"Whenever something good is happening in my life, she celebrates with me first," Meghan's close confidante tells PEOPLE
Meghan Markle has gained a number of new titles over the past year – wife, duchess, soon-to-be mother – but she also remains go-to ally for those who know her best.
Five members of the Duchess of Sussex’s inner circle spoke to PEOPLE in this week’s issue about the woman they call their friend – and how she has not changed even after she married a man whose grandmother is Queen Elizabeth.
“From the outside, people want to paint a Cinderella story, but Meg had made her life quite amazing before this,” Meghan’s close confidante says. “She worked hard and earned an amazing career; she did loads of charity and volunteer work; she had a successful lifestyle website [the Tig] with a staff who loved her; she had privacy and freedom, but the means to really enjoy her life and to share that success with her friends —which she always did.”
The confidante adds, “Whenever something good is happening in my life, she celebrates with me first, and when there’s a hardship, she’s there with Kleenex and a shoulder and a glass of wine and the best chat and a book that will help pull me out of wherever I am.”
An L.A. friend says that after Meghan did a USO tour a few years ago, she kept in touch with a number of pen pals. The royal mom-to-be also takes time to write thank-you notes, “all in her beautiful penmanship.”
“In any room she’s very conscious of making sure everyone’s included,” says the L.A. friend. “There are people who have met her once, even years and years ago, and they always remember exactly where they were when they met her and exactly what the conversation was, because she so thoroughly engages.”
On top of being “wicked funny,” a former colleague tells PEOPLE that Meghan goes above and beyond to help her friends.
“She is one of the most selfless people I know,” says the former colleague. “A couple years ago, my son was at the beginning of a special-needs diagnosis. Meg screeched her life to a halt and used every resource she could muster for me: got me into a doctor in L.A., got me alternative doctors, called me, sent things to my hotel room. It was like a five-alarm-fire focus of her life to help me and support me.”
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A former costar says that the way Meghan, 37, interacts with fans at public engagements is how she treats people in her everyday life.
“Who you see at walkabouts, when she crouches down to talk to the kids and genuinely has real conversations with people, that’s Meg,” says the former costar. “That’s how she crouches down with our kids at home. How she plays with them. That’s how she engages with people and how she always has. She asks their names; she listens to their stories. And she’s genuinely interested.”
“We see a person who treats everyone the same,” Meghan’s costar continues. “And she is the same person, though everything around her has changed.”