London, Jan 20 (PTI) Prince Harry has said 'there really was no other option' for him and his wife Meghan to step back from being a senior royal even as he expressed 'great sadness' for them being stripped of their royal titles.
In his first public comments after the royal split, the Duke of Sussex on Sunday said, when he and Meghan were married they were 'excited', 'hopeful' and 'were here to serve', the BBC reported.
'For those reasons, it brings me great sadness that it has come to this,' Harry said at a fund-raising event here for Sentebale, a charity which he co-founded to help children living with HIV in Africa. 'Our hope was to continue serving the Queen, the Commonwealth, and my military associations, but without public funding. Unfortunately, that wasn't possible. I've accepted this, knowing that it doesn't change who I am or how committed I am,' he said.
Harry, 35, and Meghan, 38, have signed up to a formal exit deal from the royal family, which will see them forsake their His and Her Royal Highness (HRH) titles and will no longer receive UK taxpayers' funding for their duties, the Buckingham Palace said in a statement on Saturday night.
The deal, which comes into effect by spring in a few weeks' time, means the couple will no longer be representing the Queen in an official capacity.
Harry said 'there really was no other option' for him and Meghan to step back from being a senior royal and they have taken 'a leap of faith' in doing so.
'We are taking a leap of faith...thank you for giving me the courage to take this next step,' he said.
However, the prince said he wanted to make it clear that he and Meghan were 'not walking away', the CNN reported.
'I was born into this life and it is a great honour to serve my country and the Queen,' he said.
'The UK is my home and a place that I love, that will never change,' Harry added.
The UK royal crisis began on January 8 when Harry and Meghan's announced quitting their front-line roles to focus on the 'next chapter', stunning the monarchy and drawing sharp criticism from the British media which has been reporting of a widening rift within the Royal family.
In an extraordinary statement released on the night of January 8, the couple announced plans to step back from their current roles and split their time between the UK and North America with their son Archie.
On January 13, after face-to-face talks with her grandson and senior members of the royal family, Queen Elizabeth II agreed to offer Harry and Meghan a 'period of transition' during which the couple can divide their time between the UK and Canada.
On Saturday last week, the Buckingham Palace in a statement said, 'The Sussexes will not use their HRH titles as they are no longer working members of the royal family.' The Queen said the agreement was a 'constructive and supportive' way forward for her grandson and his family.
'Harry, Meghan and Archie will always be much loved members of my family,' the 93-year-old monarch's personal statement read.
'I recognise the challenges they have experienced as a result of intense scrutiny over the last two years and support their wish for a more independent life,' she says, thanking the couple for their work for UK and across the Commonwealth.
In a special message for Meghan, she said: 'I am... particularly proud of how Meghan has so quickly become one of the family. It is my whole family's hope that today's agreement allows them to start building a happy and peaceful new life'.
The palace confirmed that the couple were required to withdraw from royal duties, including official military appointments.
'While they can no longer formally represent the Queen, the Sussexes have made clear that everything they do will continue to uphold the values of Her Majesty,' the palace said.
It added that the pair would continue to maintain their private patronages and associations.
The couple intend to repay 2.4 million pounds of UK taxpayer money for the refurbishment of Frogmore Cottage, which will remain their UK family home as they split their time between Britain and Canada.
The palace has declined to comment on security arrangements and who would foot that bill for the couple in future, an issue that has been at the centre of much of the debate since they announced their decision to step back as senior royals earlier this month.
Harry and Meghan have issued their own update on their official Sussex Royal website, which has been updated to remove references to the HRH titles on the opening page.
'We now plan to balance our time between the United Kingdom and North America, continuing to honour our duty to The Queen, the Commonwealth, and our patronages.
'This geographic balance will enable us to raise our son with an appreciation for the royal tradition into which he was born, while also providing our family with the space to focus on the next chapter, including the launch of our new charitable entity,' the statement on their website reads.
Meghan is already in Canada with the couple's eight-month-old son Archie and some reports indicate she may fly back briefly for some pending royal engagements until the new agreement formally kicks in on an unspecified date in spring - which begins towards the end of March in the UK.
Meanwhile, Prince Harry will continue to perform royal duties until that time, which includes at a summit for African leaders in London on Monday. PTI SCY SCY