Happily ever after? Inside Meghan’s first six months as a royal

From finding love with a prince to a fancy wedding watched by millions of people around the world, Meghan Markle’s life is seemingly made up of all of the characteristics of a fairy tale, which includes managing a complicated history with her own family (half-sister and all) and making a name for herself outside the palace walls.

Six months ago, Meghan, who was best known for her role as Rachel Zane on the USA series Suits up until her November 2017 engagement to Prince Harry, officially started her life as the Duchess of Sussex. The now 37-year-old retired actress wed Harry, now 34, in front of 800 guests at St George’s Chapel on May 19.

Weeks after her nuptials, an insider told Us that Meghan was “happy to finally be back in a routine and have the wedding be over,” noting that she was “really nervous walking down the aisle.”

With the pressure of the royal wedding behind her, Meghan was ready to start her new role and and began “assimilating to life in the U.K. and as the Duchess of Sussex,” another source explained to Us in June. The newly minted duchess wasted no time, making her first post-honeymoon appearance with Harry at the Trooping the Colour parade on June 9. While Meghan stunned in a pale pink dress and matching hat, the new royal made headlines for showing off her shoulders at the event, which also served as the official celebration of Queen Elizabeth II’s birthday. Social media skeptics were quick to call out Meghan for breaking royal protocol, pointing out that Duchess Catherine and the late Princess Diana never wore short sleeve dresses to engagements honoring Queen Elizabeth’s birthday, but the one-time actress didn’t seem phased.

Days later, Meghan attended her first solo outing with the queen on June 14. The 92-year-old monarch and her grandson’s new wife were all smiles during their visit to Cheshire county, where they opened a new toll bridge over the River Mersey. An insider told Us at the time that Meghan impressed her majesty and “quickly demonstrated that she is intelligent, polite and keen to learn.” It was only a matter of time, however, before Meghan’s father,Thomas Markle, shifted the attention back to their personal family drama.

Thomas, a retired lighting director, made headlines ahead of Meghan and Harry’s nuptials after he was caught staging photos with the paparazzi. Following the photo scandal, the former director of photography claimed he could no longer travel to London and walk his daughter down the aisle because he suffered a heart attack. Harry’s father, Prince Charles, stepped in for the occasion, but a source close to Thomas told Us in June that the 74-year-old still hoped to have a relationship with Meghan.

“Thomas swears blind he never wanted any attention and even when people found him, all he cared about was protecting Meghan and ensuring he didn’t sell her out,” the source told Us, noting that Thomas “assumed that right after the honeymoon, the royals would arrange for Harry and Meghan to see him in L.A. or even down in Mexico.”

“So is he hurt and bewildered that it hasn’t happened yet? I’d say so, definitely. Is he heartbroken that he missed out on being there when his daughter married a prince? One hundred percent,” the source continued. “He’s confused as to why the British Royal Family hasn’t reached out and made arrangements for him to meet his daughter and new family-in-law. He doesn’t understand it.”

Thomas continued to harm his chances of reconnecting with Meghan — and meeting Harry — after he alleged that his daughter is “under too much pressure” from the “outdated” royal family.

“My thing about my daughter right now is that I think she is terrified. I see it in her eyes, I see it in her face and I see it in her smile,” Thomas told The Sun in July. “I’ve seen her smile for years. I know her smile. I don’t like the one I’m seeing now. This one isn’t even a stage smile — this is a pained smile.”

Meghan, meanwhile, lived in fear that if she did contact her father, he would “leak their conversation” to the press, a separate source told Us in July.

“She would like to speak to him, but there is no trust there anymore,” the source explained at the time. “And it doesn’t seem like it could ever be rebuilt. The damage is done.”

Adding fuel to the fire? Meghan’s estranged half-sister, Samantha Markle, who tweeted in July that if their father died, she was “holding you responsible, Meg.” In another Twitter rant the following month, Samantha referred to Meghan as “Cruella de Vil.”

Despite the drama, Meghan continued to publicly shine at a series of engagements with Harry, with her fashions selling out within hours of her stepping out. One insider close to Meghan told Us that the palace was “supportive of her” as she learned “her new life.” While the couple also took time for themselves over the summer — vacationing with George and Amal Clooneyat the Oscar winner and his wife’s house in Lake Como in August and spending weekends at their own country home in Oxfordshire — another source revealed that the duchess’ family issues were “a constant fight” between her and the prince.

