Prince Harry Talks About Royal Exit In Deeply Personal Speech At Sentebale Dinner

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 Duke of Sussex, Prince Harry, makes a speech at a Sentebale event on January 19, 2020 in London, England.  (Photo: Chris Jackson via Getty Images)

“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. 

July 2016

Meghan Markle meets Prince Harry in London for a blind date set up by a mutual friend.

December 2016

Time reports that Prince Harry and Meghan were spotted together while shopping for a Christmas tree at the Pines and Needles store in London. Awwww.

May 2017

Meghan accompanies Harry to Pippa Middleton’s wedding reception. She did not attend the ceremony. This photo is from April 23, 2018, at a memorial service in London the couple attended.

August 2017

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle travel to Botswana for the actress’ 36th birthday. E! News reports the couple stayed with close friends of Harry’s. The Duke and Duchess of Sussex shared this never-before-seen photo from their 2017 trip on their official Instagram in April 2019.

Sept. 25, 2017

Harry and Meghan make their public debut as a couple at the 2017 Toronto Invictus Games.

November 2017

Harry proposes to Meghan at their Kensington Palace home, Nottingham Cottage. On Nov. 27, Clarence House releases a statement announcing the couple’s engagement. Meghan and Harry sit down for an interview with BBC News, where Meghan spills the details of how Harry popped the question while they were making chicken. "It was just an amazing surprise," says Markle. "It was so sweet and natural and very romantic. He got on one knee," she continued, to which Harry replied, "Of course."

November 2017

Harry explains in the BBC interview that he wanted to incorporate his mother, Princess Diana, into the engagement ring, and we’d say he did quite a lovely job of doing just that. The engagement ring is yellow gold, (because that’s Markle’s favourite!) and the main stone is sourced from Botswana. The diamonds on either side of the main stone are from Diana's jewelry collection.

Dec. 25, 2017

Meghan and Harry join the Royal Family for a church service on Christmas Day.

May 19, 2018

The royal couple marries at St. George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle in a beautiful ceremony, when the Queen officially gives Harry and Meghan their titles as Duke and Duchess of Sussex. 

May 19, 2018

Markle’s ceremony dress was designed by Clare Waight Keller for Givenchy.

May 19, 2018

Her reception dress is by Stella McCartney.

May 19, 2018

Celebrity guests include George and Amal Clooney, David and Victoria Beckham, Priyanka Chopra, Serena Williams, and Elton John.

Oct. 15, 2018

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex reveal they are expecting their first child, due in the spring of 2019

October 2018

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle take their first royal tour of Australia and New Zealand. During their time Down Under, they meet with the Australian Governor General, the prime minister, the opposition leader, watched the Invictus Games, and more.

Dec. 10, 2018

Meghan Markle makes a surprise appearance as a presenter at the British Fashion Awards. She wears a black, one-shoulder Givenchy dress.

Dec. 25, 2018

Meghan, Duchess of Sussex and Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex attend Christmas Day church service at Church of St. Mary Magdalene Christmas Day.

March 11, 2019

Prince Harry and Meghan attend the Commonwealth Day service at Westminster Abbey.

May 6, 2019

Meghan and Harry welcome their son, Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor, into the world.

July 14, 2019

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex attend Disney's "The Lion King" premiere.

Sept. 25, 2019

During their tour of southern Africa, Harry, Meghan, and Archie meet Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

Oct. 1, 2019

Prince Harry releases a statement slamming tabloids about the “ruthless” campaign against Meghan Markle and reveals the Duchess of Sussex will be taking legal action against The Mail on Sunday for publishing private letters.

December 2019-January 2020

Harry and Meghan spend an extended vacation on Vancouver Island, B.C. for a private family get-away over the holidays.

Jan. 8, 2020

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry announce they are stepping down from their senior royal duties and moving part-time to North America.

Jan. 13, 2020

After a royal meeting involving Prince Harry, the Duke of Cambridge, Prince Charles, and the Queen, Buckingham Palaces releases a statement announcing that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex will be moving to Canada part-time and are being released as senior members of the Royal Family. “My family and I are entirely supportive of Harry and Meghan’s desire to create a new life as a young family,” the Queen says in a statement.

Jan. 18, 2019

Negotiations with the palace end. It's announced that Harry and Meghan will give up their royal titles and will no longer accept any public funds. "Harry, Meghan and Archie will always be much loved members of my family," the Queen says in a statement.

“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. 

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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.

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