal - including Donald Trump, who frequently dropped by backstage to meet the girls.

While Meghan later hailed Ivanka Trump as a personal idol, she kept her distance from her father and generally avoided after-work nights out. She had been known as a party girl in her sorority days, but at work events, she was never heard to swear, rarely drank champagne and didn't follow the diets many girls did.

Her first marriage was fraught with conflict as she strove to build 'Brand Meghan'

Meghan met her first husband, Trevor Engelson, at a dive bar when they were both starting out - she as an actress and he as an film producer. There were tensions over their careers: Trevor was named in the Hollywood Reporter's Top 35 Under 35, while Meghan tried to stay motivated through a string of dead-end auditions.

Trevor's unwillingness to give her a part in one of his productions proved to be a source of conflict. A New Yorker, Trevor's loose-lipped manner stood in contrast with Meghan's self-described brand of "aspirational girl next door".

During a video-streamed podcast, Trevor told a story about getting "splashback" on his favourite suit at a urinal, while swigging from a hip flask, prompting a text from Meghan to "put that flask down, it looks incredibly unprofessional".

While Trevor had a reputation for arriving late with stains on his clothes and dishevelled hair, Meghan valued perfectionism.

She ended her first marriage by posting her wedding ring to her ex

The pair got married shortly after Meghan started working on Suits, which required her to spend part of the year filming in Toronto. Morton points to Meghan's beloved $500 Vitamix blender as a symbol of the couple's divide - as they grew further apart, she removed it from their west Hollywood home to Toronto, "a material reminder that her home was no longer in Los Angeles".

After walking out with the blender just two years into their marriage, Meghan ended things so abruptly that she reportedly sent Trevor her diamond wedding and engagement rings back to him by registered post.

Harry choreographed their first public appearance

All eyes were on the couple at the Invictus Games, and while much has been made of Meghan's choice to wear Misha Nonoo's 'husband shirt', Harry was just as conscious of their image. Morton points out how he advised Meghan not to drink from a bottle of water she was handed, as photos of famous people drinking can look awkward.

We may not have seen the last of her lifestyle blog, The Tig

Meghan's careful curation of The Tig is emphasised throughout the book, but her blog, along with her Instagram account, was wiped soon after she met Harry. While officials are advised not to get "too far ahead of the Queen" in relation to online profiles, Princess Beatrice maintains a social media account. The debate around personal websites is ongoing in the palace, and we may yet see the return of the blogging princess.

Meghan: A Hollywood Princess by Andrew Morton is published tomorrow by Michael O'Mara Books, £20

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