Who is Samantha Markle? Meghan's sister accuses duchess of lying about 'rags to riches' story

Meghan's half-sister is suing the duchess for defamation following their tell-all interview with Oprah Winfrey in March 2021.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JULY 18:  Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex arrive at the United Nations Headquarters on July 18, 2022 in New York City. Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex is the keynote speaker during the United Nations General assembly to mark the observance of Nelson Mandela International Day where the 2020 U.N. Nelson Mandela Prize will be awarded to Mrs. Marianna Vardinogiannis of Greece and Dr. Morissanda Kouyaté of Guinea.  (Photo by Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)
A Flordia judge has ruled that Meghan and Harry can be deposed in a civil suit brought by her half-sister Samantha. (Getty Images)

A Florida court has heard accusations from Samantha Markle that her half-sister Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex has lied about her "rags to royalty" background, as part of a defamation case brought by Samantha against the Duchess.

Samantha Markle claims in the lawsuit that "great harm" has been inflicted on her and that she has been through "ridicule, contempt and disgrace" on the global stage as a result of things Meghan has said.

She is seeking $75,000 in damages partly over comments Meghan made in her March 2021 interview with Oprah Winfrey, claiming Meghan accused her of trying to cash in on the name "Markle" after she started dating Prince Harry.

She also says Meghan is lying about having a "rags to riches" narrative and comments she made about growing up as an "only child".

Meghan's legal team called these claims "offensive" and not the "proper subject matter" for a court of law.

“Not every perceived slight ought to be litigated and that’s true here", Meghan's lawyer said.

"Plaintiff is taking issue with Meghan’s own impressions of her own childhood growing up but that’s not a proper subject matter for a court of law".

During the virtual hearing on 15 February, Meghan's lawyers attempted to get Samantha's case dismissed. The judge — Charlene Edwards Honeywell — has yet to make a ruling on this, but is reported to be "struggling" to interpret Meghan's comments as defamatory.

The judge has said she will issue a written decision on whether Samantha's case will be dismissed — and by Samantha's lawyer's own admission "it's not the strongest case in the world".

Yahoo UK breaks down who Samantha Markle is, and why she is suing Meghan:

Who is Samantha Markle?

Samantha Markle, 58, is Meghan's half-sister and 17 years older than the duchess. She lives in Florida and has multiple sclerosis, which means she needs to use a wheelchair.

Sam Markle appeared on GMB to speak about her sister. (ITV)
Samantha Markle has been appearing on TV to speak about her sister since Meghan's relationship with Harry went public. (ITV)

Meghan and Samantha's father is Thomas Markle. Samantha's mother — Roslyn — told the Mail Online in 2017 that Samantha "has dogged on Meghan forever", adding: "She's never liked Meghan and she's always been jealous of her."

The two sisters have been estranged for a long time, and Samantha has been highly critical of Meghan since her relationship with Prince Harry was made public in 2016 — dubbing her "princess pushy" and a "social climber".

Samantha's mother isn't the only family member to criticise her for her public comments about Meghan. Thomas Markle Jr — Meghan's half brother and Samantha's full sibling — told the Mail Online that "nobody talks to" Samantha.

PHILADELPHIA, PA - MAY 15:  Thomas Markle Jr. attends the Rocco's Collision Presents Celebrity Boxing 68: Thomas Markle Jr v Nacho Press Conference on May 15, 2019 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Gilbert Carrasquillo/Getty Images)
Meghan's half-brother, Thomas Markle Jr has publicly advised Samantha to leave their younger sibling alone. (Getty Images)

'It's why nobody talks to her and hasn't for a long, long time. Leave Meghan alone already – it's ridiculous".

Meghan has remained tight-lipped about her half sister for many years, until she addressed their relationship in the controversial Netflix docu-series about the Sussexes last year.

"My half-sister, who I hadn't seen for over a decade – and that was only for a day and a half – suddenly it felt like she was everywhere," Meghan said in the programme.

"I don't know your middle name, I don't know your birthday. You're telling these people that you raised me and that you coined me 'princess pushy'".

Why is Samantha Markle suing Meghan?

Samantha decided to sue her half-sister following Meghan and Harry's sit-down interview with Oprah Winfrey in 2021.

Her complaint is partly based on how many people saw the interview — documents seen by PA are quoted as saying this was "roughly 50 million people in 17 countries".

She said that Meghan "falsely and maliciously" claimed to be an only child in the interview, despite having two half-siblings.

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 08: Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex are interviewed by Oprah Winfrey on March 08, 2020 in London, England. The interview first aired in the US on Sunday 7th March on CBS and in the UK on Monday 8th March on ITV. (Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images)
Nearly 50 million people worldwide watched Meghan and Harry's bombshell interview with Oprah about why they left the Royal Family. (Getty Images)

However, given the large age gap between them, Meghan may simply have been referring to the fact she was raised separately from them, as they were nearly adults when she was born.

Samantha has also claimed in the court documents that because of Meghan she was subject to "humiliation, shame and hatred on a worldwide scale".

Equally she has claimed that Meghan's actions took place with the support of the palace's PR machine as part of a "premeditated campaign" to ruin both her own and her father's reputation.

While Meghan’s legal team are still working to get the case dismissed, the judge has ruled that discovery can continue in the meantime.

Discovery is the process by which parties disclose information and documents to each other – Meghan's team tried to block this initially, but were unsuccessful.

This means that Meghan and Harry could still be subject to video depositions, which is where they would have to provide testimony under oath – the danger for the couple being that they may have to address uncomfortable topics or questions.

So far the discovery requests made by Samatha’s lawyers have been wide-ranging and include documents relating to the allegations that Meghan bullied palace staff.

Samantha's lawyers have also requested to see all communications between Meghan and palace staff that are regarding herself, or their father Thomas Markle, as well as Meghan’s call logs.

She also wants to see Meghan's communications with palace aides that would prove the Duchess asked her friends and family not to contribute in anyway to the biography Finding Freedom.

According to Newsweek, Meghan’s lawyers have argued this is an "unwarranted fishing expedition".

When is the case?

The civil legal action was first launched by Samantha in March 2022 and is currently ongoing.

Last week a Florida judge dismissed the Sussexes' attempt to block their testimonies, which may mean that Harry and Meghan could be deposed sometime before July, according to The Times.

However, it has not yet been confirmed exactly when these may take place and if Meghan's lawyers are successful in getting the case thrown out, then there will be no further hearings or depositions.

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