When it comes to global celebrities, the British Royal family is near the top of the list. Whether you’re invested in their lives or think the obsession is a little over the top, just about everyone is familiar with Queen Elizabeth II, William, Harry, Kate Middleton, and Meghan Markle. But how much do we really know about them?
Like all celebrities, the Royal Family has plenty of information they’d rather keep under wraps. Did you know, for example, that William and Harry have had a hidden step-sister? And there’s a dark reason behind her exclusion from the spotlight.
Our story begins in 1981 with the marriage of Prince Charles and Lady Diana. The ceremony seemed like a real life fairy tale, but there was a problem just below the surface.
Despite vows and outward displays of love, Charles was not a true Prince Charming. In fact, he wasn’t completely focused on Diana. Someone else was truly in his heart.
See, in 1971, Charles met Camilla Parker Bowles. The pair struck up a relationship, but abruptly stopped seeing each other after a couple of years. While they both went on with their lives and married other people, the spark they felt couldn’t be ignored.
“There were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded,” Diana told the BBC in 1995. But despite that awkwardness, she didn’t sulk or retreat into the shadows; in fact, she did the complete opposite.
Diana embraced her role as the Princess of Wales, bringing a new spark to Royal Family. She immersed herself in charity work and became a pop cultural icon. But she also focused on another important task.
She also changed what it meant to be a royal mother. Rather than passing her children off to nannies or doting relatives, Diana set her schedule around her two young sons. She included them whenever possible and even personally dropped them off at school.
By the mid-1990s, though, the family was crumbling; Diana and Charles first separated, and then officially divorced. Things were looking bad for the royals, but the worst of it was still to come.
On August 31, 1997 Diana’s car crashed into a support pillar in Paris’ Pont de l’Alma tunnel while being pursued by the paparazzi. She died soon after due to internal injuries.
The world was stunned. Mourners began pouring into London almost instantly, desperate to pay tribute to their princess. So many flowers were left outside her home that they formed a carpet five feet thick.
After the massive outpouring of grief and public funeral wrapped up, William, Harry, and their father slowly started to resume their lives. But Charles would do something that would shock the world.
In 2005, news broke that Charles and Camilla were getting back together. But they weren’t just seeing each other; they were getting married. The two princes were going to have a new stepmother.
The British public was skeptical of some taking Diana’s place. Things were different for the Royal family, too, but they pulled together. The marriage made Charles happy and that, in turn, made his sons happy. Camilla helped the transition, too.
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“She’s not the wicked stepmother,” Harry said in 2005. “William and I love her to bits;” over time, the public came to accept Camilla, too. But there was something else she was bringing to the table.
While everyone focused on Camilla joining the Royal Family, few noted that she had two children from her previous marriage. One would step naturally into the spotlight, but the other remained quietly in the background.
The son, Tom Parker Bowles, is a known food writer and critic; he has published a handful of books, regularly appears on BBC’s Masterchef, and contributed to Gordon Ramsay’s The F-Word. His sister was more secretive.
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Laura Lopes, Camilla’s other daughter, has stayed out of the spotlight as much as possible. While she has appeared at Royal Weddings and other unavoidable occasions, there is a reason she remains in the shadows.
Laura and Tom were children around the time that Charles and Diana got married. Growing up with Charles’ former lover meant dealing with paparazzi constantly. That took a toll on the children.
The paparazzi waited outside the Parker Bowles house hoping to catch the glimpse of the family; they would even chase their car through traffic, a scenario that eerily foreshadowed how Diana would die years later. Eventually, it wore on everyone’s nerves.
“They’re bullies, half of these people, and they made you very angry,” Tom explained in the Mail. “All I wanted to do was smack them in the face and beat the hell out of them. But you couldn’t do that.” Laura took a different approach.
Her childhood led her to withdraw from the public eye rather than immerse herself in the spotlight. But does that mean she has to keep her famous family at a distance?
After she married Charles, Camilla explained she couldn’t have made it to that point without her family. Even when she was followed by paparazzi and dragged in the tabloids, she always had the love of them. It turns out that blood is thicker than water, even at a distance.
