I left Britain to escape toxic press, Prince Harry says

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FILE PHOTO: Britain’s Prince Harry gestures next to his wife Meghan as they ride a horse-drawn carriage after their wedding ceremony at St George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle in Windsor, Britain, May 19, 2018. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj/File Photo

By Michael Holden

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s Prince Harry has said he stepped back from his royal duties because the “toxic” British press had been destroying his mental health, adding he had not walked away from public service.

Last week, Buckingham Palace announced that Queen Elizabeth’s grandson and his American wife Meghan had made a final split with the royal family, and would not be returning as working members and would lose their patronages.

Harry, 36, and Meghan, 39, sent shock-waves through the monarchy in January 2020 when they announced their intention to step back from royal duties and embark on a new life across the Atlantic.

FILE PHOTO: FILE PHOTO: Britain’s Prince Harry and his wife Meghan, Duchess of Sussex holding their son Archie, meet Archbishop Desmond Tutu (not pictured) at the Desmond & Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation in Cape Town, South Africa, September 25, 2019. REUTERS/Toby Melville/File Photo/File Photo

“It was never walking away. It was stepping back rather than stepping down, there was a really difficult environment as I think a lot of people saw,” Harry said in an interview with James Corden, host of the “Late Late Show” in the United States.

“We all know what the British press could be like, and it was destroying my mental health, I was like this is toxic. So I did what any husband and what any father would do is like, I need to get my family out of here.”

Before they moved to California, the couple had complained about the British tabloids’ treatment of Meghan, whose father is white and mother is African-American, some of which they said amounted to bullying or racism.

Earlier this month, Meghan successfully sued one tabloid for breaching her privacy by printing extracts of a letter she wrote to her father while last month Harry won a libel case against the same paper over a story which said he had turned his back on the military.

Critics of the couple, who announced this month they were expecting their second child, have said they are keen for publicity but only on their own terms. An in-depth interview they have given to U.S. chat show host Oprah Winfrey is due to be aired on March 7.

There was also disapproval of Harry and Meghan’s response to last week’s split when they said they were committed to a life of service. Some commentators contrasted their life with the duty shown by the 94-year-old queen during her 69-year reign.

FILE PHOTO: Britain’s Prince Harry and his wife Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, arrive at the Endeavour Fund Awards in London, Britain, March 5, 2020. REUTERS/Hannah McKay/File Photo/File Photo

DECISIONS ‘ON THE OTHER SIDE’

“And as far as I’m concerned whatever decisions are made on that side, I will never walk away,” said Harry, who commentators have said was unhappy with losing his treasured royal patronages, particularly those connected to the military in which he served for 10 years.

“But my life is public service so wherever I am in the world it’s going to be the same thing.”

During his interview, carried out on a tour of Los Angeles, Harry told Corden that Netflix’s hit series “The Crown”, a fictional account of the life of the queen and her family, was “loosely based on the truth”.

“It gives you a rough idea about what that lifestyle, what the pressures of putting duty and service above family and everything else, what can come from that,” he said.

“I’m way more comfortable with the Crown than I am seeing the stories written about my family or my wife, or myself, because … that is obviously fiction, take it how you will, but this is being reported on as facts because you’re supposedly news.”

Harry also revealed his one-year-old son Archie’s first word was “crocodile” and said the queen had sent him a waffle maker as a Christmas present.

(Reporting by Michael Holden; Editing by Giles Elgood)

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