And thus began the media career of Samantha Markle.
Samantha, 57, is Meghan’s paternal half sister and her elder by 17 years. From that very first interview with the Sun, wherein she described her “shallow” half sister as driven by “social climbing,” with behavior “certainly not befitting of a royal family member,” Samantha has been ready and willing to trash Meghan to anyone who might want to listen. Over the years, she has publicly accused Meghan of lying about her upbringing and abandoning her family. Now, interviews and a BuzzFeed News analysis of social media suggest that she has spread even more insidious and false claims.
In an investigation spanning months, BuzzFeed News found evidence that for the past four years, Samantha has apparently used various Twitter accounts — including her current one, which she apparently used to communicate with this reporter — not just to criticize Meghan but to also propagate and give credibility to damaging and potentially defamatory claims about her half sister.
There is also evidence that suggests Samantha has for years been coordinating with and feeding information to the person behind one of the oldest and most influential anti-Meghan YouTube accounts, a woman who has been a driving force behind what is perhaps the most persistent, insidious, and damaging conspiracy theories about Meghan: that she faked her two pregnancies, that her children were born to a surrogate, and that her children might not even be hers.
Samantha’s Twitter account has spread these same baseless theories, even as Samantha has avoided making these claims in mainstream media interviews, allowing her to maintain a veneer of respectability while still smearing her half sister.
How close Samantha — a self-described “author, screenwriter, and counselor” who has multiple sclerosis and has used a wheelchair since 2008 — actually is with the duchess is a subject of debate. In television appearances and interviews, Samantha has emphasized her importance as a member of Meghan’s extended family, and in her 2021 autobiography, The Diary of Princess Pushy’s Sister, she describes a childhood of babysitting, ice cream outings, and frequent telephone calls as Meghan grew older and began her acting career.
Meanwhile, the duchess has consistently denied any relationship whatsoever with her half sister. In her 2021 interview with Oprah Winfrey, Meghan claimed to have seen her on only a handful of occasions growing up and said she was raised as an only child. In a 2018 email with her then-communications secretary Jason Knauf (made public as part of a privacy and copyright lawsuit the duchess filed against the publishers of the Mail on Sunday), she described Samantha as an opportunist who “began a career creating stories to sell to the press” when news of her relationship with Harry broke. In part because of these claims, Samantha has filed a defamation lawsuit against Meghan.
Although Samantha no longer enjoys the media prominence that she was given in the drama-filled lead-up to Harry and Meghan’s wedding, where she firmly established herself as one of her half sister’s harshest critics, she has remained a semi-regular figure on (primarily British and Australian) news shows commenting on the Sussexes.
For this story, BuzzFeed News sent a detailed list of questions to Samantha through various channels, including a Gmail address provided by her partner. From that Gmail account, a person replied, “you’re crazy,” and added: “you were told IN ADVANCE that these are untruths and will be proven so by the ip amd mac addresses they originated from.” The person added, “i will pursue stalking and harrasment charges, as well as slander and libel AGAINST YOU first, and then your media enployer for letting you do this, you are NOT the fair journalist you say you are in your emails.”
Samantha’s lawyer, Douglas Kahle, emailed BuzzFeed News to say that “Ms. Markle’s email and other accounts have been hacked on several occasions and it is very likely that those statements were made by third parties to defame our client.” He did not specify which statements he was referring to.
Still, evidence indicates that the veneer of authority Samantha has donned for media appearances and in her autobiography is belied by her Twitter account’s promotion of unfounded theories about her half sister and her apparent behind-the-scenes dealings with Meghan’s most zealous online detractors and critics. She is, in short, Meghan’s biggest troll.
Much has been written about the strange phenomenon of people doubting celebrity pregnancies, but with the Duchess of Sussex, this doubt is catapulted to a whole other dimension.
A corner of the anti-Meghan internet believes that the duchess wore a “moonbump,” or fake belly, while she was pregnant with her two children, Archie and Lilibet. Videos of Meghan’s pregnant stomach moving as she walks or sits and rises from a chair are pored over, as are photos of the wrinkles in her clothing around her midriff. One 86-second YouTube video titled, “What the Hell is that Popping Noise as Pregnant Meghan Markle Stands up?” and which shows Meghan rising from squatting down to pet a dog during an official engagement in January 2019 has nearly 240,000 views. There is even a contingent of people who believe no children exist and Meghan and Harry have been using lifelike baby dolls during public appearances.
