LONDON (AP) — Prince Harry has taken aim at the journalists who have dissected his life since the day he was born as he expressed regret for the way he has had to step down from royal duties.
In a personal speech that referenced his late mother, Princess Diana, who died in a car accident while being pursued by paparazzi, Harry said Sunday he had “no other option” but to step away as he and his wife, Meghan, seek a more peaceful life.
“When I lost my mum 23 years ago, you took me under your wing,” Harry said at a dinner in London for Sentebale, his Africa-based charity supporting youngsters with HIV. “You 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.”
The comments were Harry’s first public remarks since Saturday night, when his grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II, announced the terms under which the prince and his wife will walk away from most royal duties, give up public funding and try to become financially independent. The couple are expected to spend most of their time in Canada while maintaining a home in England near Windsor Palace.
The queen’s statement said the agreement, reached after crisis talks, was a “constructive and supportive way forward.”
But Harry’s speech made it clear that the couple had not gotten their wish to be able to carry on with some royal duties while becoming independent.
“Our hope was to continue serving the queen, the Commonwealth and my military associations, but without public funding. Unfortunately, that wasn’t possible,” he said.
“For those reasons, it brings me great sadness that it has come to this,” he added. ”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. And I know I haven’t always got it right, but as far as this goes, there really was no other option.”
Harry, 35, has made no secret of his disdain for Britain’s tabloid media in the past, with both he and Meghan filing lawsuits against press outlets last fall. At the time, Harry gave an interview drawing parallels between the treatment of his wife and the media frenzy that contributed to the death of his mother.
Harry praised his grandmother, the queen, and the rest of his family for supporting him and his wife in recent months. He called the decision to change both jobs and continents “a leap of faith” and said he hopes the move will allow him and his family to achieve a “more peaceful life.”
Under terms of the deal announced Saturday, Harry and Meghan will stop using their “royal highness” titles this spring and will lose all access to public funds once they stop carrying out official functions.
Harry opened his speech by noting that many in the audience had watched him grow up and said he wanted them “to hear the truth from me, as much as I can share, not as a prince, or a duke, but as Harry.”
He framed the decision to leave as his own, made on behalf of Meghan and their young son, Archie. He spoke of both during his remarks, telling the audience that eight-month-old Archie had seen snow for the first time a few days ago and “thought it was bloody brilliant.”
He then turned to his relationship with the queen and other members of his family.
“I will always have the utmost respect for my grandmother — my commander in chief — and I’m incredibly grateful to her and the rest of my family for the support they have shown Meghan and I over the last few months,” he said.
Meghan and Archie and the couple’s dogs are already in Canada, and it was not clear how soon Harry would join them or where in Canada they would live. The couple spent the holiday season on Vancouver Island, and Meghan worked for seven years in Toronto filming the TV series “Suits.”