Meghan Markle 40th birthday: What a difference a decade makes

What a difference a decade makes! How Meghan Markle went from a jobbing actress married to a producer at 30 to millions in the bank and a royal husband at 40 (and ditched her daring hemlines along the way)

  • Meghan Markle celebrates her 40th birthday tomorrow – and her life is unrecognisable from when she was 30 
  • On her 30th birthday she was on the Suits press tour, this year Harry is reportedly planning to whisk her away
  • In 2011 Meghan landed her breakout role on US legal drama Suits and married first husband Trevor Engelson
  • She moved from California to Toronto for her job where she met BFF Jessica Mulroney and mingled with stars  

As Meghan Markle wakes up on her 40th birthday tomorrow, she might well take time to reflect on just how much her life has changed since she celebrated her 30th a decade ago. 

Then a small-time actress living in California with her soon-to-be first husband, Meghan was on the press tour for US legal drama Suits and she marked her milestone birthday with promotional events with her castmates.

After years of bit parts in low-budget TV shows and films, Meghan had finally landed her breakout role in US legal drama Suits. The pilot, which premiered on June 28, was quickly picked up and Meghan would go on to star in the series until shortly after announcing her engagement to Prince Harry in 2017.

With the role came a move to Toronto and an introduction to the city’s high society, including Justin Trudeau’s wife Sophie and stylist Jessica Mulroney, daughter-in-law of ex-Canadian PM Brian, who would become a close friend. 

Her personal life, too, was on the up. She was engaged to Trevor Engelson, her tall, handsome TV producer boyfriend of seven years, and the pair were planning their wedding in Jamaica for that September. 

It is easy to imagine that Meghan might have felt like she had finally ‘made it’ after years as a jobbing actress in LA. 

But little did she know what was to come. Today Meghan enjoys the sort of wealth and fame that her younger self could surely have only dreamed of reaching.  

THEN: IN LOVE WITH TREVOR. In September 2011, just a month after her 30th birthday, Meghan Markle tied the knot with first husband Trevor Engelson on a beach in Jamaica (pictured at their wedding). The couple were divorced just 23 months later

NOW: MARRIED TO HARRY. Ten years later and Meghan has been married to Harry for almost three-and-a-half years. The couple are parents to son Archie Mountbatten-Windsor, two, and two-month-old daughter Lilibet Diana


FROM TV ACTRESS… TO A-LIST STAR: The fame Meghan enjoys today would have been almost unimaginable for the actress when she landed her breakout role in Suits (left, which premiered in June 2011. Right, Meghan in the Oprah interview this year

Not only has she married a prince and welcomed two children, she is also TV, film and podcast producer thanks to deals with Netflix and Spotify worth more than $100million. Not bad for a woman who little over a decade ago was opening briefcases on ‘Deal or No Deal’.

She and Prince Harry, her husband of almost three-and-a-half years, live a charmed life in a $14million mansion in Montecito, California, just a stone’s throw from friends like Oprah Winfrey and Orlando Bloom, and a short drive from Meghan’s mother Doria. 

Page Six suggests Prince Harry is preparing to whisk his wife off on an ‘intimate getaway’ to mark her 40th, rather than the lavish party for 65 people that was previously reported.   

Royal experts have also speculated that the Sussexes may choose to release an eagerly-anticipated family photo to mark the special occasion. Fans are still waiting to catch a glimpse of Lili, who was born in June.

No matter what happens, it will be a world apart from her 30th celebrations giving press interviews with co-stars.  Here, FEMAIL reveals just how different Meghan’s life is to the one she was living a decade ago… 

LOVE LIFE AND FAMILY

From marrying her producer boyfriend… to raising two children with Prince Harry


Newlyweds: On 10 September 2011, Meghan Markle married Trevor Engelson, her boyfriend of seven years who had been by her side on her road to stardom. Pictured, Meghan and Trevor in October 2011 (left) and at an industry party in 2006

On the scene: Trevor and Meghan with actress Michelle Monaghan and her husband, Australian graphic artist Peter White, at a Hollywood dinner in October 2011, a month after their wedding. Trevor was by her side during her early years on Suits 

On 10 September 2011, Meghan Markle married Trevor Engelson, her boyfriend of seven years who had been by her side on her road to stardom.

Having met her when she was a 23-year-old, not long out of theatre school, Engelson, five years her senior and already making his mark as a film producer and agent, became something of a mentor.

Within a year of meeting Trevor, Meghan moved in with him. With his encouragement, she gradually began to get more work – in low-budget films and TV shows, and doing a stint as a ‘briefcase girl’ on Deal Or No Deal. But she has described her 20s, when she touted herself around the studios riven with insecurity, as ‘brutal’.

In 2010 the couple holidayed in London. That same year he whisked her away to Belize, where he proposed. Even as they announced their engagement, however, it was clear they would have to spend long periods apart because Meghan would be in Toronto filming Suits.

