The Duke of Sussex’s decision to step back from royal life has been given a ringing endorsement by the chairman of his flagship charity, who said they needed their co-founder’s “passion” not his “title”.
Harry gave an emotional speech on Sunday night where he said he had “no other option” but to give up his official royal duties and forge a new life with wife Meghan and their baby son in Canada.
And during a visit to the UK-Africa Investment Summit in London where he met world leaders, Harry held a 20-minute meeting alone with Boris Johnson, who last week backed the royal family to overcome the crisis of the Sussexes’ future roles.
Johnny Hornby, chairman of Sentebale, a charity co-founded by Harry and Lesotho’s Prince Seeiso, said the duke had indicated the solution was not something he “ideally” wanted.
But asked if it mattered to the Africa-based charity, which supports youngsters living with HIV, if Harry was royal or had a title, Mr Hornby told Radio 4’s Today programme: “No, I don’t think it matters at all.
“I think he has a kind of unique ability and an aura around him when he’s with children, when he’s with any gathering, I think his passion comes over.”
He went on to say: “We don’t need from Sentebale’s perspective his title, we just need his time and his passion and he’s committed to give us that.”
At a private event for his charity Sentebale on Sunday night in London, Harry spoke about leaving royal duties behind in a bid for a “more peaceful life” for his family.
His comments came after Buckingham Palace released the outcome of talks between the Queen, Prince of Wales, Duke of Cambridge and Harry over the future role of the Sussexes.
Harry and Meghan had wanted to remain as working royals, although not prominent members, and drop their public funding so they could become financially independent – a dual role many commentators said was fraught with problems.
But in a statement issued on Saturday after royal family talks concluded, the Sussexes announced they will stop carrying out royal duties from the spring, no longer use HRH and will repay the taxpayers’ millions spent on their Berkshire home.
Critics have accused the couple of turning their backs on the monarchy in order to enjoy the freedom that being able to take on commercial ventures brings.
During the family talks, all options were on the table and the Evening Standard has reported the Queen had the choice of stripping Harry of his dukedom and using one of his lesser titles.
The newspaper quoted a source as saying it was “seriously considered” but another source told the PA news agency this was “categorically untrue”.
The discussions to resolve the crisis between officials and members of the royal family were described as “extremely friendly and constructive” when they ended.
In the Sentebale speech, Harry told invited guests: “What I want to make clear 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.
“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.”
Mr Hornby said he had met Harry on Friday when they went through the major events for the coming year, from trips to Africa to the opening on new camps that support teenagers living with HIV, and a research project the charity is doing with the Royal Holloway, University of London.
He added of the duke: “He couldn’t be more passionate then he has been to date, and he’ll certainly be as passionate going forward.”
Harry was not officially attending the investment summit at a London hotel but was holding audiences – one-to-one meetings – with a number of foreign leaders at the request of the UK Government.
He sat down to talks with Saad-Eddine El Othmani, prime minister of Morocco, Peter Mutharika, president of Malawi and Filipe Nyusi, president of Mozambique.
It is likely the Government asked Harry to meet the world leaders because he has a keen interest in the continent and the royal family employ what is known as “soft diplomacy” to help strengthen Britain’s ties with her allies.
But in a few months the duke will no longer be representing the UK in an official capacity and events like the summit will only be open to him as a guest.
Questions have also been raised about how Harry and Meghan will continue with their “Sussex Royal” brand when they cease being working royals.
This issue and other questions – including funding for the couple and their son Archie’s protection – have yet to be resolved.