A Timeline Of Meghan Markle's Parents' Relationship

Long before their daughter became a household name, Thomas Markle and Doria Ragland were a loving couple with big dreams of their own. While Ragland pursued a career as a yoga instructor and social worker (she left her job at a Los Angeles mental health clinic in 2018), Markle was an Emmy-winning lighting engineer and set builder for smash hit shows like "General Hospital" and "Married... with Children," per Hello!.

Despite their professional achievements, however, these days, they're mostly in the news thanks to drama-filled stories. Thomas Markle's relationship with Meghan is constantly being placed under a microscope, as is his bond with Prince Harry. And the situation has only been exacerbated by the fact that Thomas has openly accused his daughter of not speaking to him and, in June 2021, even went as far as to seemingly threaten the duchess on TV.

But putting the headlines aside reveals that there's much more to this family story than meets the eye. Meghan Markle's parents haven't always had a strained relationship, and her own bond with them has changed greatly over the years. Here is a full timeline of all of the ups and downs of Meghan Markle's parents' relationship.

How did Meghan Markle's parents meet?

Thomas Markle and Doria Ragland's love story starts with a meet-cute worthy of a Hollywood rom-com. Not in the least bit because it actually happened in Hollywood on the set of "General Hospital," per Vanity Fair. As Meghan Markle herself told Elle back in 2015, "It was the late Seventies when my parents met, my dad was a lighting director for a soap opera and my mom was a temp at the studio." She joked, "I like to think he was drawn to her sweet eyes and her Afro, plus their shared love of antiques."

A shared desire to escape small town life and make it in Los Angeles may also have helped them bond. According to journalist and author Halima Sadat, who has penned a number of books about the British royal family, Thomas and Doria both left their families behind to pursue their dreams in California. In her 2018 book titled "Harry & Meghan: A Royal Engagement," Sadat writes (via Hello!) that Thomas comes from a family of coal miners who moved from Yorkshire, England to Mahanoy, Pennsylvania around 1859. The family remained there for the next century, and Thomas was born in the Keystone State, but decided to move to Hollywood to pursue a career in film. 

As for Meghan's mom, Sadat writes that "Doria can trace her lineage back to the days of slave labour in the Deep South states of Georgia and Tennessee." Her family later moved to Ohio, which is where she was born, but she too was drawn to California and moved there in the 60s.

Thomas Markle and Doria Ragland formed a blended family

Before Thomas Markle met Doria Ragland, he had already been married once — and divorced. He and his first wife, Roslyn, had two children — Thomas Jr. and Samantha — during their marriage, which lasted from 1964 to 1975. Speaking with the Mirror in 2019, Roslyn, who met Thomas at a house party in Chicago, accused him of being unfaithful, abusive, and called him an "awful father," alleging to the outlet that "while he portrays himself as a loving father, he was anything but to our two children during our marriage." 

It's unclear whether Doria Ragland knew of any of these claims, but Roslyn believed her ex "swept Doria off her feet," because he "turned on the charm as he did me, even more so because of how young she was." Doria, 12 years Thomas' junior, was so smitten that the pair married in 1979, tying the knot at Sunset Boulevard's Self-Realization Fellowship, per Vanity Fair. The couple moved in together in Woodland Hills with Thomas' two children, and had Meghan Markle in 1981. 

According to the outlet's recap of Andrew Morton's "Meghan: A Hollywood Princess" biography, "the teenage siblings were unruly," with Samantha trying to make it as an actor and Thomas Jr. reportedly spending his days hanging out with friends and smoking joints at the house. As Vanity Fair notes, the blended family enjoyed a life as "the type of low-level creatives who abound in Hollywood, enjoying an offbeat life in the sunshine."

They struggled with racial injustice throughout their relationship

Thomas Markle and Doria Ragland may have been enjoying their new life together, but being a biracial couple wasn't easy. As Meghan Markle candidly revealed to Elle in 2015, "They moved into a house in The Valley in LA, to a neighbourhood that was leafy and affordable" but not "diverse." She recalled, "There was my mom, caramel in complexion with her light-skinned baby in tow, being asked where my mother was since they assumed she was the nanny." 

But despite the hardships, Doria and Thomas put on a united front for Meghan, protecting her as much as they could. "They crafted the world around me to make me feel like I wasn't different but special," the future duchess shared. "When I was about seven, I had been fawning over a boxed set of Barbie dolls" that included a mom, dad, and two kids, and "was only sold in sets of white dolls or black dolls," she explained, adding, "I don't remember coveting one over the other, I just wanted one. On Christmas morning, swathed in glitter-flecked wrapping paper, there I found my Heart Family: a black mom doll, a white dad doll, and a child in each color. My dad had taken the sets apart and customised my family."

