Britain’s Prince Harry spoke on Sunday of his “great sadness” that he and his wife Meghan had to give up their royal titles as part of a separation agreement with Queen Elizabeth II and senior members of the royal family.
Buckingham Palace announced on Saturday that Harry and Meghan would no longer be working members of Britain’s monarchy, no longer use their “Royal Highness” titles and would now pay their own way in life, freeing them to forge new careers.
The new arrangement was struck to end a crisis the couple sparked by announcing earlier this month they wanted to cut down on official engagements and spend more time in North America, while remaining active royals.
In a speech to the Sentebale charity on Sunday, a clearly upset Harry said the final outcome was not what he and his US wife, a former actress, had wanted.
“It brings me great sadness that it has come to this,” he said in his first remarks on the agreement.
“Our hope was to continue serving the queen, the Commonwealth and my military associations without public funding. Sadly that wasn’t possible.”
Harry is sixth-in-line to the throne.
Under the settlement, 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 Britain and North America. They will not take part in any future ceremonial events or royal tours.
Harry said the decision to step back had followed months of talks and had not been a decision he had come to lightly. They were not walking away, he explained.
“As far as this goes, there really was no other option,” he added.
He told the audience at the charity he founded to help children with HIV in Africa that he wanted them to hear the truth from him “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”.
The couple’s plans for independence, announced after a long break in Canada over the Christmas period, caught the rest of the royal family by surprise and left the queen and other senior members hurt and disappointed, according to reports citing royal sources.
However, in a TV interview aired in October, both had made it clear how they were struggling with the immense media attention. The couple also began legal action against one newspaper for printing a letter Meghan wrote to her estranged father, Thomas Markle.
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 in 1997.
Harry said he felt “utmost respect” for Queen Elizabeth.
“It has been our privilege to serve you, and we will continue to lead a life of service.”
“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.”
Buckingham Palace has said the couple will no longer receive public money and will repay the cost of refurbishing their cottage in Windsor, which official figures show amounted to 2.4 million pounds ($3.1m).
But certain details, such as their future security arrangements or whether the couple can continue to use the “Sussex Royal” title for their website and branding, have either not been finalised or publicly revealed.
Meghan is currently in Canada with her baby son Archie and Harry is expected to join them soon.