The prince finally had the chance on Sunday to explain why he and Meghan had no choice but to leave the royal family. At a fundraising event, he delivered a moving speech addressing why he felt there was “no other option” than to step back from his senior royal duties with his wife, Meghan. Harry said he had wanted to still carry out a small number of royal duties, but the Queen refused the request, insisting on a clean break.
“Our hope was to continue serving the Queen, the Commonwealth, and my military associations without public funding. Unfortunately, that wasn’t possible,” he said at the dinner for his Sentebale charity, which supports the mental wellbeing of young people affected by HIV in Lesotho and Botswana.
“I’ve accepted this, knowing that it doesn’t change who I am or how committed I am. But I hope that helps you understand what it had to 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.”
It was the first time the Duke of Sussex had spoken since holding crisis talks with the Queen, Prince Charles and Prince William to agree exactly how he and Meghan, 38, would step back from their royal duties and split their time between the UK and Canada. Part of the deal means he has to repay the $4.5 million spent refurbishing Frogmore Cottage, the couple’s residence on the Queen’s Windsor estate, and start paying rent of $13,000 a week.
Harry made it clear that he still feels a sense of duty. “You welcomed Meghan with open arms,” he continued, “as you saw me find the love and happiness I had hoped for all my life. Finally, the second son of Diana got hitched, hooray!
“We both do everything we can to fly the flag and carry out our roles for this country with pride. Once Meghan and I were married, we were excited, we were hopeful, and were here to serve. For those reasons, it brings me great sadness that it’s come to this.”
The 35-year-old admitted he has made mistakes. “I know I haven’t always gotten it right, but as far as this goes, there really was no other option. What I want to make clear is we’re not walking away.”
Earlier, the Queen had expressed support for the couple. “Harry, Meghan and Archie will always be much loved members of my family. I recognise 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 agreement drawn up by her aids means the couple will step back from royal duties, give up their HRH titles, and no longer receive public funds. When she arrived in Canada, Meghan continued her passion for public service, visiting a women’s centre in Vancouver.
“Look who we had tea with today,” the group posted on Facebook, adding her visit was “to discuss issues affecting women in the community”. Two days later, it was back to civilian life when she drove herself to herself to Victoria International Airport to pick up her Pilates instructor pal Heather Dorak.
The city of Toronto has emerged as a possible long-term base for the couple. Meghan filmed Suits there and once said: “There [are] no paparazzi, so it’s really easy to just have a normal life.”