Meghan Markle: Charting The Last 10 Years Of The Duchess' Life, To Mark Her 41st Birthday

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Photo credit: Dimitrios Kambouris/USA - Getty Images
Photo credit: Dimitrios Kambouris/USA - Getty Images

Meghan Markle turned 41 today.

And as she navigates her early 40s she already holds many titles. As well as her royal moniker Duchess of Sussex, which she acquired after marrying Prince Harry in 2018, Markle counts, mother, former-actor, entrepreneur and philanthropist as just some of her notable roles.

The co-founder of Beverly Hills-based non-profit organisations Archewell, which she set up with Prince Harry, is admired for her charitable work.

As if coincidentally, the mother-of-two, who played ambitious paralegal-turned-attorney on legal drama Suits for seven years, is, for one, the royal patron of Smart Works, a UK-based charity providing interview training and clothes to help women secure employment.

Photo credit: Sonia Recchia - Getty Images
Photo credit: Sonia Recchia - Getty Images

In honour of her birthday, we're charting the last 10 years of her life, from her early days as an actor to standing up to inequality. That and everything in between.

Here's a round-up of the last 10 years of Meghan Markle's life:

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry receive prestigious NAACP Image Award

In February 2022, Meghan Markle joined Prince Harry on stage to accept the President's Award at the NAACP Image Awards.

They received the accolade in recognition of their special achievements and public service. The likes of Muhammad Ali, LeBron James and Rihanna have won the award in the past.

This came after their focus on the Black Lives Matter movement and fight for racial justice.

Markle said during her acceptance speech: 'It's inspiring to think about the legacy of the Image Awards, which began shortly after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 were passed into law.

'Today, we can continue that legacy by re-establishing federal voting protections in our country and fulfilling the work of civil rights giants, like the late John Lewis.

Photo credit: USA Network - Getty Images
Photo credit: USA Network - Getty Images

'We are so deeply humbled to be here in the company of so many illustrious awardees.'

She later added, referring to Prince Harry: 'And I couldn't be prouder that we're doing this work together. We moved to California, my home state, shortly before the murder of George Floyd.

'For Black America, those nine minutes and 29 seconds transcended time, invoking centuries of our unhealed wounds.

'In the months that followed, as my husband and I spoke with the civil rights community, we committed ourselves and our organisation, Archewell, to illuminating those who are advancing racial justice and progress.'

She ended her speech with a personal note, saying: 'My mum's here with us tonight, and we all feel very proud. Thank you.'

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry open up during their Oprah Winfrey interview

In a deeply personal interview with Oprah Winfrey, in the garden of a house near where the couple live in Montecito, Los Angeles, Markle spoke candidly about loneliness, suicidal thoughts and an alleged comment that a royal family member made about her son Archie's skin colour.

At one point, she admitted to feeling 'haunted' by a photograph from an official event she attending with Prince Harry at the Royal Albert Hall while pregnant.

'Right before we had to leave for that (event), I had just had that conversation with Harry that morning,' she started.

Winfrey asked: 'That you don't want to be alive any more?' before she replied: 'Yeah.'

Photo credit: Pool/Samir Hussein - Getty Images
Photo credit: Pool/Samir Hussein - Getty Images

Markle, who said she couldn't be 'left alone' went on to say: 'In those months when I was pregnant, all around this same time so we have in tandem the conversation of he won't be given security, he's not going to be given a title, and also concerns and conversations about how dark his skin might be when he was born.'

Meghan Markle welcomes daughter Lilibet

Markle and Prince Harry welcomed their second child, Lilibet (Lili) Diana Mountbatten-Windsor, together on June 4, 2021 and named her after the Queen's nickname and the duke's later mother Princess Diana.

Lilibet was born at 11:40 a.m. in the Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital.

Meghan Markle steps back as a senior royal, along with Prince Harry.

In January 2020, Markle and Prince Harry announced they would be stepping back as senior royals and work to become financially independent.

The couple revealed they would be splitting their time between the UK and North America.

In their statement, shared to Instagram, the couple wrote: 'After many months of reflection and internal discussions, we have chosen to make a transition this year in starting to carve out a progressive new role within this institution. We intend to step back as ‘senior’ members of the Royal Family and work to become financially independent, while continuing to fully support Her Majesty The Queen. It is with your encouragement, particularly over the last few years, that we feel prepared to make this adjustment. We now plan to balance our time between the United Kingdom and North America, continuing to honour our duty to The Queen, the Commonwealth, and our patronages. This geographic balance will enable us to raise our son with an appreciation for the royal tradition into which he was born, while also providing our family with the space to focus on the next chapter, including the launch of our new charitable entity. We look forward to sharing the full details of this exciting next step in due course, as we continue to collaborate with Her Majesty The Queen, The Prince of Wales, The Duke of Cambridge and all relevant parties. Until then, please accept our deepest thanks for your continued support. - The Duke and Duchess of Sussex [sic].'

