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Meghan Markle in Gorgeous Unseen Album of Baby Photos

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The new mother's expression will be familiar to every young woman who has just given birth.

It registers an emotional maelstrom mingling unbridled joy with utter exhaustion, relief with sheer awe.

By contrast, perched on her lap just hours after her arrival in the world, her tiny baby girl looks a picture of serenity.

Indeed, she appears so composed as the camera flashes, that it is almost as if she could sense her extraordinary destiny.

Captured by a family member in an austere Los Angeles hospital room, this starkly evocative portrait is the first-ever photograph of the future Duchess of Sussex.

It was taken so soon after Meghan's birth, at 4.46am, on August 4, 1981, that she still wears identity tags around her wrist and ankle, and barely fills out her sky-blue smock, as she nestles next to her 24-year-old mother, Doria Markle.

The remarkable image features among more than 30 photos in a previously unseen family album shown exclusively to the Daily Mail by Meghan's uncle, Joseph Johnson.

Charting the Duchess's happy, though sometimes turbulent, childhood, from her earliest moments through to her teenagers, the pictures are of particular significance to her family.

For while we have seen many shots of the young Meghan with her father, Thomas, and his side of her family, this collection opens a fresh window on the times she shared with her maternal relatives, particularly her mother Doria and grandmother Jeanette Johnson; the women who most influenced her.

This week, as his niece prepares for the imminent birth of her first baby — albeit in rather different circumstances — Mr Johnson, 69, thumbed through the fading snapshots, reminiscing as he explained why he has chosen to publish them.

'I think this is a good time for the world to see the other side of Meghan's family — the positive side, not the degenerative side — and for them to be part of her story,' he told us, alluding to the constant swirl of scandal surrounding her paternal relatives, including her father and half-brother and sister.

In a wide-ranging interview at his studio in Fresno, California, Mr Johnson, who is a talented artist, also offered a candid insight into many other aspects of Meghan's life, revealing how:

Far from being cowed by her new position, Meghan 'loves' the fame and adulation of being a royal, according to her mother.
He 'doesn't recognise' the Meghan reportedly branded 'Duchess Difficult' by Palace aides for her high-handed manner.
His wife, Pamela, felt 'miffed' that Meghan chose to exclude every family member, except Doria, from her wedding, while he was more sanguine.
He was shocked when Princess Michael of Kent attended a Christmas banquet — at which Meghan was present — wearing what some deemed a 'racist' brooch featuring an African figurine.
He is proud of Meghan and Harry for breaking with tradition by choosing to celebrate the baby's arrival privately, and choosing their own birthing team instead of royal gynaecologists.
He believes Meghan will be quietly hoping her baby is a girl because a boy would present 'more of a challenge' to her.
Mr Johnson and his younger sister Saundra had a different father to Doria, but they shared the same mother, Jeanette, and the three were raised together, first in Ohio and later in California.

The daughter of a hotel bellboy, Jeanette was first married to Joseph Johnson Senior, by whom she had two children — Joseph Junior and his younger sister, Meghan's aunt Saundra. She later divorced and then married antiques dealer Alvin Ragland, Doria's father.
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