The day Meghan Markle let her ruthless side show

Meghan Markle and her former husband Trevor Engelson pictured together in 2006

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 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 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

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

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 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 between them.

The royal bride-to-be during her time as a 'briefcase girl' on Deal or No Deal

The royal bride-to-be during her time as a 'briefcase girl' on Deal or No Deal

According to one of her teachers, this caused Meghan difficulties — ‘one parent over here, one over there, neither of them particularly fond of each other’.

However, according to a school-friend, mediating between the warring factions taught Meghan how to control her emotions.

At two, her had parents enrolled her in the Little Red School House, an exclusive creche for stars’ children, where she began performing in plays. At one of her early performances, a girl with tangled blonde hair, jam-jar glasses and an awkward manner was in the chorus line. Today, Scarlett Johansson is the world’s highest paid actress.

Yet Meghan’s early introduction to showbusiness also had disquieting overtones. At nine, her father, who was then working on the raunchy comedy Married With Children, would pick her up from school then take her to the set with him.

There, she sat quietly in a corner, watching the enactment of scenes possibly too candid for a little girl’s eyes, involving semi-nudity and risqué sexual jokes. As Meghan said pointedly later: ‘It was a very perverse place to grow up. I went to Catholic school.’

Around this time, in 1990, her father had a stroke of luck, although it quickly turned sour.

An old friend was quoted in the upcoming book saying 'she wants to be princess Diana 2.0'

An old friend was quoted in the upcoming book saying 'she wants to be princess Diana 2.0'

After winning $750,000 (£530,000) in the California State Lottery (using Meghan’s birth date to select his numbers), he decided to keep the windfall secret because he was still embroiled in a financial wrangle with Doria over the divorce. To avoid registering his name with the authorities, he sent a friend to Chicago to collect his prize-money. According to Thomas Jnr, the plan backfired when this surrogate swindled his father out of the money, which was invested in a failed jewellery business.

With this troubled background, what was it that kindled a young American girl’s fascination with the British Royal Family — and why in particular did Diana become her heroine?

Morton dates the origins of Meghan’s obsession to September 6, 1997, when, aged 16, she watched the funeral of Diana with her friends, ‘tears coursing down their cheeks at the poignant moment when the cameras zoomed in on the royal coffin’ .

Among the display of white flowers, did she notice an envelope simply marked ‘Mummy’ and containing 12-year-old Harry’s last message to his beloved mother?

Diana’s death was, Morton notes, a seminal event in Meghan’s life. She was gripped by a subsequent debate, during a philosophy lesson at school, on the paradox of a glamorous and world-renowned humanitarian — and loving mother — whose life was cruelly cut short.

Afterwards, she and her friend Suzy Ardakani watched old videos of Diana’s 1981 to Prince Charles. Ironically, she also became absorbed in a book given to her by Suzy’s mother: Morton’s own work, Diana: Her True Story, which remained on her bookshelves for years afterwards.

As Morton writes: ‘According to family and friends, she was intrigued by Diana not just for her style but for her independent humanitarian mission, seeing her as a role model.’

Meghan had an acute sense of social justice from a young age, campaigning to ban a ‘sexist’

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