She later relocated to the US, joined by Prince Harry, where they still reside in Montecito, California.

Meghan Markle becomes a first-time mum

Markle and Prince Harry gave birth to their first child, Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor, on May 6 2019 at Paddington, Westminster, in Portland Hospital, an exclusive private hospital.

Photo credit: Pool - Getty Images
Photo credit: Pool - Getty Images

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry Marry

Markle and Prince Harry got married on May 19 2018 at St George's Chapel at Windsor Castle.

The ceremony began at 12pm and was followed by a carriage procession through Windsor at 1pm.

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry announce their engagement

On November 17, an official statement from The Prince of Wales revealed that Markle and Prince Harry were engaged.

It read: 'His Royal Highness Prince Henry of Wales and Ms. Meghan Markle are engaged to be married.

'His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales is delighted to announce the engagement of Prince Harry to Ms. Meghan Markle.

Photo credit: BEN STANSALL - Getty Images
Photo credit: BEN STANSALL - Getty Images

'The wedding will take place in Spring 2018. Further details about the wedding day will be announced in due course.

'His Royal Highness and Ms. Markle became engaged in London earlier this month. Prince Harry has informed Her Majesty The Queen and other close members of his family. Prince Harry has also sought and received the blessing of Ms. Markle's parents.

'The couple will live in Nottingham Cottage at Kensington Palace.'

Meghan Markle discusses how periods affect potential In Essay To Mark International Women's Day

After travelling to Delhi and Mumbai with World Vision to meet girls and women directly affected by stigmatisation of menstrual health and to learn how it impact girls' education, Markle wrote a letter about how periods affect potential.

In the letter, published by Time, she began: 'Based on societal ignominy in the developing world, shame surrounding menstruation and its direct barrier to girls education remains a hushed conversation. As a result, both household dialogue and policy making discussions often leave Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) off the table.

Photo credit: Dia Dipasupil - Getty Images
Photo credit: Dia Dipasupil - Getty Images

She highlighted that the 'shame-filled reality' caused by the 'minimal dialogue about menstrual health hygiene' is one of the factors that 'perpetuate the cycle of poverty and stunt a young girl’s dream for a more prolific future'.

Meghan Markle was a Counsellor in One Young World Summits in Dublin, Ireland in 2014 and Ottawa, Canada in 2016

At 2016's Summit, Markle talked alongside Justin Trudeau and called out the Suits creator for gender inequality, due to allowing her character to do so many semi-naked scenes.

Meghan Markle supported World Vision's Clean Water Campaign in Rwanda in 2016.

Markle, who was appointed as Global Ambassador for Wold Vision, travelled to Rwanda with Wold Vision to see first-hand the importance of clean water.

She said: 'I think there’s a misconception that access to clean water is just about clean drinking water; which, of course, it is but it’s so much more than that. Access to clean water in a community keeps young girls in school, because they aren't walking hours each day to source water for their families. It allows women to invest in their own businesses and community. It promotes grassroots leadership, and, of course, it reinforces the health and wellness of children and adults. Every single piece of it is so interconnected, and clean water, this one life source, is the key to it all.”

Photo credit: NDZ/Star Max - Getty Images
Photo credit: NDZ/Star Max - Getty Images

'It was an amazing experience, taking water from one of the water sources in the community and using it with the children to paint pictures of what they dream to be when they grow up. I saw that water is not just a life source for a community, but it can really be a source for creative imagination, and how lucky I am to have been a part of that.'

World Vision gushed: 'We are delighted to have Meghan Markle represent us as our newest World Vision Global Ambassador. Her passion for global issues, and making a difference in the lives of children and women, is inspirational.'

Meghan Markle wrote for ELLE UK about her experiences working with the United Nations

Markle wrote exclusively for ELLE UK about restoring Hollywood fame with her philanthropic efforts.

She also reflected on how her humble beginnings helped her to become the person she was, and referred to the 'fighting spirit I had as a girl'.

Meghan Markle opens up about questioning her value

In a 2015 essay, published by Darling magazine, Markle admitted to questioning her value during her early years.

She wrote: 'I was in my early twenties, still figuring so much out, and trying to find my value in an industry that judges you on everything that you’re not versus everything that you are.

