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Prince Harry explains decision to step back from royal duties: "There really was no other option"

Cutting royal ties was only option for Harry
Prince Harry, Meghan had “no other option” than to split from royal family 03:38

During a candid speech at a charity event Sunday, Prince Harry opened up about the shocking decision earlier this month that he and his wife Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, would step back from their "senior" royal roles. His remarks came a day after Harry's grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II, announced the pair will no longer be official "working members" of the royal family.

Harry was just beginning a speech at a dinner in London for supporters of Sentebale — a charity co-founded by Harry in 2006 that helps children impacted by extreme poverty and the HIV/AIDS epidemic in parts of Africa — when he started to set the record straight about the recent headlines.

"Before I begin, I must say that I can only imagine what you may have heard or perhaps read over the last few weeks," he said in a video posted to the couple's official Instagram account. "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."

He continued, explaining the United Kingdom is his home — a place he loves and where he grew up feeling support from many. He also said that many welcomed Meghan with "open arms."

"We both do everything we can to fly the flag and carry out our roles for this country with pride," he said. "Once Meghan and I were married, we were excited, we were hopeful, and we were here to serve. 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."

The couple made the bombshell announcement earlier in January that they would be stepping away from their royal duties, and would work toward becoming financially independent. As part of that transition, the couple also said they would be splitting their time between the United Kingdom and North America.

Queen Elizabeth II soon called an emergency royal family meeting in wake of the news. Harry, his brother William, and father Prince Charles gathered at the queen's home in eastern England. The monarch and the senior members of her family are said to have hashed out Harry and Meghan's role going forward, including who's to pay for their transatlantic lifestyle.

However, Harry made clear in his speech Sunday that the discussion was not the first time he spoke about issues he and Meghan were having.

"It was so many months of talks after so many years of challenges," Harry explained. "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."

He added that while their hope was to continue serving the queen, the Commonwealth and his "military associations," without receiving public funding, it just "wasn't possible."

He also said he hoped his explanation would help others understand,"what it had to come to, that I would step my family back from all I have ever known" to find what he hopes to be a "more peaceful life."

Harry used the moment to call out the media as a "powerful force," explaining that he hopes "one day our collective support for each other can be more powerful because this is so much bigger than just us." 

He also expressed he was grateful to his grandmother, who he called his "commander in chief," and his family for the support they have given the couple.

After the unprecedented family meeting, the queen said she and the royal family were "entirely supportive of Harry and Meghan's desire to create a new life as a young family" and "understand their wish to live a more independent life." 

But she added, "we would have preferred them to remain full-time working Members of the Royal Family."

"We are taking a leap of faith," Harry concluded, before segueing into the work of the charity. "Thank you for giving me the courage to take this next step."

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