Prince Harry said he feels “great sadness” as he spoke out for the first time since stepping back from the royal family

Olivia Harvey

At a January 19th London event for his charity Sentebale—an organization that supports the mental health and wellbeing of children and young people affected by HIV in Lesotho and Botswana—Prince Harry explained his reason for stepping out from under the umbrella of the royal family for the first time since the announcement was made. He expressed “great sadness” over the fact that he and wife Meghan Markle had “no other option” but to leave. And he further explained what this departure means for the future of his family, both immediate and extended.

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Prince Harry expressed that he and Markle were “excited,” “hopeful,” and ready to serve the monarchy once married. “For those reasons, it brings me great sadness that it has come to this.”

Since marrying into the royal family, Meghan has become a target for brutal criticism from the British media. Tabloids pitted her own family against her, conspired that she was never pregnant with baby Archie, and continuously pick apart everything she’s done—from the way she rested her hands on her baby bump, to the way she supposedly “wears the pants” in her relationship with Harry.

This tabloid pressure hits hard for Harry, as he’s spoken out about how the same type of stress contributed to the death of his mother, Princess Diana.

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Harry then stated, “What I want to make clear is, we’re not walking away.”

He explained that he and Markle originally wished to continue to serve the queen, the military, and the people, just without public funding, as is commonplace for members of the royal family. However, that “wasn’t possible,” Harry explained. And because the rules could not be bent, Harry had to step back with his family and step forward into what he hopes can be a more peaceful life, he said.”

Harry’s speech was uploaded to the official Sussex Royal Instagram page hours after it was announced that he and Meghan will drop their royal titles (HRH—His/Her Royal Highness) and pay back approximately $3 million of taxpayer money used to renovate Frogmore Cottage. Harry will also be required to drop the military appointments he achieved during his four-year service. These stipulations are part of the official deal Harry and Meghan made with Queen Elizabeth II.

Judging by his words, it’s clear that Harry feels as though his only option to keep his family safe and happy was to oust himself from the only life he’s ever known. As more news develops, we’ll be sure to keep you in the loop about what the future looks like for Harry and Meghan.