40 and fabulous! The Duchess of Sussex celebrates her 40th birthday in the most Meghan of ways

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Meghan delivered her empowering birthday message from a stylish office in her California home. Her hubby, Prince Harry, made a cameo through a window, juggling ineptly. (PHOTO: Beem/
Meghan delivered her empowering birthday message from a stylish office in her California home. Her hubby, Prince Harry, made a cameo through a window, juggling ineptly. (PHOTO: Beem/

It was the question many were asking: how would Meghan Markle ring in her 40th birthday?

Speculation abounded the Duchess of Sussex would have an “intimate party” for 65 courtesy of pal Oprah Winfrey’s party planner.

There were also rumours Prince Harry would whisk his wife off somewhere close and quiet. Then there were hopefuls who thought she’d release the first photo of baby Lilibet to celebrate her special day.

In the end, it was none of the above.

She heralded her new decade in a very Meghan way: by announcing a new global project to empower women.

In her first appearance since giving birth to Lili on 4 June, the duchess appeared in a video posted on the Sussexes’ Archewell website in which she announced her new 40x40 initiative.

In the video, shot at the couple’s Montecito mansion in California, Meghan is dressed all in white, her ankles crossed prettily under a perfectly styled oak desk complete with velvety white roses and a quartz stone.

“Because I’m turning 40, I’m asking 40 friends to donate 40 minutes of their time to help mentor a woman who’s mobilising back into the workforce,” she says.

“Over two million women in the US alone and tens of millions around the world have lost their jobs due to Covid. And I think if we all do it and all commit 40 minutes to some sort of active service, we can create a ripple effect.”

The duchess was joined by comedian and actress Melissa McCarthy and the pair spent their time chatting, giggling and, in Melissa’s case, showcasing a variety of royal-inspired headgear.

Harry made a cameo appearance, juggling three balls ineptly through a window behind Meghan – a scene that sent his wife and Melissa into gales of laughter.

The clip hasn’t been without criticism. Royal biographer Angela Levin was scathing. “Anyone else think that Meghan and her friend Melissa McCarthy were mocking the queen in the birthday video?” she tweeted.

(PHOTO: Screenshot)
Actress Melissa McCarthy spoke to Meghan via video call and had the duchess in stitches as she donned a silly hat and drank tea. (PHOTO:

“Both holding an old-fashioned cup and saucer like Meg used in her blog after first meeting with the queen. Melissa sipping from the cup wearing a fancy hat and gloves? The mockery shows what [Meghan] thinks of the royal family.”

Others speculated that the initiative could be a money-making scheme.

“All 40 of her mentors have to sign her contract to video their mentoring session with the approved ‘sessionee’,” one critic said. These will probably be turned over to Spotify or Netflix as part fulfillment of their contract. Win-win as the money comes in.”

The 40 mentors she’s roped in are activists, artists, athletes and world leaders. Those who have pledged support so far are singer Adele; poet Amanda Gorman – the first person to be named the US’ national poet laureate; Sophie Gregoire Trudeau, wife of Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau; fashion designer Stella McCartney, and Harry’s cousin Princess Eugenie.

Meghan said she wanted to mark her milestone birthday “with a way to give back” and didn’t want “a blowout fortieth”.

“She felt it would be wrong to organise a big birthday bash in the midst of a pandemic,” a source close to the duchess says.

As Meghan enters another decade, we look at the life of a strong-willed woman who has rocked the royal family to the core like no other.


Meghan loved to dress up and perform from a young age. (PHOTO: Beem/

Meghan was born on 4 August 1981 in Los Angeles to Doria Ragland, an African American social worker and psychotherapist who later became a yoga instructor, and Thomas Markle, a lighting director of Irish and Dutch descent, who worked in Hollywood.

Her parents divorced when she was six.

She attended a private Catholic school where she “wasn’t shy at all and was always chatting away”, a childhood friend recalls.

She loved being the centre of attention and was always ready to pose for the camera. There are many photos of her dressed up in costumes and performing on stage.

Meghan embraced her biracial identity from an early age. When she had to fill out a census form in primary school and indicate her ethnicity by ticking either a “white” box or a “black” one, she was conflicted. She told her father, who told her to draw her own box next time as she was too special to be in an “either/or” category. 