“Meghan wants to speak out about the issue, but Harry will never let her. Harry has learned that you cannot address these issues because it only makes it worse. And Meghan is used to replying to any sort of controversy or comment on Twitter and through a publicist,” the source told Us in September. “It’s taken a while for Meghan to get used to having the palace more involved with her life and steering her public image, but she’s finally getting comfortable and trusts that they have her best interest at heart.”

Multiple sources also noted to Us that Meghan was “lonely” in London as she adjusted to living overseas, so she threw herself into her work.

“Meghan wants to take after Diana. She has a lot of ideas that she wants to get started on and she’s very passionate about organizations in London and helping them out. Once she gets settled in, she’ll be more bold with going out and doing things,” one source explained. “This is a woman who was used to hustling and finding her next job before her last one ended, and then it just stopped abruptly.”

In addition to her philanthropic work, Meghan’s other saving grace during her transition from actress to duchess has been her mother, Doria Ragland, who watched her daughter marry Harry with tears in her eyes back in May. One source noted to Us that the pair “speak every day.”

“They really are the best of friends and have always had such a close bond,” the source said.“Meghan turns to Doria for every piece of advice and does nothing without consulting her.”

Nearly four months after Meghan and Harry tied the knot, the inevitable pregnancy speculation began when the duchess wore a blue dress with belly-hiding ruffles at the 100 Days to Peace Gala in London on September 6. Meghan fueled speculation by sporting a navy coat to Princess Eugenie’s wedding to Jack Brooksbank on October 12. Multiple source previously told Us that both Meghan and Harry wanted to start a family sooner rather than later, and days after Eugenie tied the knot at the same location as the pair, the palace confirmed the duo are indeed expecting their first child together.

“Meghan is feeling amazing! She is excited, happy and over the moon. She’s in great health and has had a very easy pregnancy so far. Harry is elated,” an insider told Us in October, noting that “no decision has been made yet on where the baby will be born.”

Meghan told her mother “immediately” about her pregnancy, according to the insider, who noted Thomas “found out the same time as the rest of the world.” While the duchess’ dad continued to make headlines for dissing the royal family — even referring to Meghan’s in-laws as “cult-like, like Scientologists or the Stepford family” in August — he changed his tune after his daughter’s pregnancy news broke.

“I thought, ‘My baby is having a baby.’ It was a very proud moment,” he told the Mail on October 21. “I was filled with love, joy and happiness for both my beautiful daughter and my son-in-law. A new baby is a blessing and I look forward to seeing a little Meghan or a little Harry.”

Despite his kind words — and Samantha apologizing to Meghan and Harry on DailyMailTV — Thomas still hasn’t spoken to his daughter in recent months. While Ragland, who is “very happy” about welcoming her first grandchild according to a statement released by the palace, was invited to spend the upcoming holidays with Meghan and Harry, it’s safe to say if Thomas and Samantha show up, it would be an unwelcome surprise.

The same day the palace confirmed Meghan’s pregnancy, the pair arrived down under for their first international tour as a married couple. The duchess debuted her baby bump in Sydney, Australia, on October 16 and for the next 16 days, all eyes around the globe were on Meghan’s growing belly as the pair visited New Zealand, Fiji and Tonga.

A source close to the Duke and Duchess of Sussex told Us that Meghan thought her first international royal tour “would be easier than it was,” but she remained in “great health” during the trip. While Harry and her personal secretary encouraged Meghan to “slow down” during the tour, the duchess “wanted to keep going,” per the source, who confirmed that she did take one morning off.

Meghan and Harry may not be expecting their little one to arrive until the spring, but the twosome are already planning to give their baby “the most normal life as possible,” the source close to the duke and duchess told Us at the end of October. “Harry is keen to keep them away from life in the public eye.”

“Their children will still have security, that won’t change. They will still live a life of luxury, but that doesn’t meant their children will be spoiled,” the source revealed, noting that Meghan and Harry may “forgo royal titles” for their children. “They want their kids raised in a normal home.”

For Meghan, the task will also be teaching her kids a sense of American culture. “She doesn’t want to offend the royal family and she knows she has a role of the Duchess of Sussex that needs to meet a lot of obligations, but she’s keen for her kids to not be drawn into that,” the source told Us. “She wants her children to be global kids. She wants them to understand her personal ethnic background and what their roots are. She doesn’t want it to be all about the royal family.”

“Meghan doesn’t want kids that don’t experience the real world. She will take them on a subway. They will have chores, and jobs one day,” the source continued. “For them, starting with the titles, it’s about as much normality as possible. It’s about not morally coddling royal children as they have in the past.”

With reporting by Jennifer Peros