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Prince Harry explains why he stepped back from royal family in candid new interview

Prince Harry spoke with James Corden about why he and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, decided to break with the British royal family. "It was never walking away," Harry said.
/ Source: TODAY

Prince Harry has opened up about the reasons behind his historic split with the British royal family, saying the "toxic" press environment in Britain was "destroying" his mental health.

Harry, 36, spoke with late-night host and fellow Brit James Corden on Friday's show, less than a week after he and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, informed Queen Elizabeth II that they will not be returning as working members of the British royal family.

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"It was never walking away," Harry said. "It was stepping back rather than stepping down. It was a really difficult environment, as I think a lot of people saw. We all know what the British press can be like, and it was destroying my mental health.

"I was like 'This is toxic,' so I did what any husband, what any father would do. I was like, 'I need to get my family out of here.' But we never walked away, and as far as I'm concerned, whatever decisions are made on that side, I will never walk away. I'll always be contributing, but my life is public service, so wherever I am in the world, it's gonna be the same thing."

Harry and Corden covered a range of topics as they toured Los Angeles on the top of an open-air bus, including when Harry knew the burgeoning relationship he had with the former Meghan Markle was becoming serious.

"The second date I was starting to think, 'Wow this is pretty special,''' he said. "It wasn't so much where we went, it was just the way that we hit it off with each other, and we were just so comfortable in each other's company."

The younger son of the late Princess Diana highlighted what dating is like for a member of the British royal family.

"Dating with me or with any member of the royal family I guess is kind of flipped upside down," he said. "All the dates become dinners or watching TV or chatting at home, and then eventually once you become a couple, then you venture out to dinners, to the cinema and everything else.

"So actually we got to spend an enormous amount of time just the two of us rather than going to friends' houses or out for dinner where there were other distractions. There were no distractions, and that was great. It was an amazing thing. We went from zero to 60 like in the first two months."

They are now the parents of 1-year-old Archie, with baby No. 2 on the way.

"My son is now just over a year and a half," Harry said. "He is hysterical. He's got the most amazing personality. He's already putting 3-4 words together, he's already singing songs."

Harry shared that Archie's first word was "crocodile." He also said that Queen Elizabeth ordered a waffle maker shipped to California for Archie's Christmas present, after the duchess asked for one.

"Archie wakes up in the morning and just goes, 'Waffle?'" Harry said.

Corden also asked Harry for his thoughts on the Netflix hit "The Crown," which details the history of the British royal family under Queen Elizabeth II's reign.

"They don't pretend to be news," he said. "It's fictional, but it's loosely based on the truth. Of course it's not strictly accurate, but 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.

"I'm way more comfortable with 'The Crown' than I am seeing the stories written about my family or my wife or myself, because it's the difference between, that is obviously fiction, take it how you will, but this is being reported on as fact because you're supposedly news. I have a real issue with that."

The most recent season of "The Crown" touched on the story of Harry's mother and father, but has not yet reached the adult lives of Harry and his brother, Prince William.

Harry suggested "Billions" star (and fellow redhead) Damian Lewis to play him on a future season of the show, while Corden suggested he could play Harry's brother, Prince William.

"It's not great casting, but it is casting," Harry deadpanned about Corden's suggestion.

Before they headed off to a military-style obstacle course for some fun, Corden asked how Harry's life in California will contrast with his life in England with the royal family.

"I have no idea. A slightly different version, but a continuation of what we were doing back in the U.K. anyway," he said. "My life is always going to be about public service, and Meghan signed up to that, and the two of us enjoy doing it."