The shady side of Meghan Markle

Former Suits star Meghan Markle became Prince Harry's fiancée when the royal popped the question in November 2017, causing both American and British citizens to rejoice. Her mixed-race background, previous marriage, and, of course, status as an American citizen all drew extra attention to the groundbreaking engagement. And when the two married in a gorgeous ceremony at Windsor Castle on May 19, 2018, the public's interest in their relationship — and Markle, specifically — grew.

But there have been a few things behind the scenes that have made us raise our eyebrows. Here's a look at the shady side of the Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle.

Meghan Markle's related to Prince Harry

Yep, you read that right: These two lovebirds come from the same family tree. Of course, we should take this with a grain of salt, because, after all, we probably all share a few genes here and there if we trace our ancestry back far enough. Though Meghan Markle was born American and Prince Harry's British, in October 2017, the Daily Mail performed what they called "a genealogical investigation," revealing that the two are allegedly cousins dating back to the 15th century. The connection is on Markle's father's side — but it's 15 generations back, so there's no need to worry about family dinners getting more awkward over the holidays.

Did Hollywood change Meghan Markle?

In December 2017, news broke that Meghan Markle's estranged half-sister, Samantha Markle, was gearing up to release a tell-all book focused on revealing some damning family secrets, going so far as to call Meghan a "social climber" in an interview with The Sun. "Hollywood has changed her. I think her ambition is to become a princess," said Samantha when Meghan and Prince Harry had started dating. Samantha also complained that Meghan all but forgot about her after gaining high society status. 

However, according to E! News, a person close to the family says Samantha can't be trusted. "Samantha [Markle] doesn't have a relationship with Meghan Markle and she never has," said the source. "Meghan has never done anything to her and continues to take the high road." Be that as it may, it's worth noting that it isn't only Samantha who thinks Meghan's completely different these days. "The person I knew is not there anymore," Meghan's former best friend, Ninaki Priddy, told the Daily Mail in December 2017. "There's Meghan Before Fame and Meghan After Fame."

Meghan Markle's career may have interfered with her first marriage

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry's engagement was untraditional for a number of reasons — and her status as a divorced woman was arguably first among them. Before meeting Prince Harry, Markle was married to producer Trevor Engelson for two years before they split, citing "irreconcilable differences." 

Former friend Ninaki Priddy, who served as maid of honor at Markle's wedding to Engelson, told the Daily Mail that Markle's career ultimately led to the demise of that union, saying, "It was such a shock when she told me they were getting divorced." Another person close to the couple told Woman's Day (via Life & Style) that the stress of a long-distance relationship likely played a part, as Markle lived in Canada during filming on her USA Network series Suits while her husband lived in Los Angeles. As the magazine's source pointed out, "It was a very difficult way to start married life."

Did Meghan Markle have a secret royal fascination?

In their BBC engagement interview, Meghan Markle and Prince Harry revealed that they'd met on a blind date. "Because I'm from the States, you don't grow up with the same understanding of the royal family," Markle said. "And so while I now understand very clearly there's a global interest there, I didn't know much about him." However, former friend Ninaki Priddy's Daily Mail interview told a different story. 

"I know the Royal Family was something she found fascinating," said Priddy. "She had one of Princess Diana's books on her bookshelf." Plus, between Princess Diana's popularity and Prince Harry's days as prime tabloid fodder (remember that time he went wild in Vegas?), it's hard to believe she didn't know anything about the prince.

A look inside Meghan Markle's seemingly shady family ties

Meghan Markle's relationship with her family was a hot topic in the run-up to her wedding. Her husband-to-be inadvertently caused a stink when he told BBC Radio 4 (per Us Weekly) that the Windsors were "the family that I suppose she's never had." Prince Harry's comment hurt the Markles, who hit back via the Daily Mail. "She's had a really good family," half-brother Thomas Markle Jr claimed. "We were as close as we could be." So why did Harry say that?