This may seem like your run-of-the-mill conspiracy theory, but there’s a much more sinister undertone to it. Although there has never been a case where judges had to make a ruling that concerns the royal family, British law regarding inheritance of titles specifies that heirs must be born “of the body.” Therefore, by British law there is a genuine question about whether or not a child born via a surrogate can inherit the throne — opening the door to excluding from the line of succession the first two children of color (¼ Black through Meghan) to be born into the royal family.
Years of Twitter screenshots found by BuzzFeed News show that Samantha’s accounts have professed the belief that her half sister’s children were conceived via IVF and born via a surrogate. As recently as in January 2022, her Twitter account has asked if the children even exist.
Samantha has apparently used a number of Twitter accounts over the years, and there are hundreds of archived screenshots of tweets from these accounts denigrating her sister. But for this story, BuzzFeed News is focusing mainly on the tweets sent from her current account, @TheMarkleSammy. This is because Samantha apparently communicated with this reporter using that account and has not claimed that it specifically was hacked. Also, in communicating with this reporter over Facebook Messenger, someone who seemed to be Samantha referred to DMs to this reporter from this Twitter account.
Samantha’s Twitter account is mostly private, and tweets are regularly deleted from it. But BuzzFeed News was able to log these tweets because this reporter followed the account in January when it was public. (The account recently blocked this reporter.)
Samantha’s Twitter account has endorsed many unfounded theories about Meghan and claimed to have inside knowledge that they were true — things that Samantha has apparently never said in any of her mainstream media interviews.
Tweets from Samantha’s account — many of which were deleted after BuzzFeed News reached out for comment — have claimed that Meghan has used a doll in place of her son in paparazzi photos. They have floated the theory that Harry and Meghan’s son Archie might have Down syndrome. They have challenged her half sister to provide proof that she had a miscarriage. They have implied that Meghan may have been involved with Jeffrey Epstein and Harvey Weinstein.
And, for years, tweets from her account have said that Meghan used a surrogate for her pregnancies and faked carrying her children by wearing a padded stomach. They have stated that Meghan and Harry used IVF for both of their children — specifically, they claimed that her father had told her Meghan had frozen her eggs when she was working as an actor and picked them up when she went to Los Angeles the month before her wedding to Harry. They have also publicly voiced the claim that Samantha’s half nephew and half niece should be removed from the British line of succession.
The tweets even took it a step further than most pregnancy truthers and suggested that Archie might not be Meghan’s biological child at all — or that both children might not be Harry’s and should have their DNA tested.
“Yankee Wally” — as in Wallis Simpson, the American siren for whom Edward VIII gave up the British throne — is a Welsh pensioner in her mid-60s whose real name is Sadie Quinlan, as has been reported in previous stories. Over the past four years, she has established herself as one of the loudest, most explicitly critical, and most persistent anti-Meghan voices in royal social media circles.
“Look at me. I’ve got 47,000 [YouTube] subscribers. Wow. How did I do that? I was a brothel keeper who had a nervous breakdown,” she said in a telephone interview with BuzzFeed News.
Quinlan’s social media history includes multiple Twitter accounts — and multiple suspensions — and she helped popularize “Megxit” in its original meaning. Despite what many people believe, the term “Megxit” didn’t come into being as an obvious portmanteau when Harry and Meghan announced that they would be stepping back as working members of the royal family in January 2020. As media outlets such as Vanity Fair and Refinery 29 have reported, the word “Megxit” has been used by the most dedicated Meghan detractors since early 2018 as both a pejorative and a name for their online community. (They called themselves Megxiters and, in response, dedicated pro-Meghan accounts organized and dubbed themselves “Megulators.”)
By the spring of 2019, Quinlan had shifted her focus to YouTube, where she seemed determined to prove that Meghan was faking her first pregnancy. “Yes I truly believe that meghan Markle was NEVER pregnant. I believe she is barren ie totally incapable of carrying a baby,” Quinlan wrote to BuzzFeed News. “I really feel uncomfortable talking about this but it’s also extremely important that this situation is put right because of the Royal line of succession. As it stands, Archie and Lili are 6th and 7th in line to the throne! That’s just insanity! As a British taxpayer I’m not happy paying for a FRAUDULENT pair of children because their mother is too proud and ambitious to admit the truth.”
While there are now countless other YouTubers who have built their brands by tapping into the wellspring of anti-Meghan sentiment online, few if any have done it quite as effectively, or for as long, as Quinlan — and with so little effort.
Quinlan had a separate account before the one for which she is now known. That first account was called “Yankee Wally Archificial Harrison,” a play on the name the Sussexes gave their child, Archie Harrison. Early videos uploaded to that YouTube account were very different from the format she uses today — photo montages of Meghan highlighting “discrepancies” in her pregnant stomach over soundbites or dramatic music, and even tarot card readings for Harry and Meghan.
