When Prince Harry and Meghan Markle marry at Windsor Palace in May, there's at least one family member who might not be invited: Meghan's estranged half-sister, Samantha.
Samantha Markle, who also known by the name Samantha Grant, is 17 years Meghan's senior; she and her brother are Meghan's half-siblings. To date, she's been the most vocal member of the Markle family, speaking out about her half-sister in the press - a move that may have cost her a relationship with her soon-to-be-royal relative.
The 52-year-old appears on TLC's new special, When Harry Met Meghan: A Royal Engagement, which airs on Tuesday night at 9/8 Central. And on that special, she tries to clear the air about Meghan's background, and what she really meant when she called her upcoming book The Diary of Princess Pushy's Sister.
She and Meghan have the same father.
Samantha and Meghan's father, Thomas, worked in lighting on television shows like Married With Children. Samantha and her brother, Thomas Jr., are the children of Markle senior's first marriage to Roslyn. His second wife was Markle's mother, Doria Ragland; Thomas and Doria divorced in 1988, when Meghan was six years old.
According to Samantha, Thomas Markle's children all got along well. "It was like a gift when Meghan was born because she was so full of life and personality that we became settled as a family, but we became much more lively," Samantha said in the TLC special. "We were sort of a little family, not as large as The Brady Bunch, but in our minds it was a unique, very beautiful, multicultural and interracial family beginning."
She hit back at tabloid reports of a rags-to-riches story.
Tabloids on both sides of the Atlantic have reported that Meghan grew up in a rough part of southern California; Samantha said on the TLC special that those stories are inaccurate. "The tabloids wanted to create this ghetto princess story, if you will, which is so far from reality, you know, the African-American, rags-to-riches Cinderella," Samantha said. "We were raised in a very beautiful upper-middle-class home in the San Fernando Valley of Southern California, nowhere near 'gangland' as the tabloids tried to illustrate."
Samantha has also spoken up about accounts that paint Meghan's family life as less than stable or supportive. "When the media suggested that [her parents] were anything less [than great], and that she was this Cinderella that just rose up out of rubbish or out of nowhere - no, that is rubbish," she told Entertainment Tonight. "Her parents were incredible."
Samantha insists she didn't smear her sister in the press.
Tabloid reports claimed that Samantha called Meghan "narcissistic" and a "social climber," but Samantha insists in the TLC documentary she never said those things. "I was quoted as calling her Princess Pushy. I never said those words," Samantha said in the TLC special. "The truth is, I never said any such thing and there's no tape, no recording, nothing in the world that anybody could present to suggest that it was."
Of course it's worth noting that Samantha told Good Morning Britain that she's writing a memoir called The Diary of Princess Pushy's Sister. That title, she says, is meant to be tongue-in-cheek. "The title is a mockery of the media," she told the Daily Mail. "It wasn't me who called Meg 'pushy.' It was the tabloid newspapers. She is not pushy. The book isn't going to be negative - it's a warm, witty, honoring book - unfortunately, the negative sing-song has gone round the world."
Her book won't be a juicy tell-all.
Despite the title, Samantha says her book will be nuanced, and not just about Meghan. In that same Good Morning Britain interview, she said her book will be a critical look at race in America.
"The title is true. What is not true is this unbelievable swell that's been created that it's some sort of slamming tell-all. It's only a tell-all in that I [write about] beautiful nuances of our lives, our family home," Samantha told hosts Richard Madeley and Ranvir Singh. "More importantly, it has to do with the interracial evolution of this country through the lens of my life in my family since the civil rights act until present, and how that intersects with the recent events with my sister."
She said tabloid reports have strained her relationship with Meghan.
In the TLC special, Samantha tearfully explains that the tabloid reports have "created a divide" between the sisters. "It's been such a whirlwind with us and I'm sad she believed some of the other interviews I did where words I never said were taken out of context, so it's been a bit since we've spoken," Samantha told Us Weekly.
The two haven't been close for some time now. Samantha told the Daily Mail that they haven't seen each other since 2008, when Samantha graduated from college and Meghan flew in to celebrate. That same year, Samantha was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, and she now uses a wheelchair.
She shared stories about Meghan's engagement like the rest of us.
"It was really exciting for me, I am so happy for her," Samantha told Us Weekly. "It was kind of funny, it was like my boyfriend showed it to me and I was on the phone with my father and I got to let him know too. We didn't know it was going to come out this soon, so it was nice to wake up to."
She's not sure if she'll get an invite to the royal wedding.
Samantha said on the TLC special she doesn't yet know if she'll get an invitation to Meghan and Harry's wedding in May. "I can't imagine how anyone would anticipate a normal, traditional, royal wedding. I mean they'd probably be watching across the lawn for the Markles to approach - ' oh, good God, they're coming! Close the curtains! Hide!'" she joked on the TLC special. "It's just so silly. We're so normal. And yes, I would love to go, but we have no idea what's going to happen."
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