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Prince Harry Expressed 'Great Sadness' Over Royal Split

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One day after Buckingham Palace announced the Duke and Duchess of Sussex would no longer formally represent the queen, Prince Harry expressed "great sadness" that a royal split had become necessary. The 35-year-old royal sought to shed some light on his and Meghan Markle's decision to step down as working members of the the Royal Family while speaking Sunday at a fundraising event for Sentebale, a charity he founded with Prince Seeiso of Lesotho in 2006.

"Once Meghan and I were married, we were excited, we were hopeful, and we were here to serve," Prince Harry said in his first public comments since Buckingham Palace revealed the details of his and Markle's departure from royal duties. "For those reasons, it brings me great sadness that it has come to this."

In comments delivered during a dinner in London to raise funds and awareness for his Africa-based HIV and AIDS charity, Prince Harry said he could "only imagine" what folks had heard or read about him over the last few weeks, according to CNN. "I want you to hear the truth from me, as much as I can share," he said. "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, but with a clearer perspective."

Prince Harry went on to say that the United Kingdom was his "home" and a place he loved. "That will never change," he said. But despite his deep love for the UK, Prince Harry said he saw "no other option" than to step back from the role that put him and Markle under such constant scrutiny. "The decision that I have made for my wife and I to step back, is not one I made lightly," he said. "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."

Prince Harry has long condemned what he has called "the racial undertones of comment pieces" focused on Markle, and more recently, their son Archie. (A tweet from a now-former BBC 5 Live presenter, for example, compared the newborn to a chimpanzee in an apparent reference to his biracial mum, the BBC reported.) On Sunday, Prince Harry noted that "the media is a powerful force," but said he hoped that one day "our collective support for each other can be more powerful."

He also stressed that although he'd decided to step down as a working member of the Royal Family, meaning he won't participate in Royal duties, hold official military appointments, or receive public funds, he had no intention of walking away from the U.K. altogether. "Our hope was to continue serving the Queen, the Commonwealth, and my military associations, but without public funding," he said Sunday. "Unfortunately, that wasn't possible. I've accepted this, 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."

In a statement issued Saturday, Queen Elizabeth II emphasized her support for Prince Harry and Markle's wish for a more independent and private life. "Harry, Meghan and Archie will always be much loved members of my family," she said. "I recognize 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." According to Buckingham Palace, Prince Harry and Markle will step back from Royal duties, drop their use of official His/Her Royal Highness (HRH) titles, and, at their own request, repay money from their Sovereign Grant expenditure that was used to renovate heir residence at Frogmore Cottage.

On Sunday, Prince Harry acknowledged he and Markle were "taking a leap of faith" in forging their own path forward. The Sussex are expected to begin their new model of living in the spring of 2020.