The Duke of Sussex has expressed his sadness over his decision to step down from royal duties in his first public remarks on the move, saying he had taken a “leap of faith”.
Giving a speech at a private dinner in London for his charity Sentebale, Prince Harry said: “Our hope was to continue serving the Queen, the Commonwealth, and my military associations without public funding. Unfortunately that wasn’t possible.”
He said he had not taken the decision lightly, but there was “no other option”. Speaking “not as a prince, or a duke, but as Harry,” he said he had found the “love and happiness I had hoped for all my life” with Meghan.
“I know that you’ve come to know me well enough over all these years to trust that the woman I chose as my wife upholds the same values as I do. And she does,” he said.
Both had done everything they could to play their roles for the country and fly the flag, he said. “For those reasons, it brings me great sadness that it has come to this.
“The decision that I have made for my wife and I to step back is not one I made lightly … there really was no other option.”
He added: “I have 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.”
Appearing to lay the blame at the feet of the press, he said the media was “a powerful force”, adding that the UK was his home “and a place that I love”.
He and Meghan would continue to “lead a life of service”. Expressing his gratitude to the Queen and the rest of his family for their support, he said: “I will continue to be the same man who holds his country dear and dedicates his life to supporting the causes, charities and military communities that are so important to me.”
The prince told those gathered at the fundraiser for the charity, which helps young people in Lesotho, that he and Meghan “are taking a leap of faith – thank you for giving me the courage to take the next step”.
Harry is expected to fly to Canada within days, to join Meghan, and baby son Archie. They intend to spend the majority of their time there, as they begin independent lives free from any financial oversight from the royal family.
The couple were forced to sacrifice their royal roles in exchange for “complete and absolute” freedom from Buckingham Palace financial scrutiny over commercial deals after being told they could not have it both ways, it is understood.
During 10 days of “intense” talks between royals and aides after Harry and Meghan’s bombshell announcement, the issue causing the “angst” was how they could embark on commercial enterprises in order to become “financially independent”.
Netflix is among global companies already eyeing them up. The streaming giant’s chief content officer, Ted Sarandos, said of working with the couple: “Who wouldn’t be interested? Yes, sure.”
The couple were unwilling to subject themselves to any financial scrutiny or review in future contracts they struck. The trade-off was they could not use their HRH styles, though they retain them.
In another blow they will no longer be able to officially represent the Queen. The couple was told “You can’t have it both ways” and chose not to be constrained “by some sort of review process “ by the institution on contracts they signed.
As questions over their future remain, Meghan’s estranged father, Thomas Markle, has been outspoken in his criticism. Speaking to a Channel 5 documentary, yet to be aired, he said the couple was in danger of “turning into lost souls” .
“They are turning it [the royal family] into Walmart with a crown on,” he said.
Under the arrangement announced on Saturday their new titles will be Harry, Duke of Sussex and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex. They will repay the £2.4m public funds used to refurbish Frogmore
House, their official residence in Windsor, which will largely remain empty as they spend the majority of their time in Canada. They will no longer receive public funding through the Sovereign Grant, although will remain funded privately by the Prince of Wales.
They will retain their patronages, but Harry, a former soldier, will have to give up his honorary military titles, including that of captain general of the Royal Marines, passed on to him by Prince Philip.
Though “required” to step down from royal duties, they will still be able to attend family occasions, such as trooping the colour.
The negotiations are said to have been “friendly”, in contrast to the “hurt” and “disappointment” felt by the Queen, Charles and William over the Sussexes timing of their announcement without forewarning.
As they embark on the next chapter, they are said to be “very much feeling their way”. They “understand the parameters” and there will be a period of transition to see if it can work. The commercial model has not worked in the past, most notably with the Earl and Countess of Wessex. This has caused the royal family the most “angst” because a model does not exist yet.
Harry had recently been working as an executive co-producer with chat show host Oprah Winfrey on a series about mental health for Apple TV. Meghan has done a voiceover for a Disney nature film with fees going to a conservation charity. This indicates one direction they might travel in.
But whether they will escape allegations of cashing in on their status is questionable. Already new video footage, showing the couple at the premiere of Disney’s Lion King in London, is circulating. It shows Harry telling the film’s director Jon Favreau that Meghan is available for voiceover work, with Meghan seemingly joking: “That’s really why we’re here – it’s the pitch.”