It is no secret that the Duchess of Sussex’s relationship with some members of her biological family has been difficult.
But the challenge Meghan Markle faces with her sister, Samantha Markle, has reached new heights after a judge ruled that Meghan and her husband, the Duke of Sussex, can be deposed as part of a defamation suit brought against them by Samantha.
Samantha, 58, is suing her younger half-sister for defamation and injurious falsehood following the duchess’ 2021 interview with Oprah Winfrey, and 2020 book Finding Freedom.
Meghan is no stranger to court cases involving her family, having previously sued the Associated Newspapers group for publishing her private letter to her father, Thomas Markle.
However, the duchess has said it is her father’s side of the family who keeps speaking out against her, not her mother, Doria Ragland. Doria and Thomas separated when Meghan was just two years old.
Here’s everything you need to know about Meghan’s family members and their complaints against her:
Samantha Markle is Meghan’s older half-sister. At 58 years old, she is 17 years older than the duchess.
She is suing Meghan for US$75,000. Her 2022 lawsuit claims that the duchess made “demonstrably false and malicious statements… to a worldwide audience”, which she says includes the “roughly 50 million people in 17 countries” who tuned into the Oprah interview.
Meghan had filed a motion last September to stop depositions in the case, but a Florida judge has now dismissed it and ruled that the duchess did “not show that unusual circumstances justify the requested stay or that prejudice or an undue burden will result if the Court does not impose a stay”.
Samantha is estranged from Meghan, who says she has not spoken to her paternal half-sister for more than a decade, since her “early twenties”. In her interview with Oprah, Meghan said she was an only child and saw Samantha just a handful of times.
But Samantha’s court documents allege that the duchess’s interview promoted a narrative that Samantha had sold false stories about her childhood to the tabloid press.
Samantha previously complained via Twitter that neither she nor Meghan’s half-brother were invited to the Sussexes’ 2018 wedding, as well as other members of the family. At the time, Doria was the only family member of Meghan’s family who attended the ceremony.
“Out of respect and humanitarianism, the Markles should be invited if 2,000 complete strangers are. Our uncle, brother, me, best friend of 30 years, nephews. At issue is not a matter of closeness. Family is family.”
Samantha also released a book in 2021 entitled The Diary of Princess Pushy’s Sister Part One, which is 330 pages long. Meghan has previously addressed the nickname in her and Prince Harry’s Netflix documentary, Harry & Meghan, in which she said: “I don’t know your name. I don’t know your birthday. You’re telling these people you raised me, and you coined me ‘Princess Pushy’?”
Meghan’s relationship with her father Thomas became particularly strained after he collaborated with paparazzi to stage several photo shoots. In 2018, ahead of the Sussexes’ royal wedding, Thomas was photographed reading a book in a café about British landmarks and reading about his daughter and Harry in an internet café.
However, it emerged that the photos were staged by a photographer, Jeff Rayner. Later, Meghan’s paternal half-brother Thomas Markle Jr said their father planned to apologise to her about the photo stunt. That same year, Thomas suffered an apparent heart attack and was set to undergo a heart operation, which he said was why he could not attend Meghan’s wedding.
In Harry & Meghan, the duchess revealed that she begged her father to “stop talking to any press” in a text message exchange. She added that she and Harry were worried Thomas’s phone was “compromised” because of the unusual way he was messaging her.
Since the wedding, Thomas and Meghan have been estranged. Meghan wrote a private letter to her father in August 2018, the contents of which were leaked by the Mail on Sunday. In the letter, the duchess said that Thomas’s actions “have broken my heart into a million pieces” and that he caused her “unnecessary and unwarranted pain”.
She later sued Associated Newspapers, which publishes the Daily Mail and the Mail on Sunday, for breach of privacy in publishing parts of the letter she wrote to Thomas. In 2021, she won the case after the High Court ruled that the publication of the letter was unlawful.
Last year, Thomas said he would be “thrilled” to defend Samantha in her defamation case against Meghan, adding: “I’ve been trying for almost four years to get to see my daughter and her ginger husband in a courtroom face to face.”