Meghan also recalled how, after "not knowing what to do" when she was asked to fill out a census card in the seventh grade and eventually leaving the ethnicity box blank, her dad "said the words that have always stayed with me: 'If that happens again, you draw your own box.'"

They divorced when Meghan Markle was just six years old

Back in 2015, Meghan Markle told Elle how her parents' love had transcended all sorts of barriers, as she shared that "growing up in a homogeneous community in Pennsylvania, the concept of marrying an African-American woman was not on the cards for my dad. But he saw beyond what was put in front of him in that small-sized (and, perhaps, small-minded) town." Unfortunately, their relationship wasn't meant to last, and the couple eventually split in 1987, per the Mirror, when Meghan was six years old.

Looking back at their separation, Thomas Markle gave a snippet of insight into what caused his and Doria Ragland's divorce, when he revealed in Channel 5's "Thomas Markle: My Story" documentary (via Express) that it came down to two main factors. "It went well for a while but I wasn't home enough," he began, adding, "Doria had other interests as well. What was going on in that household at that time wasn't making me happy. So at first she wanted to move back into the city and that is what happened. Then we divorced after that." 

Thomas went on to reveal, "The whole family split up at that time. Doria moved with Meghan to a nice little house and I would see her on weekends and whenever I could."

Meghan Markle bonded with her dad over work

When Thomas Markle spoke about his famous daughter in Channel 5's "Thomas Markle: My Story" (via Express), he painted their bond as something truly special that began the moment she was born. Recalling her birth, he gushed, "I couldn't have been a happier man. She was born as a C-section so I got to hold her first." He went on to recount, "I fell in love with her and never stopped. She became the most special thing in my life."

Despite the controversy surrounding their relationship today, it sure seems like Meghan Markle and Thomas had a strong bond. After her parents' split, Meghan remained close to both her mom and dad, even telling Esquire in 2018 how "every day after school for 10 years, I was on the set of 'Married... with Children,'" where her father worked as "a lighting director and director of photography." And while the future Duchess of Sussex wasn't allowed to watch the show, she "could watch the end credits so I could give the screen a kiss when I saw my dad's name go by." 

In the same interview, Meghan also gave her dad props for helping with her acting career. "I will always find my light," the former "Suits" star began. "No question. And if I don't, I'll know, because my dad will be the first person to call me and say like, 'You need to have him bring another 2K in,' and 'Why aren't you using this sort of lighting gel?'"

Did Meghan Markle 'enjoy' her parents' split?

Growing up with divorced parents is never easy, but according to Meghan Markle's half-sister, Samantha Markle, she supposedly "enjoyed" the divorce because she got the best out of both homes. Speaking out in Quest Red's 2019 documentary, "Meghan and Harry: A Royal Baby Story" (via Express), Samantha noted that "the divorce was handled by my father and Doria quite well," and claimed, "I didn't notice that Meghan was adversely affected by that, I think to the contrary. She enjoyed having two households." Meghan's now-estranged half-sister went on to allege, "She had whatever she wanted materially and a great circle of friends. I do not think she wanted for anything or noticed the divorce, per se."

Whether that's true or not, Thomas Markle and Doria Ragland's 1987 divorce did expose Meghan to a new set of uncomfortable questions. Writing for Elle in 2015, she recalled a specific encounter with a closed-minded dormmate she met in her first week at university. As the duchess recalled, the roomie asked "if my parents were still together. 'You said your mom is black and your dad is white, right?' she said. I smiled meekly, waiting for what could possibly come out of her pursed lips next. 'And they're divorced?' I nodded. 'Oh, well that makes sense.'"

Meghan went on to admit, "To this day, I still don't fully understand what she meant by that, but I understood the implication. And I drew back: I was scared to open this Pandora's box of discrimination, so I sat stifled, swallowing my voice."

Teenage Meghan Markle wasn't 'on the best of terms' with her dad

It was 1999 when Meghan Markle, then just an aspiring actress, shot a home video with then-best friend Ninaki Priddy — "We've known each other since we were two-years-old," Meghan tells the camera — which The Sun unearthed in 2017. The clip, which was filmed at Priddy's Los Angeles apartment and then in Meghan's car, shows the future duchess talking about an upcoming music video audition while driving with her bestie around town. As they approach Thomas Markle's home, the 18-year-old Meghan declares, "We're about four minutes from my dad's house. From dad's house you can see the Hollywood sign." She then adds, "But we aren't going to go there because my dad and I aren't on the best of terms. I'd like to stop and see if I have any mail, but let's just say I doubt it."