She soon landed upon the format that she continues using to this day — simply talking into a screen recording app as she scrolls through stories about and photos of the royal family on her phone. Using this format, Quinlan started posting videos to her current primary account, Yankee Wally.
Since she began posting videos to her Yankee Wally channel on May 12, 2019, she has uploaded nearly 600 videos and currently has almost 48,000 subscribers. According to YouTube, her videos have been viewed more than 19.5 million times. With only a few exceptions, every video on her channel is about the Sussexes, with titles like “Debunking the lies of narcissist #MeghanMarkle will take days,” and “Meghan Markle is uncultured, uncivil spoilt and rude. But she CAN see 500 yds with her rat-eyes.” There are also videos devoted to propagating unfounded theories about Meghan, like she was a “yacht girl,” or prostitute, during her acting days — a popular, long-lasting, but unfounded rumor amongst the most hardcore anti-Meghan accounts.
Of the top 10 most viewed videos from Quinlan’s Yankee Wally account, five concern Meghan’s alleged surrogacy. Searching YouTube's most-viewed videos for “Meghan Markle surrogate,” the third result, with 410,000 views, is Yankee Wally’s.
But virtually all of the other top videos about Meghan’s alleged fake pregnancy differ in one key way from Yankee Wally’s: Despite provocative titles like “SURROGACY hint in Lilibet birth announcements/Harry & Meghan disrespect Queen/violate privacy” (a video with nearly 500,000 views by royal commentator Lady Colin Campbell) they almost never explicitly say that the duchess faked her pregnancy. Instead, they talk around the issue, saying that these rumors are circulating and asking why Meghan never addressed these rumors, or why Meghan’s childrens’ birth announcements were worded in a certain way and if that indicates that she used a surrogate.
Not so for Yankee Wally. And a large reason why she is so willing to eschew the tap-dancing legal language used by other YouTubers who dabble in the conspiracy theory of Meghan’s fake pregnancy is because of her wholehearted, unreserved belief that it is true.
In an interview with BuzzFeed News, Quinlan kept coming back to the effect a surrogacy could have on the line of succession. She emphasized that she believes the children are biologically Meghan and Harry’s, and in emotional tones she told BuzzFeed News that her videos are in no way meant to be attacks on Archie and Lilibet. “Oh my God, oh crikey, no way,” she said.
“I am not a stalker. I don’t want to see Harry and Meghan in my life. But at the same time, let’s just get them — those children — off the line of succession. Because they don’t belong on it. They don’t belong on it and it’s wrong to put them on it,” she said. “I am not going to accept those children of his as heirs to the throne. No way. No way on God’s green earth will I ever accept that, because those children were born from surrogates.”
Quinlan continued, “The only way anything is going to stop is if Meghan stands up and says, ‘This is the truth, a surrogate gave birth to both my children. I’d like to put this on the public record.’ I would honestly, I’d take a holiday, I’d be gone,” she said. “It would make my life so much better and — my job would be complete. I wouldn’t need anything, I don’t care about anything else. I care about the lineage to the crown.
“So that’s what would stop me,” she said. “For Meghan to tell the truth, and the truth, the biggest lie, is the surrogacy.”
Quinlan cited Samantha as a source when discussing Meghan’s supposed surrogate pregnancy in videos, and in an interview she told BuzzFeed News that the duchess’s half sister had spoken to her: “Samantha said she was barren and couldn’t have children,” Quinlan said. “She did not have a miscarriage, either.”
In a subsequent email to BuzzFeed News, Quinlan changed her account and denied that Samantha had told her this, stating, “Sam did NOT tell me that Meghan cannot have children. I really do not want Sam to be mentioned in this claim at all. I came to my own conclusion both as a mother and truthseeker.”
Quinlan’s current YouTube account contains evidence to support her claim that she has a longtime association with Samantha. A December 2020 video titled, “A message from Samantha Markle! her book is almost here! shows screenshots of Quinlan DMing with the Twitter account @RealMarkleSammy.
According to a tweet last year from Samantha’s current Twitter account, Samantha had been using @RealMarkleSammy before “abandoning” the account for @TheMarkleSammy.
Another video on Quinlan’s Yankee Wally account, “Samantha Markle has given me permission to publish our DMs, also contains screenshots of a conversation Quinlan said she conducted with Samantha. In this video, the person Quinlan identifies as Samantha is DMing from @MarkleSammy64; a tweet from Samantha’s current account said she once used @MarkleSammy64.