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But rumors about their “true” nature of relationships plagues the royals. For years, the rumor mill buzzed about the tension between two highly scrutinized Duchesses: Kate Middleton and Meghan Markle. Ever since Meghan joined the ranks of the royal family, whiffs of a feud lingered in the air.
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Reporters pried into the tumult and revealed a better understanding of the frigid atmosphere. At the root of the friction, was a disagreement between Harry and William.
Yep, the Royals were plagued with a brotherly beef. Despite their obvious closeness — cemented by the grief of losing their mother, regardless of their vastly unique life experiences — William and Harry were at odds.
The thing that tipped off the public to trouble amongst the Windsors was a diversion of tradition. Prince Harry and Duchess Meghan Markle had decided to branch out from the rest of the majority of the royals, at least in the physical sense.
See, at first, Newlyweds Harry and Meghan moved into Kensington Palace, where, for her first year adjusting to the vastly different change in lifestyle, Meghan was surrounded by longtime royal vets who could show her the ropes. All appeared normal.
In fact, just a stone’s throw away from Harry and Meghan’s Nottingham Cottage were the residences of Princess Eugenie as well as the Duke and Duchess of Kent. Across the grounds, William and Kate lived in a 21-room apartment.
Woman and Home
But as the birth of Harry and Meghan’s first child approached, they broke the news that they’d had their fill of the “Nott Cott,” as it’s sometimes referred. They’d move their family into the more spacious and accommodating Frogmore Cottage at Windsor.
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Renovations started right away on Nott Cott, which was only 2 bedrooms and Harry’s bachelor pad prior to married life. Meanwhile, the media speculated the move stemmed from animosity.
Even once their relationship blossomed into a marriage with a baby on the way, the underlying iciness — made worse by other family members parroting William’s concerns to Harry — failed to melt away. In fact, it continued to grow. But why?
Finally, the cause of the move surfaced. There was alleged friction in the Windsor family, which started the moment Meghan and Harry’s courtship began. See, following William’s first meeting with his future sister-in-law in Kensington Palace, he sat his little brother down for a chat…
For William, it was apparent that Harry and Meghan were beyond smitten and headed toward marriage. William advised his brother not to rush. He expressed some apprehension about their rapid dive into a serious commitment.
“William told his brother they knew nothing about her background, her intentions, what she was really like,” one source said. Prince William tried to express his concerns gently, but Harry was allegedly miffed by the sentiment.
The source, a royal court member, elaborated about William’s misgivings, “He just wanted to stress that becoming part of the Royal Family is a massive undertaking, and the pressure and scrutiny are [sic] unrelenting. Was Meghan the right one?”
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Needless to say, Harry disagreed. He viewed his older brother’s advice as a slight to the person he loved. Meghan was already juggling overwhelming speculation by the public, the media, and her own family. In his eyes, Harry needed to stand up for his partner.
The source of the Windsor’s coldness towards Meghan remained a mystery to the general public, though the many public criticisms, lead by Meghan’s father, Thomas Markle, and her half-sister, Samantha, certainly threw the House of Windsor for a loop.
Others said the royal cold shoulder towards Meghan perhaps centered around race (she’s half black). Some argued the doubts were due to Meghan’s previous place in the spotlight as an actress — were they even privy to the real Meghan?
But Meghan and Harry never wavered publicly. The couple maintained a united front, and their adoration for one another was obvious. Meghan, despite William’s alleged worries, was a member of the royal family just as much as any of the other Windsors.
They way the sources painted it, the drama was Harry’s fault: “He will brook no criticism of Meghan,” one source said. “And he is so sensitive he often sees criticism or negativity where there isn’t any.”
According to a courtier, “It’s my opinion that Harry feels he couldn’t protect his mother, so he’s going all out to protect his wife.” Princess Diana was lambasted in the press for every move; Harry refused to let history repeat itself for his wife.
Adding to the tension between the Fab Four, the Queen named Harry as Youth Ambassador to the Commonwealth. Getting passed over reportedly left William stung. That being said, he could have vetoed the appointment and didn’t intervene.
Still, so many royal fanatics brush off any idea of conflict as the press just stirring up trouble. But when the four were questioned by the press about if they run into any disagreements, William broke the awkward silence by piping up with a firm, “Oh yes.”
