Our May cover star, Meghan Markle, is the elegant soon-to-be royal who needs no introduction. She was Google’s most searched actor in 2017 for the second year in a row, and with the royal wedding fast approaching, she’s likely to retain this title for a third year running. She once graced silver screens as paralegal Rachel Zane on Suits, but now her reality is far different from that of a law-school graduate or even that of a Hollywood actress.

Unlike your usual princess, Meghan’s story is complex, colourful and most certainly not conventional. This is not to say that she’s controversial – rather one muses over how a girl who once played the Grinch in her school play, will now be the princess all little girls wish to play in school productions. But did young Meghan have the same royal aspirations?

Perhaps not so much. This former Suits star goes by many titles, none of which fit your traditional princess narratives. Biracial, all-American, sorority alumnus, actor, humanitarian and divorced, but by no means a misfit, Meghan Markle has definitely rewritten the royal script in her unique way.

Hollywood princess

Before Meghan was an actor, she fully embraced her youth as an all-American sorority girl of Kappa Kappa Gamma at Northwestern University. Read the May issue for more details on this phase of her life, as told to Marie Claire by royal biographer Andrew Morton.

Later, she went on to play very minor roles in films including A Lot Like LoveRemember Me and an unnamed sitcom, before landing her breakthrough role as Rachel Zane on the TV series Suits.

Meghan Markle; from Hollywood to Kensington Castle

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But you obviously know this, right? However, what you probably didn’t know is that in 2006, our princess-to-be was one of 26 ‘briefcase girls’ on Deal or No Deal, making around $800 per episode.

Meghan Markle the unconventional princess

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Divorcee princess

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry

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It was during these early days of Meghan’s career that she met Hollywood producer and actor Trevor Engelson, her first husband. They got married in 2011, and divorced two years later in 2013. The fact that Meghan Markle is divorced was a short-lived cause for concern when Meghan and Harry officially announced their engagement. According to the Washington Post, this is due to the fact that in the past ‘permission would not have been granted to marry a divorcée (American or otherwise) without the prince renouncing his claim on the crown.’ But, given the modern era we now live in, where divorce is no longer stigmatised, Megharry (Meghan & Harry) have managed to uphold their status as ‘couple goals’ as they shake hands and kiss babies on the regular.  

Humanitarian princess

Meghan Markle the humanitarian

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While Meghan’s 10-year-old peers engaged in ordinary childhood activities, she was taking part in important conversations previously reserved for adults at the time. Biographer Andrew Morton explains that, at 10, Meghan was involved in discussions about racism in the US following police brutality victim Rodney King’s beating in 1991. And a year later, as an 11-year-old, she challenged a sexist soap ad and won.

Activism and humanitarianism have long since been Meghan’s calling, and as a result she officially swapped out her acting career for philanthropy, while also being a prominent advocate for social justice. The list of organisations and campaigns which she supports includes the Myna Mahila Foundation, World Vision’s Clean Water Campaign, over and above working with the United Nations and being a One Young World counsellor.

Meghan Markle road to Kensington Palace

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To read the full five-page exclusive on Meghan Markle’s road to Kensington Palace – an extract from Andrew Morton’s biography on Miss Markle – be sure to purchase a copy of the Marie Claire May issue, on shelf right now.