Some surmised that Markle had lied to her fiancé, which is apparently a family trait. Her estranged half-sister, Samantha Markle, admitted to staging those infamous paparazzi shots of their father, who has also copped to lying. Speaking in a Channel 5 documentary (via Fox News), Thomas Markle revealed that he concocted a story about the Sussexes contacting him after he missed their wedding following a heart attack, all to protect their image. "I said they called me back and they were really concerned about me and I said, 'Go on your honeymoon, don't worry about me, I'll be fine.' And that was all a lie."

There was no phone call, according to Thomas, but he did receive a handwritten letter from his daughter after her wedding. "I thought it would be an olive branch," he told the Daily Mail. "Instead, it was a dagger to the heart." In the letter (which is at the center of a landmark lawsuit), Markle reprimands her father for talking to the press and asking her for money.

Meghan Markle's puppy trouble

In her Daily Mail interview, former friend Ninaki Priddy claimed dog-loving Meghan Markle flaunted her status as a way to adopt a dog. Now the owner of two rescues, Markle seems to have a rocky relationship with both of them. 

In November 2017, a Kensington Palace spokesperson broke the news that Markle's retriever, Bogart, would not join her overseas. "It takes a toll on an animal to travel so far across Atlantic combined with the hard, long process of getting approval," said the spokesperson. "It's in the best interest of the animal's well-being to stay." Instead of traveling with Markle, Bogart will stay with one of her friends in the United States. 

That December, the Daily Mail reported that Markle's other dog, Guy, broke two legs. Circumstances surrounding the injury are unknown, but sources claimed Markle was "distraught" over the accident.

Meghan Markle's reps may have planted rumors

Meghan Markle starred on the hit show Suits for years — we would never try to take that away from her — but let's be honest: She didn't become a household name until her relationship with Prince Harry, and her reps may have tried to take advantage of that new-found notoriety. 

In December 2017, gossip emerged that Markle was on the short list for a role in the next James Bond movie. "Meghan fits the role of a Bond girl perfectly," a source told The Sun, but Blind Gossip refuted this claim. Its source said Markle was never in the running and alleged the chatter was just stirred up by "her people" for publicity. These rumors aren't too far-fetched if you consider the fact that Markle's former friend also suggested the actress had grown a bit too big for her britches. "Even by season two of Suits, she was turning down lunch with us because she said she'd be recognized," Ninaki Priddy told the Daily Mail. "There were instances when I felt she developed a sense of entitlement because she was on the show."

One of Meghan Markle's friendships ended in bitterness

While Ninaki Priddy did have some nice things to say about her former friend while recounting their childhood together, she didn't hesitate to call Meghan Markle out for her supposed opportunistic ways. "All I can say now is that I think Meghan was calculated — very calculated — in the way she handled people and relationships," Priddy told the Daily Mail. "She is very strategic in the way she cultivates circles of friends." Ouch! 

Priddy also claimed it was always Markle's dream to be famous, recalling that "she just loved to be the center of attention." That trait will likely serve her well in the royal palace — and may, in fact, be a reason her relationship with Prince Harry is likely to work out. "One of the advantages of Meghan is because she is in the public eye, she likes that," Penny Junor, author of Prince Harry: Brother, Soldier, Son, told the Express. "The real problem with Harry's girlfriends in the past is that they absolutely hated the media attention and that's scared them off."

This gal pal says Meghan Markle 'ghosted' her after meeting Prince Harry

Meghan Markle is said to have spent a lot of time in London following her split from Trevor Engelson. The actress reportedly struck up a friendship with local TV personality Lizzie Cundy after they attended a charity dinner. According to Cundy, Markle was keen to find a new man, but the recent divorcee allegedly had two conditions: He had to be English, and he had to be famous. "We were having a girly chat and then she said, 'Do you know any famous guys? I'm single and I really love English men,'" Cundy wrote in the 2019 tell-all Tales From the Red Carper (via Yahoo! Sports). "So I said, 'We'll go out and find you someone.'"

