Prince Harry voiced his “great sadness” at bowing out entirely from representing the British monarchy as newspapers said Monday it was the best viable compromise on his desire to step back.
Harry said he and his wife Meghan did not want to quit their royal duties but reluctantly accepted there “really was no other option” if they wanted to cut loose from public funding and seek their own income.
His emotional remarks late Sunday were his first on the royal crisis that has shaken Britain’s monarchy, after the couple announced their wish to step back as front-line royals.
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex will no longer represent his grandmother Queen Elizabeth II, must give up their honorary military appointments and will no longer receive public funds.
Under their agreement with the queen, the couple will no longer be referred to as his or her royal highness.
“It brings me great sadness that it has come to this,” Harry told a London dinner for his Sentebale charity, which helps AIDS orphans in Lesotho.
The prince and his US former actress wife have struggled with the scrutiny since their wedding in May 2018 and the 35-year-old said there was no alternative way to achieve “a more peaceful life” with their baby son Archie.
“I haven’t always got it right, but as far as this goes there really was no other option,” he said in prepared remarks.
“Our hope was to continue serving the Queen, the Commonwealth and my military associations, but without public funding. Unfortunately that wasn’t possible.”
Harry also confessed to some trepidation at taking the momentous step of leaving daily duties and charting a new life in Canada.
“We are taking a leap of faith,” he said.
– HRH style dropped –
Harry attended the UK-Africa Investment Summit in London on Monday, seeming in good spirits as he met the presidents of Malawi and Mozambique, and the Moroccan prime minister.
Meghan, 38, and their son Archie born in May last year, are already in Canada, staying on Vancouver Island on the Pacific west coast.
The “Megxit” crisis began on January 8 when the couple announced their plans to seek a “progressive new role” in North America — without having finalised the plans with Queen Elizabeth.
That wish for a hybrid role is starkly different from Saturday’s announcement following emergency negotiations between the senior royals and their households.
The couple agreed to repay £2.4 million ($3.1 million) of taxpayers’ money spent on renovating their new Frogmore Cottage home on the Windsor Castle estate.
They can maintain their private patronages and associations but must uphold the monarchy’s values in any commercial arrangements they strike.
The new set-up comes into force in the coming months, while reports said it would be reviewed after a year.
– ‘Elegant escape hatch’ –
Monday’s newspapers said the clean break could actually strengthen the monarchy and provide a template for other royals in future.
The Daily Express columnist Leo McKinstry said the deal was “the most sensible, constructive arrangement that could have been reached”.
Tim Stanley, writing in The Daily Telegraph, said the agreement was “good for the monarchy because it allows it to define its borders”, as integrity would have been lost by the Sussexes coming and going at will.
The Daily Mail said that “by fashioning an elegant escape hatch for those unsuited to royal life, the Queen may actually have strengthened the monarchy”.
Meanwhile The Sun welcomed the monarch’s decision to “show Meghan and Harry the door”.
“Their plan to be half in, half out of The Firm was arrogant in the extreme, and would have set a damaging precedent.”
The Guardian said the deal “looks more like a decree nisi than a trial separation”.
“The royal family is losing the members most attractive and appealing to a younger generation,” the republican newspaper added.
Though the Sussexes want a life lived less in the spotlight, the new arrangements still leave them facing scrutiny.
The couple receive almost all of their funding from the private income of Harry’s father Prince Charles.
Whether that will continue — and who will foot their security bill — remains to be seen.