Their wedding took place the following year before more than 100 guests in the Jamaican resort of Ocho Rios.

The celebrations lasted for four riotous days, fuelled by rum punch and lager, on a Caribbean beach. One photo shows Meghan, in a yellow bikini, being held by the ankles as she takes part in a wheelbarrow race. 

A royal wedding: In May 2018, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle became the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. The couple exchanged vows at St George’s Chapel, Windsor, in front of family and friends including Oprah and George and Amal Clooney


Growing family: Prince Harry and Meghan Markle welcomed son Archie Mountbatten-Windsor in May 2019 (left in South Africa that year). They welcomed daughter Lilibet in June 2021. Right, announcing the pregnancy earlier this year

Building an empire: As well as being husband and wife, Harry and Meghan are also business partners and jointly run Archewell Productions and the Archewell Foundation. Pictured, during their bombshell Oprah Winfrey interview this year

There were also some traditional touches to acknowledge the Engelson family’s Jewish heritage, such as the couple being carried aloft as the guests serenaded them with a rousing chorus of Hebrew folk song Hava Nagila.

After the wedding, they went their separate ways – Trevor to LA, Meghan to Toronto, to film Suits. Within two years the couple made the shock announcement that they were separating.

By August 2013 the divorce was sealed. No blame was attached to either party. Court documents simply cite ‘irreconcilable differences’. They had been man and wife for just 23 months.

Fast-forward 10 years and Meghan has just celebrated her third wedding anniversary to Prince Harry, and the pair are parents to son Archie, two, and two-month-old daughter, Lilibet.

The couple’s first meeting, in the summer of 2016, was reportedly orchestrated by Violet von Westenholz, a baron’s daughter who did PR work with Ralph Lauren for whom Meghan happened to be a ‘brand ambassador’.

A whirlwind romance followed, with the couple making secret trips between London and Toronto before making their public debut at the Invictus Games in September 2017.

Just two months later, after Meghan had met the Queen, they announced their engagement in Kensington Palace.

CAREER

From her big break on Suits… to a £100million Netflix deal


Big break: At the age of 30, when she was beginning to consider a future away from acting, Meghan’s big break finally came. She had landed a leading role in Suits (left), on a reported salary of £250,000 per season. It meant she could leave behind bit parts on low-budget films and TV shows. Right, Meghan as a ‘briefcase girl’ on Deal or No Deal

Catching Harry’s eye: The prince reportedly first spotted his future wife when she was appearing on Suits. Pictured, with co-stars (left-right) Gina Torres, Rick Hoffman, Gabriel Macht and Patrick J. Adams, who all attended the royal wedding in 2018

After growing up entertaining her family and friends, Meghan attended Northwestern University in Illinois, studying theatre with international relations, and doing an internship at the American embassy in Buenos Aires in her gap year.

Intent on a screen career, she returned to LA but landed only bit parts in low budget films and TV shows. In one forgettable film, her character didn’t have a name. In the credits, she was simply ‘Hot Girl’. She also appeared as a briefcase girl on the TV quiz show Deal Or No Deal.

At the age of 30, when she was beginning to consider a future away from acting, Meghan’s big break finally came. Once so hard up that she worked as a freelance calligrapher, she had landed a leading role in Suits, on a reported salary of £250,000 per season.

The show was met with praise from critics and viewers and was quickly commissioned. Although it never had awards success, it became a popular hit.

Meghan, who starred as paralegal Rachel Zane, was given steamy scenes with co-star Patrick J. Adams, who years later would attend the royal wedding with his wife.

Primetime celebrity: Today Meghan is more likely to be seen making a cameo appearance on Zoom on TV shows like America’s Got Talent (pictured). She and Harry also use their profile to promote their Netflix and Spotify interests

Indeed almost all of Meghan’s colleagues were invited to the nuptials. The show also introduced Meghan to two of her closest friends, actress Abigail Spencer and producer Silver Tree.

Among Suits’ famous fans was Prince Harry, who is said to have told friends she was his ‘ideal girl’ after spotting her on TV.

Meghan left acting behind shortly after announcing her engagement to Prince Harry – but she hasn’t turned her back on Hollywood.

Ten years after her big break, Meghan and her royal husband now command multi-media recording and production deals worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

The Duchess of Sussex is currently creating and producing animated series Pearl which focuses on a ’12-year-old heroine who finds inspiration in influential women from history’.

It will serve as the second project to be announced as part of the couple’s very lucrative deal with Netflix – which is estimated to be worth a staggering $100 million – and comes just three months after their company, Archewell Productions announced a documentary series about the Invictus Games.

The couple also have a deal with Spotify, which is said to be worth close to $40 million.

