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In Prince Harry’s first public speech since stepping back, he told charity event attendees that he wanted them to “hear the truth from me.”

USA TODAY

Prince Harry expressed “great sadness” over his and Duchess Meghan’s decision to step back from their royal duties in his first speech since making their bombshell announcement.

Speaking at a charity event for Sentebale, the charity he co-founded in 2006 to honor Princess Diana’s support for those affected by HIV and AIDS, Prince Harry, 35, addressed the elephant in the room: He told attendees he wanted them to “hear the truth from me, as much as I can share.”

He and Meghan wanted to continue serving “the queen, the commonwealth and my military associations, but without public funding. Unfortunately, that wasn’t possible.

“The decision that I have made for my wife and I to step back is not one I made lightly,” Prince Harry said. “It was so many months of talks after so many years of challenges. And I know I haven’t always gone at it right, but as far as this goes, there really was no other option. What I want to make clear is we’re not walking away. And we certainly aren’t walking away from you.”

Queen Elizabeth, 93, released a statement Saturday night expressing pride and thanks to Harry and Meghan for their work while announcing terms the royal family had agreed upon for their exit. 

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex will stop using their HRH titles (His Royal Highness, Her Royal Highness) as they are “no longer working members of the Royal Family,” Buckingham Palace announced. They will be known as Harry, Duke of Sussex and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex. Harry will remain a prince and sixth in line to the British throne.

The couple will also repay the Sovereign Grant expenditure for the refurbishment of their UK home, Frogmore Cottage, which will continue to be their family home in the UK. The home was renovated with 2.4 million pounds ($3.06 million) of taxpayers’ money, royal accounts revealed last year.

More: Queen Elizabeth appears at church after Duchess Meghan and Prince Harry ‘HRH’ announcement

The Duke of Sussex said he understood the enormity of their decision and stressed that stepping back didn’t change his commitment to helping others.

“I hope that helps you understand what it had 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. I was born into this life and it is a great honor to serve my country and the queen. When I lost my mum 23 years ago, you took me under your wing. You looked out for me for so long, but the media is a powerful force. And my hope is one day, our collective support for each other can be more powerful, because this is so much bigger than just us. It is beyond privilege to serve you and we will continue to lead a life of service. So in that respect, nothing changes.” 

He thanked royal family supporters and followers who he and Meghan were able to meet over the years and expressed appreciation for them sharing their excitement for baby Archie.

Mom and Archie are currently in Canada, where Archie saw snow “for the first time the other day,” Harry shared, adding the child “thought it was bloody brilliant.” 

Queen Elizabeth was all smiles as she made her way to church Sunday, greeted by royal supporters as she entered the church near her Sandringham House estate with her son Prince Andrew. 

“I will always have the utmost respect for my grandmother — my commander-in-chief — and I’m incredibly grateful to her and the rest of my family for the support they are showing Meghan and I over the last few months,” Prince Harry added at the charity event. 

“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,” Harry said. “Together, you have given me an education about living. And this role has taught me more about what is right and just than I could have ever imagined. We are taking a leap of faith, so thank you for giving me the courage to take this next step.” 

Contributing: Morgan Hines and the Associated Press.

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