Cundy claims Markle called controversial soccer star Ashley Cole "cute," but that went nowhere. Sources close to X-Factor winner Matt Cardle claim Markle quietly slid into his DM zone in 2015, but the singer reportedly stopped replying after meeting somebody else. Her Instagram interaction with Cardle allegedly took place just months before she started dating Harry, according to The Sun. Once Harry was on the hook, Markle apparently had no use for Cundy. "I texted saying, 'Oh my god, I heard about Harry,' and she was like, 'Yeah I know, we'll try and hook up,'" Cundy claims. "She was probably told by the Palace to end contact with people she befriended in the media. I was literally ghosted by her."

Meghan Markle reportedly caused a stink over air fresheners

To the millions watching around the world, Meghan Markle and Prince Harry's wedding appeared every inch a flawless fairy tale, but reports suggest that it wasn't exactly smooth sailing behind the scenes. According to the Daily Mail, the American got a lot of British backs up when she requested that air fresheners be deployed at her wedding because the smell inside St. George's Chapel displeased her. According to one royal insider, the chapel's "musty" smell isn't "unpleasant at all, though. It just smells how you would expect an old building to smell." Keep in mind: St. George's Chapel has been an important place of worship for the British monarchy since 1475.

"Meghan wanted staff to go around with these atomisers, like spritzer guns, and spray the chapel with scent before anyone arrived," the source claimed. "Royal Household staff stepped in and told her office politely, but firmly, that this was the Queen's Chapel and it simply wasn't appropriate. This is a place that has held royal weddings, funerals and even contains the Royal Vault — I don't believe a request of that nature had been made before."

Did Meghan Markle throw a tantrum over an emerald tiara?

Most brides would be ecstatic at the thought of walking down the aisle wearing a diamond and platinum bandeau tiara handpicked by the queen herself, but according to royal whistle-blowers, Meghan Markle wanted to choose her own. Household insiders with links to Dan Wootton (executive editor at The Sun) report that Prince Harry's bride-to-be made it clear which headpiece she wanted to wear on her big day, and things apparently got a little tense when her idea was shot down. "Meghan had her heart set on this tiara with emeralds and Prince Harry hit the roof when they were told it was impossible for her to wear it," one source claimed. "The provenance of the tiara could not be established — there were concerns it could have come from Russia originally."

When news of Markle's so-called "difficult" behavior reached the queen, her majesty reportedly decided to give her grandson a good talking to. "There was a very heated exchange that prompted the Queen to speak to Harry," Wootton's royal insider dished. "She said, 'Meghan cannot have whatever she wants, she gets what tiara she's given by me.' The message from the Queen was very much Meghan needed to think about how she speaks to staff members and be careful to follow family protocols." According to the source, the queen struck a low-blow during the exchange, questioning why Markle needed to wear a traditional wedding veil given it was her second marriage. Ouch!

Meghan Markle made Kate Middleton cry, multiple sources claim

Rumors of an ongoing feud between Meghan Markle and her sister-in-law began to swirl after it emerged that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex would be moving out of Kensington Palace. Tabloids claimed Kate Middleton had snapped at Markle after she caught the former actress speaking rudely to someone on her staff. The Palace denied this in a statement, which raised a few eyebrows among royal commentators. "It's fairly unprecedented for them to speak out in this way, and I think what Kensington Palace is wanting to do is to detract from this rift that's happening," royal expert Angela Mollard said (via Express). "The Queen is in the golden era of her reign. She wants a cohesive royal family."