FRIENDS

From a star-studded circle to A-list BFFs

College BFF: Like many, Meghan had already made some of her closest friends by the time she turned 30. The future Duchess met her ‘best friend’ Lindsay Roth in a literature class at Northwestern. Pictured, in an Instagram snap shared by Lindsay


Early starry connections: The move to Toronto brought with it an ‘in’ to starrier circles and an introduction to Jessica Mulroney (left). Soon after Meghan met fashion designer Misha Nonoo (right together in 2015) who became a close friend

Befriending sporting superstars: Meghan and Serena have been close friends since 2014 after having their first ‘real hangout’ at the DirecTV Beach Bowl (pictured), although they briefly crossed paths in 2010 at the Super Bowl

Like many, Meghan had already made some of her closest friends by the time she turned 30.

The future Duchess met her ‘best friend’ Lindsay Roth in a literature class at Northwestern, and Benitta Litt – whose daughters are Meghan’s goddaughters and were royal wedding bridesmaids – through her circle in Los Angeles. Also part of her LA group is the owner of Pilates Platinum, Heather Dorak, a former dancer.

But there is no doubt that, as her career became more star-studded, so too did her friendship group.

After moving to Toronto she became immersed in a powerful new circle, including fashion designer Jessica Mulroney, who was maid of honour at the royal wedding and is still in close contact with the royal, and Justin Trudeau’s wife Sophie.

Also among the group was Soho House’s Markus Anderson. The consultant for the Soho House Group and former global membership director at the exclusive club worked his way up from being a waiter.

He grew up in Ontario and moved to London aged 19, where he began work at Soho House before moving back to Canada to open a branch of the private members’ club in Toronto — where Meghan has lived since landing her role on the American TV legal drama Suits in 2011.

As a rising TV star, Meghan was invited to increasingly glitzy event. It was through one of these invitations that she met Serena Williams.


And moving up to A-list pals: Now Meghan counts some of the world’s most famous people among her social circle. Pictured, George and Amal Clooney at the royal wedding (left) and Harry and Meghan’s neighbours Orlando Bloom and Katy Perry

Meghan and Serena have been close friends since 2014 after having their first ‘real hangout’ at the DirecTV Beach Bowl, although they briefly crossed paths in 2010 at the Super Bowl.

Meghan wrote on her blog: ‘We hit it off immediately, taking pictures, laughing and chatting not about tennis or acting but about good old-fashioned girly stuff. So began our friendship.’

Williams was one of the first people to meet Archie after his birth and the women remain good friends. She recently described her royal BFF as the ‘strongest person she knows’ and described her as the ‘epitome of confidence’, ‘the epitome of selflessness’.

Another celebrity event introduced Meghan to fashion designer Misha Nonoo. She and Meghan holidayed together in Europe in 2016, when she and Prince Harry met, and the pair became mothers for the first time within months of each other.

Harry and Meghan were on the guest list when Misha married husband Mikey Hess in Rome in 2019. Her first husband, Alexander Gilkes, went to school with Prince William and Prince Harry.

During her first pregnancy, Misha told People, that the Duchess of Sussex had been sharing her advice about becoming a first-time mother.

The designer revealed: ‘As with all friendships, you share lots of tips and everything.’

While Mikey and Misha currently call New York home, reports suggest the couple have been looking at property in Montecito – maybe they could soon be on Harry and Meghan’s doorstep.

Among the newest additions the Meghan’s group are neighbours Orlando Bloom and Katy Perry.

Speaking in a recent interview, Prince Harry described how the Lord of the Rings star tipped him off about a photographer and that the pair ‘keep in touch’ over text.

FASHION

Upgrade from ‘reserved’ and casual to A-list sophistication  


Glitz and glamour: As an actress finding fame in the industry, Meghan favoured trendy party dresses in figure-hugging satin, lace or sequined fabric. They often came to just above the knee and were accessorised with a faithful clutch bag and heels

It’s not just Meghan’s career, life and friendship group that have been given the Hollywood treatment. Her wardorbe has been given a celebrity worthy glow-up, too.  

As an actress finding fame in the industry, Meghan favoured trendy party dresses in figure-hugging satin, lace or sequined fabric. They often came to just above the knee and were accessorised with a faithful clutch bag and towering pair of high heeled shoes. 

‘Her style was quite reserved,’ noted celebrity stylist Rochelle White. ‘I think being thrown into the spotlight, she properly wasn’t sure how to dress or act. Her style is sleek, comfortable and suitable for the time. 

‘As the years went on she stuck to flattering dresses in various styles and colours. Always keeping the length to just above the knee and with shoulders exposed.’

Off-duty, Meghan favoured a laid back Californian look complete with trilby hats, casual distressed denim and simple t-shirts in block colours. She was also spotted striding through Toronto in her favourite Lululemon leggings and beanie.  

