Prince Harry Speaks of 'Great Sadness' After Agreement with Queen Elizabeth About Royal Exit

Eric Todisco

Prince Harry stepped out for his first public appearance nearly two weeks after he and wife Meghan Markle announced their decision to step down as senior members of the royal family.

On Sunday, Harry, 35, attended an event organized for his supporters of his Sentebale charity, which is aimed at supporting the mental health and wellbeing of children afflicted with HIV.

Harry delivered a speech at the event, during which he addressed the couple’s recent agreement with Queen Elizabeth about their exit from the royal family.

“Before I begin, I must say that I can only imagine what you may have heard or perhaps read over the last few weeks. So, I want you to hear the truth from me, as much as I can share – not as a Prince, or a Duke, but as Harry, the same person that many of you have watched grow up over the last 35 years – but with a clearer perspective,” he said.

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“The U.K. is my home and a place that I love. That will never change. I have grown up feeling support from so many of you, and I watched as you welcomed Meghan with open arms as you saw me find the love and happiness that I had hoped for all my life. Finally, the second son of Diana got hitched, hurray!” Harry shared.

“I also know 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, and she’s the same woman I fell in love with. 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 we were here to serve,” the father of one continued.

“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. It was so many months of talks after so many years of challenges,” Harry said. “And 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, and we certainly aren’t walking away from you.”

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Harry further emphasized his new family dynamic with the royal family.

“Our hope was to continue serving the Queen, the commonwealth, and my military associations, but without public funding. Unfortunately, that wasn’t possible. 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,” he said.

Harry also referenced his late mother Princess Diana, who was a strong advocate for those affected by HIV and AIDS.

“I was born into this life, 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. You’ve looked out for me for so long, 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,” he said. “It has been our privilege to serve you, and we will continue to lead a life of service.”

The prince added, “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. 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. Together, you have given me an education about living. And this role has taught me more about what is right and just than I could have ever imagined. We are taking a leap of faith – thank you for giving me the courage to take this next step.”

After Harry and Meghan, 38, announced on Jan. 8 that they would be stepping down from their royal duties and become “financially independent,” the former Suits actress flew back to Canada to be with 8-month-old baby Archie.

Harry, meanwhile, remained in London to discuss the big decision with his family. On Saturday, Harry’s grandmother Queen Elizabeth said in a statement that she and her family had “found a constructive and supportive way forward.”

”Harry, Meghan and Archie will always be much loved members of my family,” the Queen’s statement said. “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. I want to thank them for all their dedicated work across this country, the Commonwealth and beyond, and am particularly proud of how Meghan has so quickly become one of the family. It is my whole family’s hope that today’s agreement allows them to start building a happy and peaceful new life.”

Queen Elizabeth, Meghan Markle, and  | Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty

A separate statement from Buckingham Palace explained the details of Harry and Meghan’s next steps, and revealed that the new changes will take effect this spring.

“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. As agreed in this new arrangement, they understand that they are required to step back from Royal duties, including official military appointments,” the statement said, before revealing that Harry and Meghan will “no longer receive public funds” and will no longer be using their HRH titles.

Meghan and Harry | DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/POOL/AFP via Getty

In Harry and Meghan’s original statement announcing they were stepping back as senior members of the royal family, the couple said that they planned to “balance our time between the United Kingdom and North America.”

The pair have yet to reveal where they’ll move to in North America. They could choose Vancouver Island in Canada, where they spent several weeks over the holiday season with baby Archie and Meghan’s mother, Doria Ragland.

There is also the possibility of Meghan’s hometown of Los Angeles or even Toronto, where she lived for several years while she filmed her hit show Suits.