Tracing Meghan Markle's 'German roots'

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Does Meghan Markle have German roots?

Many Americans have German ancestors, and that was thought to be the case for actress Meghan Markle, who will marry Prince Harry in May. But how certain are we that the princess-to-be's lineage leads back to Germany?

Since word went around that the future English princess, Meghan Markle, might have German roots on her father's side, some people in Germany have been eager to trumpet her genealogical history. 

"I think we are still very Anglophile in Germany, although Brexit was a traumatic experience for us," says historian Karina Rubach in relation to the royal buzz in Germany. "The Royals are now the most famous immigrant family from Hanover and Coburg," she adds. Prince Harry's great-great-great-grandfather was from the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, a German dynasty.

But although Prince Harry's ancestral links to Germany are well documented, his future bride's German roots have proven more difficult to trace.

Read more: Why did Meghan Markle become an Anglican? 

Royale Hochzeit: Meghan Markle und Prinz Harry als Souvenir

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Searching for Markle's ancestors

Meghan Markle's father Thomas Markle's lineage has been linked to Germany and Switzerland. Last year, Bunte magazine claimed that a Johann Markel left his home town of Offenburg in Baden-Württemberg in the late 18th century and moved to Pennsylvania.

However, a new DW investigation has revealed that Markle's ancestors might have actually come from Lampertsloch, a small commune in France, situated close to the German border. 

The process of tracing Markle's roots is not straightforward. DW reporter Hendrik Welling's journey took him from the records of the New England Historic Genealogical Society to the regional archives in Strasbourg. His research uncovered evidence linking Markle's ancestors to the area of Lampertsloch. According to records, her forefather Heinrich Martin Merckel emigrated to the US and later changed the spelling of his name. 

Despite uncovering a possible ancestral line, Welling said it would still take "years of further research" to confirm it definitively.


Meghan Markle and Prince Harry

US TV actor Meghan Markle and Prince Harry, sixth-in-line to the British throne, met in July 2016 after they were introduced through friends. In September 2017, she told Vanity Fair: "We're in love." Their highly anticipated wedding takes place on May 19.


A smiling couple

Prince Harry and Markle were photographed holding hands for the first time in September 2017, during a wheelchair tennis competition at the Invictus Games in Toronto, Canada. The games for disabled or wounded soldiers and veterans were created by Harry.


The young Harry

The youngest son of Prince Charles and the late princess Diana, Prince Henry of Wales — familiarly known as Prince Harry — was born in 1984. His childhood was dominated by his parents' messy divorce and Diana's tragically early death. The family is shown pictured together in 1995, with Harry on the left side next to his mother, and his brother Prince William next to their father.


After Princess Diana's death

Princess Diana died in a car crash in Paris in 1997. Harry was only 12 at the time, and his brother William, 15. This iconic picture shows the young princes bowing their heads as their mother's coffin is carried out of Westminster Abbey. The tragic event deeply affected Prince Harry.


A long process of grief

Earlier this year, Harry admitted how much he had struggled throughout his life. In support to a mental health campaign, he revealed in an interview with the Daily Telegraph that he came "very close to a complete breakdown on numerous occasions." He added: "Shutting down all of my emotions for the last 20 years has had a quite serious effect on not only my personal life but also my work as well."


The playboy prince grows up

The impulsive prince appears to have inherited his mother's ability to connect with people, as well as her sense of mischief. Often photographed with different attractive women, he was long labelled a "playboy." He once told Newsweek that he "wanted out" of the Royal Family.


The army as escape

Photographs of him wearing a swastika at a costume party that were published in 2005 caused outrage. The same year he entered the army, as many other royals have done, and spent 10 years serving in the British forces. He later admitted that his military service "was the best escape I've ever had" from the constant public attention.


A popular prince

Following his military career through which he served twice in Afghanistan, Harry has turned into one of Britain's most popular royals, not just within the country but globally. Like his mother, he uses his public profile to raise awareness for different causes, including a recent campaign about mental health with William and Kate.


Meghan Markle

Britain barely knew who Meghan Markle was when her name started appearing on newspapers' front pages last October. Born in 1981 in Los Angeles, as an actor she portrayed a lawyer in the hit TV show Suits. News coverage on Prince Harry's girlfriend was hard-hitting, however, including comment pieces with "racial undertones" and "outright sexism and racism" online, said Harry's office.


First marriage with producer

Part of the criticism comes from her former marriage with film producer Trevor Engelson, from 2010 to 2013. Markle also had her own lifestyle blog,, which she recently shut down. On it, she had proudly declared her independence: "I've never wanted to be a lady who lunches — I've always wanted to be a woman who works," Markle once wrote.


Humanitarian work

Like the prince, Markle does humanitarian work. She's an ambassador for the Canadian charity "World Vision Canada," which works for children in developing countries, and she also campaigns for women's rights with the UN. The actress has a degree in communications.


With Queen Elizabeth's blessing

"The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh are delighted for the couple and wish them every happiness," Buckingham Palace said in a statement. Like all royals in direct line of succession, Harry and Meghan's union had to be approved by the Queen. This blessing demonstrates how much monarchy has changed: Not so long ago, a royal marrying someone who was divorced would have been inconceivable.


Watched by billions

Prince Harry's wedding with Meghan Markle is bound to attract the world's attention. Some 2.4 billion people watched the wedding ceremony for Harry's elder brother William and his wife Kate Middleton in 2011.

Markle's African roots

German roots aside, the discussion in Great Britain has been primarily focused on Markle's African heritage. The ancestors of her mother, Doria Ragland, came from Africa and were reportedly slaves on cotton plantations. 

In another twist, Markle might even have noble roots herself. Genealogist Gary Boyd Roberts of the New England Historic Genealogical Society in Boston says Markle descended from King Edward III, who ruled Wales and England in the Middle Ages. According to Roberts, this would make her Prince Harry's 17th cousin.

nf/pj/sh (with dpa)

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