The press has continued to dig into the allegedly splintered relationship between the two duchesses. Esteemed royal journalist Camilla Tominey, associate editor at The Telegraph, believes the rift began in the run-up to Markle and Prince Harry's wedding. Middleton's daughter, Princess Charlotte, was one of the stars of the wedding, but two of Tominey's sources claim Middleton was left in tears after an argument broke out during a fitting for her daughter's bridesmaid dress. "Kate had only just given birth to Prince Louis and was feeling quite emotional," one insider said (via the Daily Beast). This incident is said to have taken place around the same time as Markle's supposed emerald tiara drama.

Why did multiple royal aides reportedly quit on Meghan Markle?

It's not often that people with top positions in the royal household give up their post, so when three walk within quick succession, rumors of trouble in paradise are bound to fly. In May 2019, the Daily Mail revealed that Meghan Markle's right-hand woman, Amy Pickerill, was leaving when the royal couple moved to Frogmore Cottage, making her the third member of the duchess' staff to quit within a matter of months. "Amy is leaving," a royal insider confirmed. "It's very sad for her colleagues, as she is a really popular member of staff."

Pickerill was expected to stay on and succeed Markle's private secretary, Samantha "the Panther" Cohen, who (after 17 years with the royal family) also left her post. Cohen's departure followed that of Melissa Toubati, Markle's personal assistant. The latter caused a stir when she bolted less than six months after Markle's big wedding. According to the Mirror, the overwhelming demands put on Toubati by the new duchess broke her down. "She put up with quite a lot," a royal informant alleged. "Meghan put a lot of demands on her and it ended up with her in tears."

According to royal biographer Robert Jobson, Prince Harry has stood by his lady love. In his book, Charles at Seventy, Jobson claims Harry became "petulant and short-tempered" when employees didn't cooperate. "Raising his voice on occasion, Harry would insist: 'What Meghan wants, she gets.'"

Did Meghan Markle cheat on her ex with Prince Harry?

Meghan Markle's relationship with Prince Harry seemed to have all the hallmarks of a real-life fairy tale when it first started blossoming, but was it actually more of a love triangle? Before she hooked up with her redheaded prince, Markle was dating renowned Canadian chef Cory Vitiello, and reports have suggested that there may have been an overlap between the two relationships. Rumors started to fly when an eagle-eyed royal fan noticed that Vanity Fair had edited its Markle cover story at her explicit request. "The sentence regarding the first time Markle met Prince Harry has been amended," a note from the editor read. "Markle told Vanity Fair that the couple met in July 2016."

The original article stated that the Sussexes had met that May. The prince is said to have asked for Markle's number after encountering her at an Invictus Games event in Toronto, and, according to The Telegraph (a daily broadsheet newspaper that doesn't traditionally peddle in unfounded gossip), the actress was "still dating a Canadian chef" at the time. When the Daily Mail asked Vitiello if he and Markle had "parted permanently when Harry came on the scene," he appeared to confirm that they were still involved in some capacity without actually saying the words. "Well, I'm sure you've done your due diligence," the restaurateur told the reporter. "I really appreciate the professionalism in the way you're going about this." 

Make of that what you will.

Was Megxit the plan all along?

Right or wrong, Meghan Markle was widely blamed when the Sussexes announced they were going to step back from royal life and branch out on their own in January 2020, both on social media and in the tabloids.

"Is it Meghan's fault? It's hard to escape the conclusion that having grown up in a country that considers the Kennedys to be aristocracy, Meghan didn't understand that being a Windsor is not like being a celebrity," Express columnist Virginia Blackburn wrote. It wasn't just the Brits who were unhappy about Megxit either. Canadian millionaire Kevin O'Leary claimed the Sussexes were "much less interesting" now that they weren't senior royals, and he believed Markle was to blame, saying (via Tatler), "I think Meghan got him into a bad place, and maybe she should do a little soul-searching. She knew what she was getting into when she married him." 

