Smiling broadly as she helps her uncle and cousins set the table for Thanksgiving dinner, Meghan Markle looks every inch the happy American teenager preparing to celebrate the holiday.
The charming picture, which also shows her mother Doria Ragland seated at the top of the table, is one of a series of family photos obtained exclusively by DailyMail.com.
A second, taken in 1987 when Meghan was just seven, shows her beaming as she perches on Santa Claus’ knee during a visit to the Glendale Galleria – a shopping mall near to her mother’s Los Angeles home.
The third shows Meghan cuddling up to her mother Doria – the only member of her family to attend the 2018 Royal Wedding and the only one set to join the now Duchess of Sussex for baby Archie’s first Thanksgiving later this week.
Meghan, 38, had been widely expected to spend the holiday in her native Los Angeles but sources told DailyMail.com that she is likely instead to be in the UK and will make a private visit to a London homeless shelter on the day itself.
Smiling broadly as she helps her uncle and cousins set the table for Thanksgiving dinner, Meghan Markle looks every inch the happy American teenager preparing to celebrate the holiday season
Meghan Markle looks every inch the happy American teenager preparing to celebrate the holiday season, cuddling up to her mother Doria – the only member of her family to attend the 2018 Royal Wedding and the only one set to join the now Duchess of Sussex for baby Archie’s first Thanksgiving later this week
Another photo, taken in 1987 when Meghan was just seven years old, shows her beaming as she perches on Santa Claus’ knee during a visit to the Glendale Galleria – a shopping mall several miles from her mother’s Los Angeles home
Doria, 63, is to make the 11-hour flight to the UK to join Meghan, Prince Harry and seven-month-old Archie for the big day and will stay with them at their Frogmore Cottage home in Windsor, if the royal couple follow through with that plan.
Meghan’s uncle Joseph Johnson, 70, who has held on to a treasure trove of family photos featuring his half-sister and niece, will not be joining them but says he has happy memories of past holiday seasons spent together.
Meghan’s uncle Joseph Johnson, 70, who has held on to a treasure trove of family photos featuring his half-sister and niece, says he has happy memories of past holiday season’s spent together with Meghan and Doria
And although he doesn’t believe he’ll see Meghan for Thanksgiving again due to her unique situation, he says he’ll always love her and be proud of the life she’s created for herself.
Speaking exclusively to DailyMail.com, he said: ‘You know, it’s been a long time since we all celebrated the holidays together.
‘What I remember is that it was always nice for family to get together, although it’s been maybe years since we saw Meghan and her mother.
‘It was always a good time. We’ve got a little, small family – not a lot of cousins, uncles and that kind of thing that we know of. So when we got together, we were always happy to see each other.’
Of Meghan herself, he added: ‘She was always a sweetheart. Always just the sweetest, most pleasant little girl. Just a pleasant person, a joy to be around.’
Johnson is Meghan’s mother Doria’s older half-brother and shares the same mother – Jeanette Johnson, who died in 2000 aged 71.
Doria and her half-brother also have another sibling: Saundra Lewis, 68, who lives in Los Angeles, not far from her sister.
Johnson told DailyMail.com how Meghan’s mother brought her up gently, never raising a hand to her daughter, and says his niece is the perfect example of how being brought up with lots of love produces a kind person.
The retired sign maker, who will be spending Thanksgiving with family in Sacramento, said he thinks baby Archie will benefit from a similar upbringing and will get to share in traditional American holiday celebrations as he grows up.
Meghan, 38, had been expected to spend the holiday in her native Los Angeles but sources told DailyMail.com that she will instead be in the UK and will make a private visit to a London homeless shelter on the day itself
‘My mother believed in not sparing the rod. Meghan, on the other hand, I don’t think she’s ever had a spanking so I really learned a lot from the way my sister raised her in that you raise a different person.
‘You raise a more reasonable person that’s easy to discipline. They understand a different way what you’re trying to discipline them for and it was just a beautiful thing to know that she had never been spanked and how pleasant she turned out.
‘It wasn’t a harsh treatment like some people go through. It was just a lot of love and kindness and tenderness and I think it’s going to be the same thing for Archie.’
But he did say, wistfully, that Meghan’s new life means he is unlikely to spend the holidays with his much-loved niece again.
He said: ‘I would like to, we would really like to, but I think the situation that she’s in with the royal family, all the protocol and so forth and so on…
‘I don’t think that’s likely [to happen] unless she really stepped forward and wanted to have us there and that kind of situation, you know. But it would be nice.’
The Duchess of Sussex has not seen any of her family members other than her mother since she began dating Prince Harry – including her father Thomas Markle, 73.
Markle is believed to be spending the holidays at his modest home in Rosarito, Mexico, and was joined for last year’s festivities by close friend Lori Davis and her daughter Jocelyn.
Doria, 63, is to make the 11-hour flight to the UK to join Meghan, Prince Harry and seven-month-old Archie for the big day and will stay with them at their Frogmore Cottage home in Windsor
Meghan’s half-brother Thomas Jr, 53, and half-sister Samantha, 55, are also set to be left out in the cold again thanks to making a habit of publicly criticizing her.
Johnson says he finds their constant attacks baffling and doesn’t ‘recognize that person’ in their descriptions of Meghan’s behavior.
He told DailyMail.com: ‘They have their reasons for why they see things the way they do and why they say the things they say.
‘I wish they saw things differently but it is what it is and they have a right to feel the way they do and say the things they do for whatever reason so you know. But we don’t feel that way.
‘There’s two sides to every story and we don’t feel that way. The person that they’re talking about, how she always wanted to be princess and this and that – well I don’t know that person.
‘I don’t know who they’re talking about. I love Meghan, I love her mother. You know, what can I say? That’s the way it is and that’s how I feel.’
He says he is proud of how Meghan is handling the attention that comes with being royal and believes that despite their well-documented difficulties, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex will both be ‘just fine’ in the end.
Johnson said: ‘She’s been in the spotlight, she’s been in Hollywood a lot before she joined the royal family so I think she knows enough about how to handle it to keep her sanity about the whole situation.
‘I think Meghan is going to be just fine, whatever she decides to do and however she decides to handle it. Her and Harry, I think they’ll be great. I think they’ll be just fine.’