Nervously the two couples laughed. Harry smiled while fielding the next question if their squabbles get resolved, he quipped, “We don’t know.” Through the humor, it was apparent some strain trickled into the brother’s bond.
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All of these tensions were flamed by the complicated dynamic between the duchesses: Kate and Meghan. When Meghan entered the royal mix, she hoped, that she’d find an ally in the Duchess of Cambridge.
At the same time, Kate, pregnant with her third child, Louis, didn’t get the memo about guiding her new sister-in-law. With her children and own royal responsibilities on her plate, her time was limited. Meghan viewed her lack of a welcoming as a snub.
Still, reporters couldn’t help but speculate: was the tension between them real? Were they friends, rivals, or something in between? Though neither Kate Middleton nor Meghan Markle started out as royals, the two duchesses became the two most visible members of England’s most famous family.
Meghan and Kate made their first official appearance together on Christmas Day in 2017. Of course, they had very different paths in ingratiating themselves into the Windsors. They were almost from two separate worlds.
Even though she wasn’t a noble, Kate came from a privileged background. Her parents ran a successful party supply company, and she attended the prestigious University of St. Andrews. There, she befriended classmate Prince William.
After years of dating, William and Kate decided to tie the knot in 2010. The following year, in what the press dubbed “The Wedding of the Century,” she became the Duchess of Cambridge. Similarly, Meghan got married in 2011.
However, she didn’t marry any prince! Then a Hollywood hopeful, the Los Angeles native got hitched with actor and producer Trevor Engelson. Their marriage dissolved two years later, as Meghan’s career really started to take off.
Meghan’s earlier career was defined by bit parts and a stint as a suitcase girl on Deal or No Deal. However, her name went up in lights when she nabbed the regular role of Rachel Zane on the USA legal drama Suits.
As Meghan’s work prospects took off to new heights, her personal life did the same. In 2016, a mutual friend did her a royal favor by setting her up on a blind date with Prince Harry. Their relationship started heating up before long.
Soon, she scored an invitation to Kate’s 35th birthday party. We can only assume she made a strong first impression on the royal family, but the details are hazy. All we know for sure was that she gifted Kate a dream journal.
And the two women would soon get to know each other even better. Not to be outdone by William and Kate, Harry and Meghan wed in lavish fashion in 2018. A foreigner — and a mixed-race one at that — had officially become a Windsor.
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With Kate and Meghan now firmly entrenched among the royals, there was the big question of how the sisters-in-law would get along. Insider accounts reported they got off to a bit of a bumpy start.
While pregnant with Prince Louis, Kate felt stress from both the physical toll and the public scrutiny. She didn’t necessarily have the time to properly welcome Meghan into the family, as she already had a ton on her plate.
However, Meghan reached out to Kate during this trying time. She shared some dietary advice that helped the Duchess through the rest of her pregnancy. In turn, Kate lent a hand in Meghan’s big dilemma.
Naturally, Meghan found herself in a big adjustment as she shifted from Hollywood to Buckingham Palace. Her experienced sister-in-law helped her learn royal protocol — everything from proper wardrobe to how to stand at official events.
From there, a close bond formed between them. When their busy schedules allowed, they spent time together one-on-one, such as a weekend visit to Wimbledon. They exchanged jokes and comments throughout the match.
The royal sisters-in-law grew closer on a personal level, but Kate also took Meghan under her wing on a professional level. She invited Meghan to join the Royal Foundation Forum, a charitable organization started by William and Harry.
This was a huge step forward for Meghan. “She really admires how Kate has carved out her own space when it comes to humanitarian work alongside being an amazing mother,” said a source close to the royal family.
When Meghan announced her pregnancy in late 2018, nobody celebrated more than Kate. She couldn’t wait for the two of them to experience motherhood together. But she didn’t foresee the other big change on the horizon.
Just months before the birth of their first child, Harry and Meghan decided to move out of Kensington Palace. They would take up residence at Frogmore Cottage, under a separate roof from the rest of the family for the first time.
