Of all the unanswered questions about the Duchess of Sussex’s past, perhaps the most intriguing is: why did she divorce her first husband, Trevor Engelson?
He was the hustling film producer with the never-say-die attitude who used every setback in his career — and hers — as a spur to overcome the next challenge.
But after seven years as inseparable boyfriend and girlfriend, then just 23 months of marriage, they split up.
Ever since, it has suited them both to draw a discreet veil over the reasons for their parting. They had new lives and new partners and neither had any wish to dig up the past.
Meghan Markle and film producer Trevor Engelson enjoyed seven years as inseparable boyfriend and girlfriend, then just 23 months of marriage before they separated and both have been discrete about the reasons why since the split with both remarrying and moving on
For Hollywood producer Engelson, who did so much to propel Meghan to the acting stardom she craved, the incentive to tell must have been greater. Here, after all, was the man who really knew what made the girl who married the Queen’s grandson tick.
Yet despite every inducement, he has gallantly remained silent about the split.
But the publication of Finding Freedom, the controversial — and one-sided — new book about Meghan and Prince Harry, risks changing that.
For amid all the feuding and petty scoresettling with the Royal Family, courtiers and the media, it offers the first insight into Meghan’s view of her earlier marriage and the husband she wed in a romantic oceanside ceremony in Jamaica. And the narrative it presents is brutal and unsavoury.
Trevor, who had been her mentor and soulmate and to whom she had clung as his fortunes rose and hers just bumped along, is portrayed as envious and resentful of her success.
We learn that while they were still dating, Meghan had wondered aloud to her closest friends why ‘Trevor didn’t always act as if he supported her acting career’.
If this was indeed so, one is tempted to ask why she not only stayed with such an unenthusiastic partner but went on to marry him.
Helpfully, there is a ‘friend’ on hand to explain Meghan’s thinking. Apparently, it was all about Trevor being the ‘breadwinner’ on whom Meghan depended for introductions and connections in the film business. But their marriage coincided with her big break as paralegal Rachel in the hit TV series Suits.
‘Suddenly the dynamic was changing,’ the ‘friend’ is quoted as saying, ‘and he [Engelson] didn’t like that.’
Up until then, authors Omid Scobie and Carolyn Durand suggest, Trevor was ‘the dominant character’ and Meghan felt he liked her being dependent on him.
This jealousy, the book implies, hastened the breakdown of their relationship. When Trevor was invited to the 2013 Oscars, he went alone. According to the book, he explained it was because he had only one ticket.
That didn’t cut it with Meghan, who, the authors suggest, ‘wondered if he didn’t want to share the spotlight’. Which echoes how Meghan and Harry feel they have been treated by the royals and a Palace establishment that couldn’t cope with their megawatt stardom.
In their eyes, so great was the Sussex roadshow and their soaring popularity, they risked overshadowing the rest of the Queen’s family and therefore represented an existential threat to the wellbeing of the monarchy. Thus they were sidelined, hence Megxit. Or so they have suggested.
But with this argument already unravelling, what should we make of Meghan’s claims about her first marriage?
Finding Freedom, the unofficial biography of Harry and Meghan, was released earlier this week
Just how accurate is this inside view of a couple who even the authors of Finding Freedom — written, remember, with the apparent co-operation of the Duke and Duchess — acknowledge had appeared ‘deliriously in love’?
And is it really true Trevor Engelson was eaten up with envy provoked by Meghan’s success?
Those close to Trevor have a different recollection of events.
Engelson’s uncle, Mickey-Miles Felton, a lacrosse coach from Arizona, is in regular contact with his nephew. ‘Trevor is too good a person to have these kind of thoughts,’ he told the Mail this week. ‘That is not even close to who he is.’
Instead, Mr Felton suggests, the reasons for the divorce given in the book are an attempt to sanitise the reputation of someone ‘who did something wrong and needs to make themselves look good’.
Like everyone else, his nephew was not without faults, he says, but adds: ‘He is not the kind of person who would be jealous of somebody else’s success.
‘He has made successes out of a lot of people who have worked for him. So, I think the word you use in England for this claim would be “rubbish”. We would say “trash”.
‘To me it’s an absurd notion. Whether that makes me naive or not, I don’t know. But in all the years I’ve talked to him, I’ve never heard anything like that.’
Mr Felton added that, as Trevor was in a position to help Meghan when she was an unknown actress, he would have done everything he could to further her career.
‘Wouldn’t you want to help people you are totally in love with? He was just happy for her success. Just thrilled.
‘I’ll tell you something: Trevor has excellent self-esteem. He knows who he is and where he’s going, and he’s not going to be intimidated by his wife’s success.’
A browse through Engelson’s Facebook page reveals that, far from being jealous of Meghan’s career and her breakthrough role, he was clearly proud of it.
When news of her casting in Suits reached the movie-business trade press in 2010, Engelson was quick to share it, re-posting the Hollywood Reporter’s headline ‘Meghan Markle books lead role on Legal Mind’ (the original working title for Suits).
A year later, when the show was about to screen in June 2011, he expressed delight for his ‘bad-ass fiancée’, adding a month later: ‘Suits tonight on USA …my girl rocks!’
