On Sunday, Queen Elizabeth‘s grandson, 35, spoke directly to the public for the first time since a final agreement had been reached in his and wife Meghan Markle‘s decision to step back as senior members of the royal family. Harry attended an event organized for his supporters of his Sentebale charity, which he launched in 2006 to support the mental health and well-being of children afflicted with HIV.
Addressing the organization’s supporters, he 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 — thank you for giving me the courage to take this next step.”
The sentiment directly echoes remarks given by Prince Harry‘s mother in 1993, one year after it was announced that Princess Diana and Prince Charles were separating. Speaking at an organization close to her heart, the brain injury association Headway, Diana announced her own withdrawal from public life — and similarly thanked those gathered for the “education” they gave her.
“To the wider public, may I say that I’ve made many friends. I’ve been allowed to share your thoughts and dreams, your disappointments and your happiness,” she said. “You have also given me an education. By teaching me more about life and living than any books or teachers could have done. My debt of gratitude to you all is immense. I hope, in some way, I’ve been of service in return.”
In October, Prince Harry spoke out against the “ruthless” treatment he says Meghan has received in the British tabloid press, evoking the memory of his late mother.
“Though this action may not be the safe one, it is the right one,” he said of their decision to pursue legal action against the press. “Because my deepest fear is history repeating itself. I’ve seen what happens when someone I love is commoditised to the point that they are no longer treated or seen as a real person. I lost my mother and now I watch my wife falling victim to the same powerful forces.”
“It brings me great sadness that it has come to this,” Harry said on Sunday. “The decision that I have made for my wife and I to step back, is not one I made lightly. It was so many months of talks after so many years of challenges,” he told the people gathered.”
Can’t get enough of PEOPLE‘s Royals coverage? Sign up for our free Royals newsletter to get the latest updates on Kate Middleton, Meghan Markle and more!
“And I know I haven’t always gotten 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,” he continued, going on to reference his mother.
“I was born into this life, and it is a great honor to serve my country and the queen,” he said. “When I lost my mum 23 years ago, you took me under your wing. You’ve 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.”