Meghan Markle’s wedding to Prince Harry is less than a week away, but long before she was on her way to becoming a royal, she was an ordinary American teenager who ran through sprinklers and palled around with her friends.
A collection of old photos of the 36-year-old Suits actress gives a rare glimpse into her Los Angeles upbringing, as well as her relationship with her father, Thomas, and her mother, Doria Ragland, who divorced when she was a child.
‘Meghan had the most normal upbringing you could imagine — but we always knew she was destined for great things,’ a childhood friend said of the actress-turned-activist. ‘Now she is set to live every girl’s dream and become a princess by marrying Prince Harry.’
American girl: A collection of old photos shows Meghan Markle running through sprinklers in the yard of her Los Angeles apartment when she was 13 years old
Having a blast: The soon-to-be royal was all smiles while playing around in a black swimsuit
‘I am absolutely blown away that the ordinary little girl we knew growing up in a regular apartment in Southern California is going to be married to a member of the British Royal Family.’
Growing up, Meghan lived with her mother in a small two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment in LA, and while it was a far cry from Kensington Palace, her childhood friend insists it wasn’t the tough area that some media reports made it out to be.
‘She grew up in an apartment in the Mid-Wilshire area of LA, which is where some artists and budding actors lived,’ the person explained. ‘It’s a nice area and not the tough area that reports have talked about.
‘Their apartment was nice, fairly spacious, clean and organized. Her mother did a great job raising her after she split from Thomas.’
Like most teens, the future royal enjoyed having fun with her friends, and one heartwarming photo shows a 13-year-old Meghan laughing while running through a sprinkler outside of her Los Angeles home.
She is pictured wearing a sporty black one piece and her natural curls are pulled back in a pony tail while she enjoys the California sunshine.
Daddy’s girl: Meghan is pictured with her father, Thomas Markle Snr., now 73, when she was just 13 years old
Style of the times: In her early teen years, Meghan wore her hair in natural curls and donned flannel shirts and Converse sneakers
Tween: The actress-turned-activist is pictured at a friend’s house when she was 10 years old
One of the snapshots shows her standing next to the sprinkler with her eyes closed as the water splashes her in the face. In another picture, she is laughing while holding the garden hose nozzle in her hand.
A 13-year-old Meghan was also photographed leaning against a stone cement wall with her arms crossed. The picture shows the teen wearing a flannel shirt tucked into black pants and red Converse Chuck Taylor All Star sneakers.
Her dark, curly hair is pulled back into a ponytail, and she is looking away from the camera while standing between two friends.
Meghan’s mother, Doria, is African American while her dad, Thomas, is of Dutch-Irish descent, and her childhood friend said the biracial future royal had friends of all races when she was growing up.
‘I think when she was growing up and around other kids she identified herself as African American,’ the friend said. ‘Being bi-racial was never an issue for her. She didn’t know any difference and it was never a big thing for her.
‘I think it perhaps became more of an issue for her when she was a teenager,’ the person added. ‘I hope she embraces her African-American side going forward and her and Harry use their influence to support women’s groups and children’s charities.’
Looking back: Meghan, who is pictured at friend’s house when she was five years old, lived with her mother, Doria Ragland, in a small two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment in LA
Future royal! Earlier images show Meghan dressing up as different characters, such as this snap, taken when she was five, that captures her dressing as The Queen at a birthday party
Inspiration: Meghan was surrounded by actors having grown up in an apartment in the Mid-Wilshire area of LA, which is where some artists and budding performers lived
Among the collection of images is a picture of a 13-year-old Meghan with her dad, who worked as a lighting director the popular TV shows Married… with Children and General Hospital.
In one photo, Meghan is donning a flannel shirt and has a closed-mouth smile while cozing up to her father.
‘Both her parents are wonderful people. Her mother is down to earth, humble and a very caring women who does social work and cares for people,’ her childhood friend said. ‘Thomas too is a really great guy who would give you the shirt off his back. He is very quiet, softly spoken and reserved and Meghan has a great relationship with him.’
Doria and Thomas met at work when she was a page at ABC Television while Thomas was a lighting master. The couple divorced when Meghan was just six years old.
Meghan, who is best known for playing Rachel Zane on Suits, first took interest in becoming an actress while attending the Immaculate Heart School in Los Angeles, which regularly put on plays.
Her childhood friend said she ‘got a little break into acting when she appeared on General Hospital in a couple of scenes,’
‘I think she was hooked from that moment,’ the pal said, noting that acting was a natural fit for her.
‘Growing up Meghan always wanted to be the center of attention. That may come from her being an only child,’ the person explained. ‘She had a wonderful childhood and was surrounded by love. We always knew she wanted more out of life.
Past: Meghan is pictured with her mom (left) when she was just seven years old
Costume: Meghan dressed as Elvira for Halloween when she was seven
‘She was very driven and as an only child she always wanted things to be just right and her way,’ the friend added. ‘She was always helping people, loved animals and was a very polite, well mannered little girl.’
According to the pal, Meghan ‘wasn’t shy at all.’ She was ‘very outgoing and always chatting away.’
‘It is astonishing to think she’s now one of the world’s most famous and influential women,’ the person said.
Meghan and Prince Harry will say ‘I do’ on Saturday, May 19, at Windsor Castle in England, but, as of now, her mother Doria is is thought to be the only close relative attending the royal wedding.
Thomas was set to walk his daughter down the aisle, but he has claimed that he will no longer be attending Meghan’s wedding because he doesn’t want to embarrass her or the Royal Family.
A week before the wedding, it was revealed that Thomas secretly collaborated with a British paparazzi photographer to stage a series of pictures of himself preparing for the royal wedding.
Absent: On Monday, Meghan’s father, Thomas Markle, revealed that he would not attend the wedding after it was reported that he had been paid to stage paparazzi pictures
Moving on: Meghan Markle’s mother, Doria Ragland (pictured with her daughter), has quit her job at a mental health clinic in Los Angeles ahead of the royal wedding
While sharing his regret over staging the images in an attempt to recast his public image, the dad admitted to TMZ that the pictures look ‘stupid and hammy.’
TMZ also reported that Thomas had suffered a heart attack six days ago. Although he checked himself out of the hospital so he could attend the wedding, he has decided to skip the royal event because of the photo scandal.
While responding to the report, a Kensington Palace spokesman neither confirmed nor denied that Thomas was no longer attending the wedding.
‘This is a deeply personal moment for Ms Markle in the days before her wedding,’ the memo reads. ‘She and Prince Harry ask again for understanding and respect to be extended to Mr Markle in this difficult situation.’
On the same day that it was revealed that Thomas wasn’t going to attend the wedding, it was reported that Doria had quit her job at a mental health clinic ahead of the royal wedding.
According to Us Weekly, the 61-year-old social worker left her role at the Los Angeles clinic she had been working at to pursue her goal of starting her own private practice.
‘Doria is no longer working at the mental health clinic in the Los Angeles area. It was Doria’s decision to leave,’ a source told the outlet. ‘She has talked about starting her own private practice, focusing on working with elderly patients.’