London, United Kingdom | AFP | Prince Harry met visiting African leaders in London on Monday in a clear sign that he intends to continue pursuing his favourite charitable causes on the continent after he leaves the royal fold.
Harry and his wife Meghan — currently known as the Duke and Duchess of Sussex — are bowing out entirely from representing the British monarchy, in a crisis that has shaken the centuries-old institution.
He said on Sunday night they did not want to quit their royal duties but reluctantly accepted there was “no other option” if they wanted to cut loose from public funding and seek their own income in pursuit of a more independent life.
Queen Elizabeth II’s grandson, who remains sixth in line to the throne, attended the UK-Africa Investment Summit in London, seeming in good spirits as he met the presidents of Malawi and Mozambique, and the Moroccan prime minister.
He also had an informal 20-minute private meeting with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who hosted the event. The premier has said the whole country would want wish them all the best for the future.
Africa is close to Harry’s heart and several of the patronages he will be able to continue working with relate to the continent.
An aide said the people, culture, wildlife of Africa were a daily source of inspiration and motivation for the prince.
– HRH style dropped –
Under their new settlement, Harry and Meghan will no longer represent his grandmother the queen, must give up honorary military appointments and will no longer receive public funds.
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, late Sunday.
His emotional remarks were his first on the royal crisis, after the couple announced their wish to step back as front-line royals.
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.
“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 charting a new life in Canada.
“We are taking a leap of faith,” he said.
Harry was at Monday’s summit at the request of the British government and it could be one of the last times he is seen on official royal duty.
The new set-up will enter force in the coming months. Reports said it would be reviewed after a year.
– Hybrid role wish blocked –
Meghan and Archie 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 unilateral assertion of a hybrid role is starkly different from Saturday’s clean-break 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.
– ‘Elegant escape hatch’ –
Monday’s newspapers said the agreement could even 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”.
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.”
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.