If this claim is true, then was Megxit actually her plan all along? Many seem to think so, and there's even some proof — well, kind of. According to Page Six, Markle put some of her clothes in a Toronto storage facility prior to her wedding. An insider claimed that she had the items delivered to her and Prince Harry's rented property on Vancouver Island when they arrived in Canada following the announcement. Why did Markle keep all those clothes in storage across the Atlantic for two years? It appears as though she knew she'd be back at some stage.

An old friend has labeled Meghan Markle a 'shape-shifter'

We might never know if Meghan Markle had some form of Megxit in mind when she married Prince Harry, but according to someone who knows her personally, shedding her skin and starting over is a habit of hers. Writing for Tatler, Shinan Govani (who hosted Markle for dinner during her Suits days) claimed, "Something that has stayed with me, especially post-Megxit, is that Meghan is no stranger to picking up and reinventing herself. Both a go-getter as well as a shape-shifter, she returns now with more social mojo than she could have ever imagined then." 

By March 2020, Markle was already unleashing that social mojo on Los Angeles, where she and Harry moved after leaving Canada behind. The Sussexes were previously mocked when the prince was filmed asking Disney CEO Bob Iger to cast Markle in something ("You know she does voice overs?" the prince reportedly said, per Express), and later reports suggested that the actress had instructed her agent to find her a role in a superhero movie. It seems as though Markle was making herself at home, but how was Harry handling it? Was the royal keeping up with his shape-shifting wife? "I don't know how his career is going to map out," Dr. Jane Goodall, a famous primatologist and a good friend of Harry's told the Radio Times that April (via Entertainment Tonight). "I've been in touch, though I think he's finding life a bit challenging just now."

The Sussexes were accused of shading the York sisters and the queen

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle shocked everyone when they revealed they were stepping back as senior royals in a bombshell statement, including — according to senior palace sources – Queen Elizabeth herself. Her Majesty reportedly had no idea her grandson was about to ditch royalty in favor of a quieter life in North America, but after a period of negotiation, she accepted the decision. However, she also banned them from using the word "royal" in their private endeavors, which was a bit of a slap in the face considering they'd named their brand Sussex Royal. 

While the couple agreed to comply, they landed a seemingly shady dig on Harry's granny at the same time. A few months after their initial announcement, a new statement appeared on the Sussex Royal website. In it, the Sussexes stated that the queen doesn't have any "jurisdiction" over the word "royal" overseas, but noted they would stop using it anyway. Yikes! Elsewhere, in what appeared to be a barely-veiled shot at Princesses Eugenie and Beatrice, they said, "While there is precedent for other titled members of the royal family to seek employment outside of the ­institution, for The Duke and Duchess of Sussex, a 12-month ­review period has been put in place." The York sisters have both been allowed to work while keeping their titles, and this apparently snarky remark seems to prove that Harry and Meghan expected (or at least wanted) the same arrangement.

Meghan Markle reportedly thinks her royal in-laws lack 'warmth'

Now that Meghan Markle is stateside and out of The Firm's reach, she's apparently been dishing about Prince Harry's side of the family. What was life really like inside the palace? A little frosty, according to the American. In March 2020, a source cited by the Daily Mail claimed that Markle's bemoaned the lack of "warmth" at royal family gatherings and finds all the standoffish behavior very odd. Her sister-in-law, Kate Middleton, is reportedly the biggest culprit.

"It's still weird to her that no one hugs and that everyone is so uptight, especially Kate," the insider, said to be a close friend of Markle, told the tabloid. "She said it's obvious that Kate and William do not approve of their choices and that you could cut the tension with a knife." The source went on to say that "Kate barely even looked" at Markle during her final trip as a senior royal, and that "their interaction was kept to a bare minimum."

Rumors of a rift between the two duchesses have been dogging the royal family for some time now. However, this damaging narrative really started to take root in 2019, when Markle guest-edited the September issue of British Vogue: She neglected to put Middleton on the female "forces for change" list featured in her issue, and also said that it would have been "boastful" to appear on the cover herself. Middleton appeared on the cover of the mag in 2016. Awkward.