Prince Harry ‘sad’ to leave royal duties

Earlier on Sunday, Meghan's estranged father Thomas Markle criticised the couple’s decision to step down

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Britain's Prince Harry said on Sunday it brought him "great sadness" to depart his royal duties after agreeing with Queen Elizabeth that he and his wife Meghan would step down from official roles to seek an independent future.

When discussing the couple's decision to step back from the family, he said “there really was no other option.”

"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 but with a clearer perspective," Prince Harry said in a speech to the Sentebale charity.

"The UK is my home and a place that I love. That will never change."

He added: "It brings me great sadness that it has come to this."

It was the first time he spoke publicly of the couple’s surprise decision earlier this month to step back from royal duties and spend part of their time living in Canada.

Earlier on Sunday, Meghan’s estranged father Thomas Markle criticised the couple’s decision, saying that it had “cheapened” the British monarchy.

The Queen said on Saturday that her grandson and his wife, also known as the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, would no longer be using their “Royal Highness” titles or receive public funds for their work.

Harry and Meghan will no longer be able to officially represent his grandmother, Queen Elizabeth, at events throughout the world.

The couple will also repay £2.4 million (Dh11.4m) in public funding that they were given to refurbish their cottage in Windsor, Buckingham Palace said.

"No royal has ever paid back money," former royal press secretary Dickie Arbiter wrote in The Sun on Sunday.

"It is absolutely unprecedented."

The palace statement on Saturday followed a week of talks about the Sussexes’ future with Queen Elizabeth and other senior Royal Family members.