Town & Country Magazine
The move would mean that Meghan and Kate would see each other on a less regular basis. Still, there was no doubt they’d still make time for each other, especially once their children became friends.
Though they may clash on occasion, the two women realize that they’re best off supporting each other. When it comes to marrying into the world’s most high-profile family, Kate and Meghan know they need to stick together.
After all, it’s no walk in the park being a royal, especially with the world scrutinizing your every relationship. Meghan found this out when she first met Prince Harry…
Most famous love stories have fairytale-like beginnings, but the story of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle actually began on a blind date. In fact, Meghan knew very little about Harry and his royal bloodline.
“I didn’t know much about him,” Meghan told BBC, “so the only thing I asked… was, ‘Well is he nice?'” Harry was even more ill-prepared — he had never even heard of Meghan before that night. Talk about awkward!
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But, as luck would have it, the pair hit it off, and just a few weeks later Harry invited Meghan to a charity trip to Africa. “[It] was crucial to me to make sure that we had a chance to get to know each other,” the prince recalled.
The couple managed to keep their relationship under wraps for several months, but in late October 2016, news of the courtship broke. Sources claimed that Harry had “been desperate to keep the relationship quiet.”
Then Meghan posted a photo to Instagram that featured two bananas spooning on the day that the news of the relationship leaked. Was this Meghan’s coy way of confirming the rumor?
The tabloids were quick to eat up every last bit of juicy gossip. Sure, Meghan was used to the spotlight, but the attention that came with being associated with the Royals proved to be an entirely different ballgame.
“There was a misconception that this would be something I would be familiar with,” the actress told BBC. “But I’ve never been part of tabloid culture. I’ve lived a relatively quiet life.”
The press grew relentless when it came to getting the scoop on the newest royal relationship, going as far as harassing Meghan’s mother to get the info they were after. Eventually, Harry had had enough.
Through the Royal House, Harry issued a statement that called for an end to the harassment: “Prince Harry is worried about Ms. Markle’s safety. It is not right that Ms. Markle should be subjected to such a storm.”
The statement worked to somewhat quell the media frenzy, though it wasn’t long before rumors began to circulate that Prince William was unhappy. This prompted the Duke of Cambridge to issue his own statement.
“The Duke of Cambridge absolutely understands the situation concerning privacy and supports the need for Prince Harry to support those closest to him,” read part of the statement.
Ultimately, it was made clear that while Harry’s call to the press was off-brand for a royal, the family had no issue with his defense of Meghan.
By the end of 2016, Harry’s press hiccup had all but been forgotten in the wake of the news that Queen Elizabeth herself had given Meghan her approval.
The Queen isn’t just the ruler of the United Kingdom, but she’s also one of Harry’s biggest fans. A source close to the family told Us Weekly: “[The Queen is] delighted to see Harry in a loving relationship.”
Meghan had similarly good things to say about her time spent with the Queen: “It’s incredible, to be able to meet her through [Harry’s] lens,” she shared with BBC.
“Not just with his honor and respect for her as the monarch, but the love that he has for her as his grandmother… She’s an incredible woman,” she added.
The couple spent Christmas apart in 2016, though they reunited for a romantic New Year’s holiday. Now that their secret was out, Harry and Meghan were free to travel to Norway without fear of spilling the beans.
Among the beautiful sights they took in during their excursion to the Arctic Circle were the Northern Lights, and by this time those close to the couple swore they could hear wedding bells on the horizon.
ImagesOfNetwork / Reddit
Though Harry and Meghan were staying mum, their friends had things to say! “I can see them engaged by the spring,” a friend of Harry’s told Us Weekly. “He’s head over heels.”
Following their Norway trip, Harry began bringing Meghan around the family more often, introducing her to Kate Middleton and Princess Charlotte at Kensington in early 2017.
Meghan also began spending more time with William, with whom sources claimed she got along very well. “Naturally, William is very happy for his brother,” one source relayed.
When it came time for Harry to meet Meghan’s family, the actress flew her mother, Doria Ragland, out to London for a rendezvous with the prince himself. Serious stuff!
Harry was no-doubt nervous about this meeting, but, like Meghan and the royals, he and Doria immediately hit it off — more proof that this pair was meant to be!
