Prince Harry says he’s saddened by move to step back, but wants ‘more peaceful life’

Prince Harry said on Sunday it brought him great sadness that he was leaving his royal duties after agreeing with Queen Elizabeth that he and his wife, Meghan, would step down from official roles to seek an independent future.

Buckingham Palace and the Queen announced on Saturday that Harry and Meghan would no longer use their “royal highness” titles nor receive any public funding as part of a deal to end a crisis the couple sparked by announcing they wanted to reduce their duties and spend more time in Canada.

In a speech to the Sentebale charity, a clearly upset Harry said the final outcome was not what he had wanted.

“Our hope was to continue serving the Queen, the Commonwealth and my military associations without public funding. Sadly that wasn’t possible,” the prince, the sixth in line to the throne, said.

“I’ve accepted this knowing it doesn’t change who I am, or how committed I am. But I hope that helps you understand what it had come to, that I would step back from all I have ever known to take a step forward into what I hope can be a more peaceful life.”

Under the arrangement, Harry will remain a prince and the couple will keep their titles of Duke and Duchess of Sussex as they begin a new life split between Canada and Britain, but they will not take part in any future ceremonial events or royal tours.

The front pages of London’s Sunday newspapers are seen displayed. (Frank Augstein/Associated Press)

“It brings me great sadness that it has come to this,” Harry said.

“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. “The U.K. is my home and a place that I love. That will never change.”

The couple’s plans for independence, announced after a long break over the Christmas period in Canada, caught the rest of the Royal Family by surprise earlier this month and left the Queen and other senior Windsors hurt and disappointed, according to royal sources.

However, in a TV interview aired in October, both had made it clear how they were struggling with the immense media attention.

Watch: Did the U.K. press push Harry and Meghan away?

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are giving up their royal titles as they become financially independent from the Royal Family. This decision comes after Markle experienced a slew of negative coverage in the British press. The Weekly analyzes the couple’s relationship with the media. 11:36

Harry said he felt his wife had faced “bullying” from some tabloids similar to that faced by his mother Princess Diana who died in a car crash while trying to escape paparazzi photographers.

“I was born into this life and it is a great honour to serve my country and the Queen,” he said.

“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.”

Buckingham Palace has said the couple would no longer receive public money and that they would repay the cost of refurbishing their cottage in Windsor, which official figures show amounted to 2.4 million pounds ($ 4 million Cdn).

But certain details, such as their future security arrangements or whether the couple could continue to use the “Sussex Royal” title for their website and branding, have either not been finalized or publicly revealed.

Meghan is currently in Canada with their baby son Archie and Harry is expected to join her soon.

Supporters stand by Queen

The same day, Queen Elizabeth was all smiles as she made her way to church after a momentous announcement that  Harry and Meghan would cut almost all of their ties to the Royal Family in favour of a more private life.

She was greeted by royal supporters as she entered the church near her Sandringham House estate with her son Prince Andrew.

Elizabeth, 93, has been managing a family crisis caused by Harry and Meghan’s wish to spend part of their time in Canada and to completely alter their relationship with the rest of the royals.

Queen Elizabeth attended church near her Sandringham House estate on Sunday. (Chris Radburn/Reuters)

Andrew, meanwhile, has faced heated questions about his relationship with the late convicted sex offender and financier Jeffrey Epstein. The Queen’s second son has relinquished royal duties and patronages after being accused by a woman who says she was an Epstein trafficking victim who was forced to sleep with the prince.

This is the first time Harry and Meghan have commented on the new course of their lives expected to begin this spring. His father Prince Charles and brother Prince William have been silent so far.

In a statement released Saturday evening, the Queen put the best possible face on events by saying: “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.”

Tourists take photos outside the gates of Buckingham Palace on Sunday. (Dominic Lipinski/PA via AP)

Harry and Meghan will stop using their Royal Highness titles and will lose all access to public funds when they stop carrying out official functions. The news has been greeted with dismay in the Sandringham area, where the Queen and her family are familiar figures.

Royal watcher Rosie Viles, who waited for a glimpse of the Queen, said she wasn’t shocked by the decision, but was upset.

“It’s very sad that he feels that he’s got to stand away from royal duties but he’s obviously made that decision and I think part of that might have been to do with his mum, Princess Diana,” she said. “I’m sad, but it’s his decision at the end of the day and obviously the Queen has sorted it all out.”

Meghan’s estranged father critical

Meghan’s father, Thomas Markle, accused his daughter of “cheapening” the Royal Family in part of an interview released Sunday.

Markle, who has been estranged from his daughter since her marriage to Harry, told Channel 5 news in a documentary that he believed Meghan, 38, was tossing away “every girl’s dream.”

“It’s disappointing because she actually got every girl’s dream. Every young girl wants to become a princess and she got that and now she’s tossing that away, for, it looks like she’s tossing that away for money,” he said.

Watch: What security for Harry and Meghan might look like

Prince Harry and his wife Meghan would have similar security needs to the prime minister and a new survey shows Canadians aren’t keen to cover those costs. 1:59

Meghan is not a princess but has the title Duchess of Sussex.

“They are destroying it, they are cheapening it, they’re making it shabby … They are turning it into a Walmart with a crown of it now. It is something that is ridiculous, they shouldn’t be doing this.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson, meanwhile, said he believed that the whole of Britain would want to wish the very best to Harry and Meghan.

“I think the whole country will want to join in wishing them the very best for the future,” Johnson told Sky News in Berlin where he is attending a summit on Libya.

“As I said before … I was sure that the Royal Family, which has been around a very long time, will find a way forward.”

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