The Palace told Meghan Markle not to invite her niece to her royal wedding to Prince Harry, the Duchess of Sussex said in the new Netflix docuseries Harry & Meghan. The six-part show, which gives an unprecedented behind-the-scenes look at the royal couple’s lives, dropped the first three episodes Thursday; the final three will be released on Dec. 15.
Meghan said that she and Harry were advised not to invite Ashleigh Hale, the daughter of Meghan's paternal half-sister Samantha Markle, to their marriage ceremony, despite the closeness between aunt and niece. The decision was made, Meghan said, due to Markle’s constant publicity-seeking and criticism of her sibling in the UK press (despite the fact that, according to Meghan, the two had not seen each other in a decade and had never been close). BuzzFeed News profiled Markle in March.
“How do we explain that this half-sister isn't invited to the wedding, but that the half-sister's daughter is?” Meghan asked. “And so with Ashleigh, the guidance at the time was to not have her come to our wedding.” She spoke about the difficult phone call with her niece. “I was in the car with [Harry] and I called her and I had her on speakerphone and we talked her through what guidance we were being given and why this assessment was made and — and that's painful.”
It was particularly painful, Hale said, because she had been adopted by and raised by her paternal grandparents (whom she referred to as her parents) and her relationship with Meghan was much closer than her relationship with Markle.
“I think I said I was hurt on some level, but I understood where it was coming from,” she said, with tears in her eyes. “To know that it was because of my biological mother that this relationship that's so important to me was impacted in that way. Because of [Markle] it was taken away — it's been hard.”
The decision to exclude Hale from the festivities ultimately had consequences: Meghan was criticized in the press for not inviting any of her relatives from her father’s side of the family.
The relationship between aunt and niece began when Hale reached out to reconnect with her maternal family. “I remember my dad saying to me, ‘Samantha found her daughter,’” Meghan said. The two began emailing and quickly formed a bond, soon talking with each other “several days a week” and going on vacations together.
“I think she takes on a lot of roles for me,” Hale said. “There’s a sister element. There’s something maternal. She’s the best friend.” Meghan agreed with her niece’s assessment. “I think we both craved the same thing,” she said. “I wanted a sister and she was like a little sister.”
Meghan emphasized that she did not think of Hale’s mother as a sister and never had. “I don’t remember seeing her when I was a kid at my dad’s house if and when they would come around. And then the last time that I saw her that I remember is when I was in my early 20s. I hadn’t had a fallout with her. We didn’t have the closeness to be able to have [a fallout].”
Hale said that she tried to talk Markle out of attacking Meghan in the press but ultimately failed.
“After the news [about Harry and Meghan dating] first broke, Samantha [Markle] 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.”
“We stopped talking,” Hale said. “Some people you just can’t reason with.”
Shortly after the first three episodes of Harry & Meghan dropped on Netflix, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex released a statement about the docuseries, which they co-produced.
"We are grateful to have the ability to share our love story through such an esteemed creative team and with the global reach of Netflix,” they said. “We hope it helps others to heal, and to feel inspired.”