With a gap-toothed smile, an eye-catching Afro hairstyle, and a picture of Bart Simpson embossed on her faded blue jeans, Meghan Markle looks the epitome of high-spirited Californian youth at her 11th birthday party.
Sitting bedside her in orange shorts and a top that shows off her toned midriff, her mother, Doria, then 36, almost looks young enough to be her sister.
As these charming photographs reveal, as Meghan emerged from the chrysalis of childhood and entered adolescence, she remained, at heart, a devoted family girl.
Bart Simpson fan: Meghan on her 11th birthday with mum Doria in 1992, seen in adorable pictures kept by her uncle Joseph Johnson
Ready for a close-up: The young Meghan wasn’t at all camera-shy when posing for her dad Thomas Markle at his Los Angeles home in the Eighties
The pictures are taken from an album kept by Meghan’s uncle, Joseph Johnson, Doria’s half- brother.
In the first two parts of the Mail’s exclusive series, we saw Meghan as a baby and a toddler.
Today, we show her growing up and blossoming into the beautiful young woman who would go on to achieve fame as an actress before finding her prince.
The pictures have emerged at a time of mounting excitement among royal-watchers. Yesterday, Meghan and Harry prompted speculation that the birth of their baby was imminent by posting a seemingly significant message on Instagram.
Sunny life: Meghan, aged nearly seven, clutches a bucket and spade for a day at the beach near to her home in Santa Monica in 1988
The Markle sparkle: A teenage Meghan flashes her megawatt smile while holding hands with her grandmother Jeanette Johnson who bears more than a passing resemblance to her and mother Doria
Thanking their admirers for donating to children’s and parents’ charities rather than sending them gifts, it was delivered ‘on behalf of the Duke and Duchess (and Baby Sussex)’. A hint that the baby could arrive at any moment?
Our latest sequence of pictures begins in July 1988, a month before Meghan’s seventh birthday. Wearing a patterned red bikini and carrying a bucket and spade, she enjoys a day at the beach, near her home in Santa Monica.
She had been taken there by her grandmother, Jeanette Johnson, who often looked after her while her parents, Doria and Tom Markle, were working. In another picture, showing the bond between the pair, Meghan, smiles as she clasps a Cabbage Patch doll.
We next see her aged 12, again flanked by her gran, at the fourth birthday party of her cousin Donovan (who’s out of shot), the son of Mr Johnson’s younger sister, Saundra.
A slice of happy family life: Sitting next to grandmother Jeanette, 12-year-old Meghan tucks into a cake at her cousin Donovan’s birthday party in 1993
A snap taker of a beautiful young Meghan (right) and her mum Doria (left) with her cousin Shawn
Even then, her maternal instincts shone through, Mr Johnson recalls. ‘She liked Donovan a lot,’ he says. ‘He was a lot younger than Meghan and she liked the fact he was a baby. She mothered him. She treated him like a live doll!’
Meghan’s tenderness is evident in a moving picture of her as a teenager, holding hands with Jeanette, whose health was then failing. In her grandmother’s final years, during the late 1990s, Meghan and her mother drove three hours every fortnight to visit her at home, in Fresno, California.
By then in the full flush of youth, Meghan offset the sombreness of these trips by going out with her cousins. ‘My sons Shawn and Jason were close in age to Meghan,’ her uncle said. ‘They went out to parties together.’
For the moment, at least, her partying days are on hold. The gap-toothed teen who became a beautiful duchess has more pressing matters to attend to.
Devoted: A young Meghan holds a Cabbage Patch doll while posing with Jeanette (left), who often looked after her beloved granddaughter while Doria and Tom were working