Meghan was outspoken from a young age and wrote a damning letter as an 11-year-old to a big company calling them out for sexist language. (PHOTO: Beem/

Meghan wrote her now-famous letter to consumer goods giant Procter and Gamble at the age of 11 after becoming outraged by their dish-wash advert that said “women all over America” were washing dishes.

She urged the conglomerate to change the word “women” to “people”. They did and Meghan went on to be featured on TV – proof that her passion for fighting for causes she believes in started early. 

“Meghan always knew she was destined for great things,” another childhood friend says.


 (PHOTO: Gallo Images_Alamy)
Meghan in a scene from her hit legal series Suits co-starring Patrick J Adams. (PHOTO: Gallo Images/Alamy)

After school Meghan attended Northwestern University in Illinois. “I knew I wanted to do acting, but I hated the idea of being this cliché – a girl from LA who decides to be an actress,” she said.“I wanted more than that. I had always loved politics, so I ended up double-majoring in theatre and international relations.”

Her acting career had humble beginnings, kicking off with a role as a nurse extra in the soapie General Hospital.She landed guest roles on various shows, including Knight Rider, 90210 and CSI: NY.

She also had supporting roles in movies such as A Lot Like Love opposite Ashton Kutcher and the Jennifer Aniston movie Horrible Bosses – where her role as an employee sees Jason Sudeikis’ character describing her as “way too cute to be just a FedEx girl”. In 2006 she appeared as one of the mini skirt wearing briefcase models in the game show Deal or No Deal but left halfway through a season.

(PHOTO: Gallo Images/Getty Images)
In the beginning of her career Meghan appeared on Deal or No Deal. (PHOTO: Gallo Images/Getty Images)

“I would put that in the category of things I was doing while I was auditioning to try to make ends meet,” she says.

Her big break came when she was cast as Rachel in the legal TV series Suits. She was on the show from July 2011 to 2017 and relocated to Canada, where it was filmed.

“Rachel and I are very similar,” she told Marie Claire. “Ambitious, driven and always trying to take the bull by the horns.”


(PHOTO: Vogue)
Meghan guest-edited the September 2019 issue of British Vogue and themed it Forces for Change. (PHOTO: Vogue)

Meghan had tons of fun editing her now-defunct blog, The Tig, where she wrote about food, fashion, travel and beauty. She shut it down when her relationship with Harry became known.

“You’ve made my days brighter and filled this experience with so much joy,” she wrote in her farewell to her followers. “Keep finding those Tig moments of discovery, keep laughing and taking risks, and keep being the change you wish to see in the world.

“Above all, don’t ever forget your worth – as I’ve told you time and time again: you, my sweet friend, are enough.”

Meghan was thrilled when her request to guest edit the September 2019 edition of Vogue was approved by editor Edward Enninful. The magazine was themed Force for Change and she had clear ideas about what she wanted.

“For this issue, I imagined, why would we swim in the shallow end of the pool when we could go to the deep end? A metaphor for life, as well as for this issue. Let’s be braver. Let’s go a bit deeper.

Her favourite travel hack is a bottle of tea tree oil. “It’s not the most glamorous thing but if you get a cut, a mosquito bite, a small breakout . . . it’s my little cure-all.”


(PHOTO: Instagram_MeghanMarkle)
In this Instagram post, Meghan can be seen sharing her bed with her beloved pooches. (PHOTO: Instagram_MeghanMarkle)

Few could miss Guy chilling in the background of Meghan’s 40th birthday video.

The beagle has been with her from before she moved to the UK then back to the US, and now shares the Sussexes with black Labrador retriever Pula.

She had to leave one of her pets, a dog named Bogart, when she moved to the UK because he was too old.

Guy and Pula helped Meghan through a difficult 2020, says Caroline Yates, CEO of animal welfare organisation Mayhew. “Whenever we talk to the duchess about the charity, she always references how important her dogs are and what a support they are.”


(PHOTO: Gallo Images/Getty Images)
Meghan is known for her casual chic style that often includes jeans and a boyfriend shirt. (PHOTO: Gallo Images/Getty Images)

Husband shirt, upswept hair, svelte, sassy and sexy – Meghan’s sartorial choices was like a breath of fresh air blowing away the House of Windsor’s fussy fashion rules.

