If the main purpose of Netflix’s splashy new docuseries about Prince Harry and Meghan Markle is to let the couple open up about their “love story” and explain their reasons for fleeing royal life, another is to settle scores with people they believed have wronged them.
One of those people is Meghan’s estranged half-sister, Samantha Markle, who began excoriating the future Duchess of Sussex in tabloid interviews soon after it became known that she was dating Harry and was going to marry into the British royal family. Samantha famously labeled Meghan, 17 years her junior, “Princess Pushy” and claimed she was a social climber.
Not only does Meghan insist in “Harry and Meghan” that she was never close to Samantha Markle, Episode 3 also presents a first-time-ever interview with Samantha’s daughter, who defends her royal aunt. Ashleigh Hale, a 37-year-old immigration attorney, describes her very close relationship with Meghan, while also painting a harrowing portrait of her mother, saying that her open hostility to the duchess is the reason she wasn’t allowed to come to her 2018 royal wedding.
“There’s a sister element, there’s something maternal, she’s a best friend, she’s kinda all the things,” Hale said during her on-camera interview, while Meghan noted, “I wanted a sister and she was like a little sister. Ash was put through quite a bit by the media just through association. I didn’t want her life to be plagued with all that drama.”
Meghan explained that she didn’t even know she had a niece until she was in her 20s, working as a TV actor in Hollywood. She said she heard from her father, Thomas Markle, that Samantha had “found” her daughter.
Actually, Samantha Markle basically abandoned Hale and her brother when they were young, according to Hale. For reasons that Hale didn’t specify, she said she and her brother were raised by her grandparents, who got custody of them when she was 2 years old. Hale said her “biological mother,” as she refers to Samantha in the interview, slipped out of her life when she was 6, and she didn’t see her until 2007 when they “reconnected.”
After Meghan learned she had a niece, she emailed her, and the two began exchanging “long emails back and forth.” There also were texts and calls until, “after a while, we were talking on some level several days a week,” the duchess said.
“We just hit it off,” Meghan said. While Meghan said she was starring in the TV show “Suits,” she also started going on vacations with Hale.
“She took me to New Orleans,” Hale recalled. “We listened to some good live music. We ate too much food and way too many drinks. It was just the two of us, which was really special.”
But Meghan’s engagement to Harry had ramifications for Hale. First, Hale said she stopped speaking to her mother, due to her behavior towards Meghan.
“After the news first broke, Samantha pretty quickly began expressing a lot of angry words about Meg towards me,” Hale said. “What was communicated to me was maybe some resentment, and it felt like no matter what I said, you know, her perspective didn’t change and seemed to get angrier and bigger, and we stopped talking. Some people you just can’t reason with.”
Hale also said she lost regular contact with Meghan. “My impression was that her relationships were being managed on some level” by the royal institution, Hale said.
To an extent, Hale was right, especially when it came to wedding invitations. Meghan definitely wasn’t going to invite Samantha Markle, but that decision created a PR issue for Buckingham Palace, Meghan said. The palace didn’t want to be in the position of having to explain why she wasn’t inviting her half-sister to the wedding, but was inviting her half-sister’s daughter. “The guidance” from the palace was that Hale shouldn’t come, Meghan said.
Meghan said she and Harry called Hale “and talked her through the guidance and why this assessment was made and that’s painful.”
Hale admitted she was “hurt on some level” but understood “where it was coming from.” It also hurt to know that she couldn’t come to the wedding because of her biological mother. “That this relationship that’s so important to me, was impacted in that way … to feel like because of her, it was taken away, it’s been hard,” Hale said.
After the wedding, Meghan’s relationship with Samantha Markle remained ugly. Samantha continued to bash Meghan to the U.K. tabloids and to authors writing critical books about the Sussexes. It was also alleged by BuzzFeed News in 2022 that she spread damaging online rumors about the duchess, including the bizarre conspiracy theory that she faked her two pregnancies.
But Meghan hit back, offering her own thoughts about Samantha in her and Harry’s bombshell 2021 interview with Oprah Winfrey, in which she said she was basically raised as an only child. It was also revealed in Meghan’s U.K. lawsuit against the Daily Mail that she had shared information about Samantha losing custody of her children to her biographers, Omid Scobie and Carolyn Durand, for the book “Finding Freedom.”
Meghan’s statements to Winfrey and to the “Finding Freedom” authors prompted Samantha to file a defamation lawsuit against her royal half-sister, which, as of October, was still pending, according to Newsweek.