'Not thin enough, not pretty enough, not ethnic enough, while also being too thin, too ethnic, too pretty the very next day.'

Meghan Markle gives powerful speech on gender equality at U.N. Women's 2015 conference

The now duchess spoke about tracing her feminism and advocacy pursuits back to a time when she was just 11.

She recalled watching a commercial for a dishwashing soap on TV that had the tagline: 'Women all over America are fighting greasy pots and pans.'

After two boys said it portrayed women where they belong, 'in the kitchen', Markle was upset by the response as well as the message the commercial portrayed.

'I remember feeling shocked and angry and also just feeling so hurt,' Markle said.

'It just wasn't right, and something needed to be done.'

Photo credit: Sylvain Gaboury - Getty Images
Photo credit: Sylvain Gaboury - Getty Images

She later wrote a letter to then First Lady Hillary Clinton, Nick News host Linda Ellerbee, and lawyer Gloria Allred, as well as the manufacturer Procter & Gamble.

Markle received responses from Clinton, Ellerbee and Allred, and Nick News sent a camera crew to cover Markle's campaign for change.

The manufacturer even changed the tagline for the product.

'They changed it from "Women all over America are fighting greasy pots and pans" to "People all over America,"' Markle said.

'It means that a wife is equal to her husband, a sister to her brother. Not better, not worse—they are equal.

'It was at that moment that I realised the magnitude of my actions.

At the age of 11, I had created my small level of impact by standing up for equality.'

Meghan Markle writes candidly about the limitations that come from wanting to be a 'princess' and the 'endless conversation about Princess Kate'

In 2014, Markle wrote a blog entry on her now defunct site The Tig, addressing that she thought about being a princess as a kid and even made reference to Kate Middleton and Prince William's wedding.

She interviewed Princess Alia Al-Senuss, but started with a reflection, writing: 'Little girls dream of being princesses. I, for one, was all about She-Ra, Princess of Power.'

She added: 'And grown women seem to retain this childhood fantasy. Just look at the pomp and circumstance surrounding the royal wedding and endless conversation about Princess Kate.'

Meghan Markle wrote a letter to herself as she approached her 33rd birthday, revealing 'My 20s Were Brutal'

Markle wrote a letter to herself ahead of her 33rd birthday, where she spoke about her struggles when it came to accepting herself.

In the short essay, she wrote: 'I am 33 years old today. And I am happy. And I say that so plainly because, well…it takes time. To be happy. To figure out how to be kind to yourself. To not just choose that happiness, but to feel it.

'My 20s were brutal – a constant battle with myself, judging my weight, my style, my desire to be as cool/as hip/as smart/as ‘whatever’ as everyone else. My teens were even worse – grappling with how to fit in, and what that even meant. My high school had cliques: the black girls and white girls, the Filipino and the Latina girls. Being biracial, I fell somewhere in between.'

She then recalled the life-changing conversation she had with a casting director.

Photo credit: Max Mumby/Indigo - Getty Images
Photo credit: Max Mumby/Indigo - Getty Images

'I must have been about 24 when a casting director looked at me during an audition and said, "You need to know that you’re enough. Less makeup, more Meghan."'

She later addressed her fans, writing: 'You need to know that you’re enough. A mantra that has now engrained itself so deeply within me that not a day goes by without hearing it chime in my head. That five pounds lost won’t make you happier, that more makeup won’t make you prettier, that the now iconic saying from Jerry Maguire – "You complete me" – frankly, isn’t true. You are complete with or without a partner. You are enough just as you are.'

She concluded with one birthday request: 'I want you to be kind to yourself. I want you to challenge yourself. I want you to stop gossiping, to try a food that scares you, to buy a coffee for someone just because, to tell someone you love them…and then to tell yourself right back. I want you to find your happiness.'

Meghan Markle stands against racism in Erase the Hate campaign, after George Floyd's death

Markle appeared in a 2012 Erase the Hate campaign following the death of George Floyd. In the video, she wore a T-shirt with the words: 'I won’t stand for racism.'

She said: 'My name’s Meghan Markle and I’m here because I think it’s a really important campaign to be a part of.

'For me I think it really hits a personal note. I’m bi-racial, most people can’t tell what I’m mixed with and so much of my life has felt like being a fly on the wall.

She added: 'Some of the slurs I’ve heard or the really offensive jokes, or the names, it’s just hit me in a really strong way.

'A couple of years ago I heard someone call my mum the N-word.'

Markle concluded: 'I think for me, beyond being personally affected by racism, just to see the landscape of what our country is like right now, certainly the world, and to want things to be better.

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