There was that brief bit of “beigeification”, when she ditched her glamorous wardrobe for sensible heels, stockings and neutral attire as she attended royal functions and events.

(PHOTO: Gallo Images_Alamy)
Meghan dazzled in a stunning blue Victoria Beckham dress as she stepped out at the Endeavour Fund Awards in London in March 2020. (PHOTO: Gallo Images/Alamy)

But as soon as she and Harry pulled the plug it was back to Hollywood superstar glamour, bright colours, high heels and makeup made for the camera.

In a marked difference from the browns and beiges of months before, her “farewell tour” showed vibrant choices, like the blue Victoria Beckham dress she wore in one of her final royal engagements. 


Meghan wore constellation necklaces that referenced her children's star signs – Taurus and Gemini – in her birthday video message. (PHOTO:

Dainty, delicate and packed with detail is how Meghan likes her jewellery. She’s often worn pieces by worthy brands like Pippa Small, a designer that emphasises their ethical sourcing of material and their focus on charity work.

In the early days of her relationship with Harry she was spotted wearing a necklace featuring the letters H and M, which fuelled speculation she and the prince were an item.

The necklace was made by Canadian brand Right Hand Gal and founders Shawna and Randi Herlich strongly advocate for female empowerment. 

The necklaces she wore in her 40th birthday video is believed to be the constellations of Archie and Lili’s star signs – Taurus and Gemini respectively.


(PHOTO: Gallo Images/Getty Images)
The mom-of-two is known for her exquisite penmanship. (PHOTO: Gallo Images/Getty Images)

Meghan is known for her perfect handwriting and calligraphy skills, which she learnt during her childhood in Los Angeles.

“I went to an all-girls Catholic school where they’d teach penmanship courses,” she told Glamour magazine in 2013. 

The skill paid off during the early part of her acting career when she used it to help make ends meet. “When I was auditioning at the onset, instead of waiting tables, I did calligraphy.”She also spent time teaching calligraphy at the stationary retail chain Paper Source, in LA.

“While getting her start as an actress, she worked as a workshop instructor at our Beverly Hills location,” the retailer said in a statement. 

She wrote the invitations for singer Robin Thicke and actress Paula Patton’s 2005 wedding and wrote holiday greetings sent to celebrities by fashion house Dolce & Gabbana, she told Esquire magazine in 2013.


Earlier this year Meghan and Harry showed Oprah Winfrey their chicken coop at their Montecito home. (PHOTO: Beem/

Meghan is a self-confessed foodie and named The Tig after her favourite wine, Tignanello. 

She follows a healthy diet – smoothies, free-range and organic fare – and in a 2017 interview with Eye Swoon, revealed an acai bowl was her favoutie breakfast meal.

A true California girl she loves tacos, telling Eye Swoon she would choose fish tacos, which she’s been eating since she was a child, as part of her “ultimate food day”.She shared chicken tacos with Michelle Obama during their Vogue interview.We know she and Harry love a good roast chicken – that’s what she was making the night he popped the question.

And earlier this year she showed talk show host Oprah the chickens they keep in their garden. The birds provide the Sussexes with fresh eggs.


Meghan is a devout follower of yoga, which her mother, Doria Ragland, teaches. (PHOTO:

Meghan keeps in shape with a combination of yoga, running and hiking.“My mom was a yoga instructor so that practice is in my blood,” she told Women’s Health.

“I love an intense vinyasa class – and even better if its blasting hip-hop and done in a dark room with candlelight. The best!”She also sometimes follows an exercise video at home. “I think if you can self-motivate that’s half the battle,” she told Shape magazine.

“Sometimes the idea of working out sounds absolutely dreadful, but I always remind myself of how good it will feel afterwards. Euphoric, almost!”

She also loves Pilates and reportedly did private classes with British singer Adele when they lived nearby to each other in Beverly Hills last year.She likes to keep things on her face as natural as possible, telling Allure magazine she hates it “when her freckles get airbrushed out of a photo shoot”.

“I never want to cover my freckles, so we just do a 'wash' of foundation in certain sections instead of over the entire face.”

Sources:,,,,,, Marie Claire,,,,,,   


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