Inside Meghan Markle’s past
MEGHAN Markle's father has made headlines this week for his embarrassing staged paparazzi photos and pulling out of the royal wedding at the last minute after heart surgery.
Not only did he pose for fake pictures, he was also snapped buying Happy Meals and KFC despite his serious condition, sparking rumours the Queen and Meghan's mother were furious with him.
But as the bride-to-be released a statement about her sadness at her father not attending, former teachers of the American princess described Mr Markle as a "doting" dad, who nurtured his daughter's interest in acting.
"She was very close to him," Christine Knudsen, who taught theology at her Catholic girls' school in Los Angeles, told CBC. "Out of the kindness of his heart, he would come for our own plays and musicals, and he would help with the lighting.
"So you'd just see him walking around. You knew who he was. He was just a kind and generous man. And even after Meghan graduated, he still came back to help."
Mr Markle, 73, was an Emmy Award-winning lighting and photography director on major TV shows including General Hospital and Married... with Children. He and Meghan's mother, yoga teacher and social worker Doria Ragland, divorced when their daughter was six.
Meghan was raised by her mother but remained close to her father, who now lives in Mexico. She spent hours on set with him in LA, feeding and playing with Buck the dog on Married with Children, and being sent away by her protective dad during the show's more risque scenes.
Her former teachers said she was a talented actor as well as a bright and compassionate person, volunteering in soup kitchens and raising her hand during class discussions.
The excitement over Meghan and Prince Harry's wedding is ramping up at the $21,000-a-year Immaculate Heart High School and Middle School - with students observing that they wouldn't be so interested if the bride-to-be was not both American and an alumna.
But despite predictions about Meghan's disruptive, modernising influence on the royal family, her former mentor Maria Pollia said the 36-year-old would not deliberately rock the boat.
The teacher said her old student would "do things according to her own conscience ... but in no way does she have any intention of shaking things up. She has a very deep respect for tradition."
That doesn't mean the Suits star isn't aware of the effect she will have simply by her presence. As a mixed race, American divorcee, she represents a dramatic departure from a traditional conservative values of the monarchy.
Not so long ago, the Queen's sister Margaret was unable to marry the man she loved because he was divorced.
The only previous royal believed to have possibly been bi-racial is Queen Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, who married King George III in 1761. Contemporary portrait painters remarked on her African features, and it was thought her ancestry could be traced back to King Afonso III of Portugal and his mistress Madragana - although this was nine generations previous, and the rumour was never confirmed or denied by the Palace.
Meghan has quit acting to focus on humanitarian work with her 33-year-old husband, but she is evidently conscious of how her words and image are interpreted.
Her former publicist Elizabeth Tuke has written in Harper's Bazaar about how the future duchess used to panic over finding the perfect outfit for an occasion. In September 2013, Meghan sent a "fashion SOS" text to Tuke says she had nothing to wear to the Novak Djokovic Foundation gala.
"She had a sophisticated understanding of the role that clothing plays in telegraphing one's identity," writes Tuke. "She approached the luxury fashion I brought her with an eagerness and fastidiousness I would come to know as her approach to most things in life."
Later, she travelled to Rwanda as a global ambassador for World Vision, and became a UN Women's Advocate for Political Participation and Leadership. But even so, she sent another last-minute text the night before her speech for UN Women's Step It Up for Gender Equality event in New York saying none of the outfits she had felt right. "She wanted a look that conveyed strength and intelligence."
Tuke says it became clear "Hollywood would probably not be Meghan's last act."
The LA-raised TV star is going to experience many changes in her new life as a royal - the family is forbidden from discussing specific political views publicly and typically don't vote.
But her platform will means she can exercise a huge influence on the public through campaigning, activism and every tiny detail of what she does.