UNITED KINGDOM — Prince Harry, the Duke of Sussex, expressed “great sadness” Sunday evening in his first public statement since Buckingham Palace announced he and his wife, Meghan, would give up their royal titles and would not represent the Queen as working members of the royal family.
“The UK is my home and a place that I love,” Harry said in a speech at a charity event in London. “That will never change.”
“The decision that I have made for my wife and I to step back is not one I made lightly,” he said. “It was so many months of talks after so many years of challenges. And I know I haven’t always gotten it right, but as far as this goes, there really was no other option.”
“Our hope was to continue serving the Queen, the commonwealth, and my military associations, but without public funding,” he said. “Unfortunately, that wasn’t possible.”
Earlier in this month, the couple announced they would step back from their roles as senior members of the royal family, split their time between the United Kingdom and North America and work toward becoming financially independent.
The Queen released a statement Saturday revealing that conversations with the pair had been going on for months.
“I am pleased that together we have found a constructive and supportive way forward for my grandson and his family,” read the statement.
“I recognize the challenges they have experienced as a result of intense scrutiny over the last two years and support their wish for a more independent life.”
The couple and baby Archie will always be “much loved members” of her family, the Queen added.
The Sussexes will no longer use their royal titles (HRH) as “they are no longer working members of the Royal Family,” according to a statement from Buckingham Palace.
The couple will no longer receive public funds for royal duties, and will no longer formally represent the Queen, said the statement.
“The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are grateful to Her Majesty and the Royal Family for their ongoing support as they embark on the next chapter of their lives,” it said.
Questions have been raised over who will pay for Harry and Meghan’s security arrangements, but the palace said it would not comment on the matter.
“There are well established independent processes to determine the need for publicly-funded security,” said the statement.
Under the agreement announced Saturday, Harry and Meghan will also pay back 2.4 million pounds (about $3 million) of British taxpayers’ money used to renovate their home, Frogmore Cottage, on the Windsor estate.
Harry made his remarks at a dinner for Sentebale, the charity he started in 2006 with Prince Seeiso of Lesotho to help AIDS orphans.
“I’ve accepted this, knowing that it doesn’t change who I am or how committed I am,” Harry said Sunday of his family’s future. “But I hope that helps you understand what it had come to, that I would step my family back from all I have ever known, to take a step forward into what I hope can be a more peaceful life.”
“I was born into this life,” he said, “and it is a great honor to serve my country and the Queen.”
“When I lost my mum 23 years ago, you took me under your wing,” he said, referring to Princess Diana, who died in August 1997 after a car she was in crashed while being pursued by members of the paparazzi.
“You’ve looked out for me for so long,” Harry said, “but the media is a powerful force, and my hope is one day our collective support for each other can be more powerful because this is so much bigger than just us.”
“I will always have the utmost respect for my grandmother, my commander in chief, and I am incredibly grateful to her and the rest of my family for the support they have shown Meghan and I over the last few months.”
The British people will want the best for Harry and Meghan, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Sunday in Berlin.
“The whole country will want to join in wishing them the very best,” said Johnson, who attended a Libya peace conference in the German capital.
He added that he was certain “the Royal Family, which has been around a very long time, would find a way forward.”