Meghan Markle and her former husband Trevor Engelson pictured together in 2006
When Meghan Markle made the decision to end her marriage to film producer Trevor Engelson in 2013, she acted swiftly — and some might say callously.
Instead of flying from her new home in Toronto to Los Angeles, where the couple had shared a bungalow, to return her engagement and wedding rings in person, she simply sent them back to him by post.
Engelson, whom she’d met when she was an aspiring actress and who’d mentored her to stardom in the TV series Suits, had been devastated by his wife’s ‘out of the blue’ request for a divorce barely two years after they married.
But it was not the first indignity he had suffered. Even before she called time on their marriage, when she moved to Canada to take up that starring role in the TV drama Suits, she took with her their expensive food-mixer.
According to a revealing new biography of Ms Markle, it was a statement of intent — and of her newfound independence.
‘She was her own woman now, earning a steady income, making new friends on-set and off, no longer dependent on her husband’s connections,’ the author writes. ‘A £360 Vitamix blender symbolised the divide.
‘She insisted her favourite kitchen appliance from their West Hollywood home come with her to Toronto. She packed it into the back-seat of her car. It then sat on the kitchen counter in the Toronto house — a material reminder that her home was no longer in Los Angeles.’
Meghan was married to film producer Trevor for two years who gave her a small role in the film Remember Me
It is an image far removed from what we have seen thus far of the royal bride-to-be — a sweet-natured and compassionate woman who can barely believe her good fortune at becoming engaged to a prince.
Doubtless there is a measure of truth in this. However, in his book, to be published this month, renowned royal biographer Andrew Morton portrays the 36-year-old actress in a very different light, suggesting a far more complex — and possibly calculating — character.
Though Morton describes it as ‘an old-fashioned story of a local girl makes good’, he shows how Meghan has harboured dreams of becoming a princess since she was a teenager. Her ambition is to ‘become Diana 2.0’, according to her closest school friend.
Meghan is set to marry Prince Harry on May 19 after they began a romance in 2016
In extracts published this weekend, the author also presents Meghan’s capacity for ruthlessness, describing how she has expunged people she once held dear from her life as she set about elevating her social and professional status.
Morton’s depiction of Meghan builds on my own portrayal of her in an exclusive Daily Mail series last year, and draws on many of the same sources. However, the author who made his name in 1992 with Diana: Her True Story, which exposed her shockingly dysfunctional marriage to Charles, takes the extraordinary narrative further.
It begins with Meghan’s own dysfunctional upbringing, which did much to shape her character. Her father, Thomas, was a leading Hollywood lighting director in his mid-30s when he met her mother, Doria, who was 12 years his junior and temping in his studio as a make-up artist. They married and were overjoyed when, a year later, Meghan was born, in August 1981.
But their happiness was fleeting. As Morton recounts, they lived in a predominantly white suburb where neighbours would mistake her black mother for the nanny or nursemaid. On top of this bigotry, Thomas worked 80 or 90 hours a week, leaving his young wife to care alone for Meghan and her step-siblings, Thomas Junior and Yvonne (who later took the name Samantha) — her husband’s teenage children by his first marriage.
With baby Meghan the apple of her father’s eye, her half-sister resented her from the outset. And while she was upstairs in her crib, Thomas Jnr, then 15, admitted to Morton that he would smoke cannabis downstairs with his friends.
Matters came to a head when his father caught them passing round a joint. To get them out of the house, he dreamt up a grotesque ruse. After changing Meghan’s nappy, he fetched a spoon from the kitchen and pretended to eat from it, Morton writes.
In fact, he had filled a clean nappy with chocolate pudding, but his son’s friends were duly repulsed and never returned. By the time Meghan was two years old, Doria had had enough and moved out, though four years would pass before her parents divorced. As they shared custody of her, Meghan was shunted