It seems Meghan's relationship with her father has always had its ups and downs, at least according to her former ex-boyfriend, Joshua Silverstein. Speaking with Us Weekly in 2021, Silverstein recalled meeting Thomas when he and Meghan were "growing up as kids," and shared, "I didn't see him often, but I did know that Meghan's relationship with her dad was complicated and I understood that as most teenager-to-parent relationships are." Claiming that the pair had a "challenging" dynamic following Thomas' divorce from Doria Ragland, Silverstein made sure to point out that Thomas was always "very cordial" to him.

Thomas Markle and Doria Ragland appeared to remain amicable

Following their divorce, Thomas Markle and Doria Ragland co-parented Meghan Markle for years. As Vanity Fair reported, Meghan split her time between both parents before eventually moving in with her dad full-time during her adolescence. And while, at 18, she may have drifted slightly away from her father, both Thomas and Doria remained in Meghan's life well into her 30s — plus, they appeared to be amicable with one another. So much so that, despite any ups and downs they may have experienced behind the scenes, the exes publicly presented a united front leading up to their daughter's headline-making royal wedding.

In November 2017, when it was announced that Prince Harry and Meghan were engaged, Thomas and Doria even chose to issue a joint statement to express their joy, writing, "We are incredibly happy for Meghan and Harry. Our daughter has always been a kind and loving person. To see her union with Harry, who shares the same qualities, is a source of great joy for us as parents." They went on to conclude with, "We wish them a lifetime of happiness and are very excited for their future together."

Meghan Markle's relationship with her dad has crumbled

Meghan and Thomas Markle's relationship has devolved into pure headline fodder over the past several years. The drama appeared to begin in the leadup to the royal wedding, when it was confirmed that Thomas wouldn't be attending, despite initially planning to walk his daughter down the aisle. The news came in May 2018, shortly after the Daily Mail revealed that Thomas had accepted "up to £100,000" from British paparazzi to stage a number of photos of himself preparing for the big day.

Jump to 2019, and their relationship deteriorated further when Thomas once again cashed in on his relationship with British tabloids by allowing them to print a five-page letter Meghan had written to him to address their "feud." The Daily Mail published the letter (and eventually lost a privacy case brought forth by Meghan), which began, per Cosmopolitan, "Daddy, It is with a heavy heart that I write this, not understanding why you have chosen to take this path, turning a blind eye to the pain you're causing. Your actions have broken my heart into a million pieces."

Meanwhile, Thomas has claimed he's the victim. He told "Good Morning Britain" (via Cosmopolitan) that he's "been ghosted" by Meghan and pleaded, "I wish she would reach out, send me a text, anything." He also shut down Meghan's allegations that she was forced to pay for college herself, claiming to the Daily Mail, "I'm sorry, but that is completely untrue. I paid every penny of her tuition and I have the bank statements to prove it."

Meghan Markle and her mom just keep getting closer

Meghan Markle's relationship with her father may have frayed, but her bond with her mom continues to strengthen. Doria Ragland has been an integral part of Meghan's life with Prince Harry from the moment she met her future son-in-law in 2016. Despite calling the encounter "a little surreal," per Express, Ragland was supportive of the union and was right by her daughter's side on her wedding day. According to Vanity Fair, she also "got on extremely well" with Prince Charles and Duchess Camilla. 

When Archie Harrison Mountbatten Windsor was born in May 2019, Ragland was "a big help with the baby," per Us Weekly, and even moved into Meghan and Harry's California home in July 2020 to be more hands-on with her grandchild. Not surprisingly, when Lilibet Diana Mountbatten-Windsor arrived in June 2021, Ragland was reportedly right by the couple's side. "She's been helping out at the house and her hands-on support is a major bonus," a source told Us Weekly, adding, "Meghan's so grateful to have her mom to lean on, and Harry just adores her."

In fact, according to the Daily Mail (via Express), Ragland's bond with Harry has apparently become so strong that he "turns to her for advice." According to one insider, "Meghan has always trusted her completely but she has become a rock to Harry who, of course, lost his own mother so young. Doria has a great warmth ... and is very motherly, but she isn't someone who seeks attention, and for Harry her discretion and silence mean the world."