Her signature laid back Californian style was still evident when she made her first public appearance with Prince Harry at the Invictus Games in September 2017 but was soon replaced with a more polished, formal look befitting a soon-to-be member of the Royal Family. 


Perfectly polished: Her signature laid back Californian style was still evident when she made her first public appearance with Prince Harry at the Invictus Games in September 2017 but was soon replaced with a more polished, formal look befitting a soon-to-be member of the Royal Family. Pictured, Meghan on her final royal engagements in March 2020

Easy breezy: Now living in California, Meghan has struck a balance between California cool and polished royal looks, although it has been difficult to see recently because she has been dressing for her pregnancy bump (pictured)

The Duchess of Sussex stepped out in pencil skirts, shirts and practical coats – and made headlines when she attended an evening event in a perfectly fitted suit.  

Stylist Rachel Gold noted: ‘Royal Meghan’s style only tamed slightly with less of the bare shoulders than she wore before. Generally the look was repeated but just looked more high end and expensive!

‘Her choice of colours became a lot more tonal with less red more nudes, taupe, creams. I think the greens and teals looked fantastic on her.’

Now living in California, Meghan has struck a balance between California cool and polished royal looks, although it has been difficult to see recently because she has been dressing for her pregnancy bump. 

Rochelle noted: ‘Meghan’s style now I feel is much more sophisticated and I think reflective of where she is in her life. She still wears flattering dresses and styles. She is mixing up her colour palette and has worn a lot more neutral and bright colours and not as much black.’

Meanwhile Rachel said she finds ways to incorporate her favourite pieces, no matter what the location or the occasion: ‘Fitted Blouses and shirts suit her so well and we still see these, albeit in a softer fabric at the moment.’

HOME SWEET HOME

From rented house in Toronto… to a $14million Montecito mansion

Renting in Toronto: When Meghan met Harry she was renting a three-bedroom, two-bathroom home in an ‘upper, middle-class’ neighbourhood. The property (pictured) was stylishly decorated and boasted a private back garden

Family home: After a few months – and just before the pandemic – they moved once again, this time to California. After a stint at Tyler Perry’s A-list home, the couple bought their own mansion in upmarket Montecito, worth in the region of $14million

After landing her break out role in Suits in 2011, Meghan spent several months in New York to shoot the pilot of the show. She then had to base herself in Toronto, where the series was filmed.

By the time she and Trevor wed in the September, she was preparing to shoot season two. It meant living in Toronto for nine months of the year. Trevor moved his office from Los Angeles to New York, an hour away by plane, in an effort to see her more regularly, and they kept in touch via Skype.

When the marriage ended, Meghan could base herself more permanently in Toronto, although she still made trips home to California to see her family.

When she met Harry she was renting a three-bedroom, two-bathroom home in an ‘upper, middle-class’ neighbourhood. The property was stylishly decorated and boasted a private back garden.

The Suits actress gave fans a tour of the interior of her Toronto home via Instagram, where frequent snaps of her dogs Bogart and Guy revealed her love of elegant yet cosy decor, fashion coffee table books and fresh flowers.

Despite having two dogs with muddy paws, she bravely opted for a white couch in her living space with a grey striped throw from the luxury textiles brand Pamuk and Co.

Her dining table was white marble and she placed a full length shabby chic vintage mirror resting on the wall behind it to create the illusion of extra space. Meghan also enjoyed using the large dining area to host dinner parties with friends.

Royal home: The couple’s first home was Nottingham Cottage, in the grounds of Kensington Palace (pictured), where they spent their first months together. It is here where Prince Harry proposed and where Meghan had her first taste of royal life

Upgrade: Soon, however, the couple decided it didn’t have the right ‘energy’ – or enough space for a growing family – and moved to Frogmore Cottage (pictured), in the grounds of Windsor Castle. The renovation cost £2.4million

In the 10 years since, Meghan has been on a globe-trotting tour of ultra-luxury properties.

First came Nottingham Cottage, in the grounds of Kensington Palace, where Harry and Meghan spent their first months together as a couple. It is here where Prince Harry proposed and where Meghan had her first taste of royal life.

Soon, however, the couple decided it didn’t have the right ‘energy’ – or enough space for a growing family – and moved to Frogmore Cottage, in the grounds of Windsor Castle.

Before relocating, Harry and Meghan gave the interiors of their future home a complete overhaul – reportedly enlisting the help of former Soho House designer Vicky Charles – that cost £2.4million.

Their building plans included adding fireplaces, staircases, and a floating floor, but keeping the original floorboards and shutters.

Once the couple decided to quit the royal family, they jetted off to an eight-bedroom estate on Vancouver Island, Canada, where they spent Christmas 2019.

After a few months – and just before the pandemic – they moved once again, this time to California. After a stint at Tyler Perry’s A-list home, the couple bought their own mansion in upmarket Montecito, worth in the region of $14million.

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