Doria was subsequently spotted with the couple on numerous occasions. But Harry hadn’t yet gotten the chance to meet Meghan’s father: “He’s talked to my dad a few times, [but] hasn’t been able to meet him yet.”
Even though they were still living apart at this time, Harry and Meghan had grown closer than ever; when the actress wasn’t in Toronto filming Suits, she was “virtually living” with Harry at Kensington Palace.
Their next big outing took place when Harry brought Meghan to Jamaica as his plus one for a friend’s wedding. Many took this as the official next step in their relationship, and photos from the event seemed to confirm this.
The rumors about the couple only continued to grow after Meghan shut down her popular lifestyle website, The Tig. The actress insisted she did so to focus on her charity work, but by then the speculation had already begun.
Things got even more buzzworthy when Meghan flew to London just before Pippa Middleton’s wedding. Apparently, Meghan was taken straight to the royal palace upon arriving at Heathrow International Airport.
Meghan was present at Pippa’s wedding reception, which was the first time she’d been seen at a royal family event. She was also spotted at the Audi Polo Challenge in England cheering on Harry from the stands.
Then, the couple celebrated Meghan’s 36th birthday with another trip to Africa. The choice might’ve seemed strange, but many believe Harry and Meghan first bonded over their desire to help those in need.
In fact, they visited the founding site of his charity, Sentebale. In the language of the Lesotho people, “sentebale” means “forget me not,” which Harry used as an homage to his late mother, Princess Diana.
Meghan’s first major royal appearance came at the Invictus Games in September 2017. The event serves to honor wounded, injured, and sick military personnel through sports and other physical competitions.
The games were being held in Toronto, and more than once the couple was spotted holding hands. Doria was also in attendance, furthering the notion that the two families were soon to become one.
Finally, after over a year, Meghan finally came clean. Gracing the cover of the October issue of Vanity Fair, the actress gave a tell-all interview about the truth behind her relationship with Harry.
“We’re a couple. We’re in love,” Meghan revealed. “I’m sure there will be a time when we will have to come forward and present ourselves and have stories to tell.”
“But,” she continued. “I hope what people will understand is that this is our time. This is for us. It’s part of what makes it so special, that’s just ours. But we’re happy. Personally, I love a great love story,”
With the word finally out, there was only one thing left for Harry to do. So, in November 2017, the Prince of Wales popped the question that everyone was waiting for. And, wouldn’t you know it, she said yes!
News of the engagement traveled as Prince Charles issued his official statement: “His Royal Highness, The Prince of Wales, is delighted to announce the engagement of Prince Harry to Ms. Meghan Markle.”
On the same day that Prince Charles announced the engagement, the couple’s BBC interview was released to the public. In the video, Harry and Meghan recounted the fateful night they’d spent in their Kensington cottage.
“It was just a standard typical night for us,” Harry said before Meghan chimed in: “Just a cozy night… trying to roast a chicken. It was just an amazing surprise, it was so sweet and natural and very romantic.”
Meghan was so excited about the proposal that she didn’t even let Harry finish the question before she said yes! “It was just the two of us and I think I managed to catch you by surprise as well,” Harry said to Meghan.
When asked when he realized that Meghan was “the one” during an engagement photo shoot, he didn’t hesitate in reply: “the very first time we met.”
At last, on May 19, 2018, Harry and Meghan tied the knot at Windsor Castle in front of a crowd of guests. Tens of millions around the world also tuned in from home, making it one of the most watched events of the year.
Meghan turned heads in a beautiful Givenchy gown and was given a diamond-platinum tiara from the Queen’s own collection. With Meghan’s father, Thomas, absent, it was Prince Charles who walked her down the aisle.
Now hailed as the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, the couple announced on October 15th, 2018 that they were expecting their first child! The newest royal will join the family sometime in the spring of 2019.
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When the next prince or princess does finally arrive, however, they’ll be disappointed to find that becoming the next King or Queen of England may not be in the cards.
Upon being born, the baby will be seventh in line for the throne, behind Prince Charles, Prince William, Prince Harry, Prince George, Princess Charlotte, and Prince Louis.