He even noted the show’s ratings, ‘liking’ an update that said ‘Suits rises’. When the second series was confirmed in August 2011 — just weeks before Meghan and Trevor were married — Engelson posted: ‘So proud of my girl! Season 2 for Suits! Too cool!’
So perhaps the ‘jealousy’ began after the couple’s wedding, at which they exchanged vows at sunset in the grounds of the luxurious Jamaica Inn in Ocho Rios.
But, again, look at the evidence offered by Engelson’s social media page. On January 23, 2013, he posted: ‘Watch Suits tonight … so proud of my amazing wife.’
Yet within a few weeks of this loving endorsement, the marriage was over. The decision to end it was Meghan’s and to Trevor it came ‘totally out of the blue’.
Engelson went from cherishing Meghan to feeling ‘like he was a piece of something stuck to the bottom of her shoe’, was how one chum put it after news broke of her romance with Prince Harry.
Meghan Markle played Rachel Zane in the legal drama Suits between 2011 and 2017 (file photo)
Finding Freedom offers no further explanation for what happened, apart from the breezy observation that Meghan living in Toronto, Canada, where the cable show was filmed, ‘accelerated the decline of their relationship’.
The book suggests she and Trevor made every effort to spend time together at first, but as the months went by ‘the visits became less frequent’. The end, apparently, was inevitable.
The authors claim Meghan never lost faith ‘that she’d find the one — even if the first time she decided who he was, she’d been wrong’.
Single in Toronto, it wasn’t long before she found love again. She began seeing celebrity chef Cory Vitiello, at the time the city’s ‘No 1 bachelor’. They began dating not long after her divorce from Engelson — citing irreconcilable differences — was finalised.
Soon, Meghan began to acquire some high-powered friends — notably Jessica Mulroney, daughter-in-law of former Canadian prime minister Brian Mulroney, and Sophie Gregoire Trudeau, the wife of current PM Justin Trudeau.
She also joined members’ club Soho House, which had an outpost in Toronto, and became firm friends with its global membership director, Markus Anderson.
She and Vitiello moved into a townhouse in a backstreet, where she lived under the name Meghan Engelson. It was far more modest than the £11 million mansion she and Harry have just bought in Santa Barbara, California.
All the same, this new life was a far cry from the one she had enjoyed with Trevor.
How different it all was when a callow 23-year-old actress not long out of theatre school met the ruggedly good-looking Engelson, five years her senior and making his mark as a film producer and agent.
He was her Svengali, a smart, confident, shoot-from-the-lip New Yorker. And she adored him. As for Trevor, he boasted to his old East Coast friends that he had bagged ‘the hottest chick in California’.
They met in a dive bar in West Hollywood and it wasn’t long before they were living together in a cosy yellow-painted bungalow not far from Sunset Strip.
Meghan was soon adopting her boyfriend’s jaunty one-liners — ‘Don’t give it five minutes if you’re not gonna give it five years,’ was one. Another was, apparently, his opening chat-up line to her: ‘Hope is the greatest currency we have in this business.’
According to Finding Freedom, Meghan was puzzled as to why Trevor didn’t do more to support her career.
Yet he did find roles for her in two films, a short mystery thriller called The Candidate and then a small role in the box-office hit Remember Me, with Twilight star Robert Pattinson.
When it opened in March 2010, Trevor was promoting it on Facebook with a salty phrase. ‘If you don’t see Remember Me . . . this weekend, you’re f****** defriended,’ he declared.
By then, Meghan and the man she called Trevity Trev-Trev were moving towards matrimony.
The ceremony was a lively, rum-fuelled affair remembered chiefly for Meghan’s appearance in a yellow polka-dot bikini and the small bags of cannabis her father Thomas later claimed were offered as a welcome gift to guests.
But in less than two years, Meghan and Trevor had split up.
The ending was abrupt. According to royal biographer Andrew Morton, Meghan sent her wedding and engagement rings back to her husband by post.
Trevor has, so far, said nothing about this version of what remains one of the most heartbreaking episodes in his life. At the time he was grievously hurt and his eyes blazed with anger whenever Meghan’s name was mentioned.
But seven years on, Engelson appears to have put this sad chapter behind him.
Although the Covid pandemic is playing havoc with the schedules of his film and production company, this is a summer of great excitement for him.
Trevor Engelson has since remarried to nutrionist Tracey Kurland and the couple are expecting
Some time during the next few weeks, his second wife, nutritionist Tracey Kurland, is due to have their first baby.
His parents — David, a retired dentist, and Leslie, a speech therapist — will travel from their home in Great Neck, New York, where their son grew up, to help look after the infant.
According to uncle Mickey-Miles, Engelson, 43, has been longing to become a father. As he devoted a decade to Meghan, steering her career, only to find himself dumped when she attained it, many would say his joy will be well deserved.
As for this latest evaluation of his nephew’s first marriage, uncle Mickey-Miles says: ‘It sounds like this book — which I hadn’t even heard about until you called me, and which nobody over here cares about — is rubbish.’
Of the authors, he adds: ‘Who the hell are these people? Who gives a c**p what they say?’
Trevor, he insists, has never mentioned it to him and would have no interest in its contents.