Prince Harry shed some light on his recent decision to step back from royal life in a speech at a charity dinner on Sunday.
“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,” he said during a fundraiser for Sentebale, a charity he co-founded that helps young people affected by HIV in southern Africa.
He said he felt sadness at the abrupt ending of his royal life, and regret that he couldn’t keep his military associations.
“The U.K. is my home and a place that I love. That will never change,” he said.
Harry underlined the fact that the decision was the right one for his family, and shot down the tabloid murmurings that his wife, Meghan Markle, manipulated him into anything.
“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 woman I fell in love with.”
When he and Meghan got married, they looked forward to serving the Queen and carrying out their royal roles, he said.
“For those reasons, it brings me great sadness that it has come to this.”
Look: A timeline of Harry and Meghan’s relationship. Story continues below.
“The decision 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. 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 is we’re not walking away, and we certainly aren’t walking away from you. Our hope was to continue serving the Queen, the commonwealth, and my military associations, but without public funding. Unfortunately, that wasn’t possible.”
Harry had served in the army for 10 years, and underwent two tours of Afghanistan. He’s spoken in the past with emotion about his time there, saying it was a “really tough decision” to leave and that he was “hugely grateful” for his time in the military.
The decision to step down means giving up his three honourary military appointments. He’ll no longer be allowed to wear his uniform in public as a retired officer.
“I’ve accepted this,” he continued, “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.”
Later on, he reiterated his commitments to the public.
“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.”
He will continue support Sentebale, he said, but didn’t explain in what capacity.
A video of the speech, which doesn’t appear to be professionally shot, was posted to the couple’s Instagram.
The speech comes the day after the Queen released a statement explaining that talks between the palace and the couple have ended. Harry and Meghan will no longer use their HRH titles (His/Her Royal Highness), and will no longer accept public funds. They’ll also pay back the taxpayer money used on their home renovations.
Sentebale is one of many charitable initiatives Harry’s involved with that continue the work of his mother, Princess Diana. In 1987, when HIV and AIDS still weren’t very well understood and people suffering from the illness faced cruel and consistent discrimination, Diana opened the U.K.’s first HIV and AIDS unit and publicly shook the hand of a man who was HIV-positive in an attempt to end the stigma and misinformation about how the disease is transmitted.
As royal reporter Omid Scobie pointed out, Sunday night’s event featured forget-me-nots in the floral arrangement. The word “sentebale” means forget-me-not in Sesotho, and forget-me-nots were Diana’s favourite flower.
Meghan wasn’t the event, because she and the couple’s infant son, Archie, are in Canada. Last week, she made a surprise visit to a Vancouver women’s shelter.
The couple has confirmed that they plan to live in Canada part-time, but it’s still not clear where they’ll settle, how long they’ll spend in the country, or what they’ll do. We don’t know when Harry will join his wife and son in Canada, as he still has several engagements planned before the transition, which the palace said would happen in the spring.