According to the DMs, screenshots of which are shown in the video, the person Quinlan says is Samantha asks Quinlan to address “these lies circulat[ing] about me,” which she says were put out by Meghan’s PR to “discredit” her. (At the time, rumors about Samantha’s relationship with her estranged daughter Noel Rasmussen were running rampant on royal Twitter.)
Quinlan told BuzzFeed News that she is happy to let Samantha use her platform to get her message out. “She’s got my phone number and my email and she knows that I’m always willing to say anything she wants me to say,” Quinlan said. “She always tells me what I can put out and what I can’t.”
Quinlan describes Samantha as her “friend” in multiple videos and even uploaded a clip of the duchess’s half sister being interviewed on an Australian news channel to her account with the title, “Proud to call #samanthamarkle my friend. Shes [sic] as much honest as her sister is a liar.” In a recent email, Quinlan said that she’s been unable to contact Samantha “for quite a few months now” and said, “As far as I'm aware we parted as friends.”
In a DM from Samantha’s Twitter account to BuzzFeed News, a person who seemed to be Samantha wrote that they didn’t know Quinlan “personally” but that Quinlan seemed to be “nice” and “sometimes very funny.” In a recent message to this reporter from Samantha’s Facebook account, someone who seemed to be Samantha wrote that they “only knew of [Quinlan] what is on you tube and Twitter.”
A subsequent Gmail message, sent from the account provided by Samantha’s partner, said that “sadie [Quinlan] has NEVER been given permission to publish ANY DM"s OR ANYTHING ELSE for that matter, sadie published a dm of ours once last year, and i have message that tells sadie ‘she has no permission to do that and to never do it again.”
Quinlan said that she knows Meghan could bring a lawsuit against her. “Meghan Markle did not give birth to those children,” she said. “They’re biologically hers but they weren’t born of her body. And if they want to sue me, sue me. Bring it on. I’m willing.” Quinlan said that if she did go to court, “I would demand the birth certificate, and the true birth certificate, and where did that baby come from because it did not come from Meghan.”
Throughout the interview, Quinlan made it clear that in attacking Meghan, this retired woman has found a new community of Meghan-hating friends all over the world. She said that her YouTube channel was monetized by another person and that “I don’t receive any of the money.” She added, “Money is not my motivation and never was.” Still, she said she does receive tips and PayPal donations from her fans, which she uses to feed her cats, which “eat like kings and queens.”
“I suppose you could say my life is online,” she said. “That’s my life and I should, maybe I’m ashamed, I feel a bit ashamed telling you that, but it's the truth. And I’ve never been happier than I am now.”
BuzzFeed News first reached out to Samantha in January. Then, after two months of research and reporting, BuzzFeed News reached out to her again on March 2, and again on March 3, where attempts to contact Samantha were made via Twitter, Facebook, publicly listed telephone numbers, and possible email addresses.
On March 3, hours after BuzzFeed News reached out to Samantha for comment, a person writing from Samantha’s Facebook account told BuzzFeed News that they could not comment due to the legal proceedings.
The next day, this reporter traveled to Samantha's home in Florida. Her partner, Mark Phillips, shirtless, answered the door and refused to ask Samantha to come forth. He then instructed BuzzFeed News to email Samantha’s lawyer and, when asked for Samantha’s email address, gave the Gmail account.
A person who seemed to be Samantha then communicated with BuzzFeed News over Facebook Messenger. When shown a screenshot of a 2018 tweet from an account with Samantha's name, this person claimed the account had been hacked by the “Sussex Squad”, the name that online supporters of Harry and Meghan use for themselves. When BuzzFeed News asked about a tweet sent from Samantha's current Twitter account in January questioning whether Harry and Meghan’s children exist, the person messaged, “I made it clear I can’t meet you.. This is not about Megxit.. I dont go into chat rooms.. sorry… lets discuss Sarah Lathem [sic] and Sunshine Sachs PR lol And Jason Knauf… Tell Meg the attempt failed… she cant flip the script.. ta ta” Soon after these messages were sent, this reporter received messages from the Gmail account threatening charges of trespassing and stalking.
For those who don’t follow the royal family closely, Sara Latham is a publicist who worked for Hillary Clinton and then, for a time, for Harry and Meghan. She is currently employed by Buckingham Palace working on the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations. Sunshine Sachs is the name of a Los Angeles–based public relations company that represented Meghan when she was an actor and currently works on a project-by-project basis with the duke and duchess’s personal media team.
Unlike Quinlan, who makes no excuses or apologies for her life or the blatantly negative content she produces, Samantha seems to deny what has been posted on her Twitter account. One of the last messages sent to BuzzFeed News from the Gmail account ends with the words: “DONT PRINT LIES.” ●