King Charles III arrives in Germany for first overseas visit as monarch
Mar 29, 2023, 5:08 PM
(Annegret Hilse/Reuters via CNN)
(CNN) — King Charles III arrived in Germany with the Queen Consort on Wednesday for his first overseas state visit as monarch, after the first part of the trip to France was postponed.
Landing at Berlin Brandenburg Airport on Wednesday afternoon local time for the start of their three-day visit, they were welcomed with a gun salute as two military jets carried out a fly past. German officials greeted the King and Queen Consort when they stepped off the plane.
German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier and his wife, Elke Budenbender, rolled out the red carpet for the visiting monarch. They greeted Charles and Camilla at Pariser Platz with a full ceremonial welcome.
It’s the first time a head of state has been officially welcomed at Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate rather than at Schloss Bellevue, the official residence of the German president. As the royals stepped out of the car, the crowd cheered, with supporters eagerly waving German and Union Jack flags above their heads.
The national anthems of both nations played, after which the King, accompanied by the president, inspected the honor guard before delighting crowds by making their way over to greet members of the public.
Camilla — wearing a turquoise dress and coat with a hat by Irish milliner Philip Treacy — and accompanied by Budenbender, did the same on the other side of Pariser Platz.
There was a noticeable security presence in central Berlin, with around 900 police officers deployed Wednesday, according to CNN’s German affiliate n-tv.
A warm welcome
Crowds gathered at Brandenburg Gate were made up of general public, school groups, members of the Royal British Legion, as well as British Embassy employees and their families.
Among them was Alexander Woskanjan, from Berlin. The 35-year-old told CNN that he was happy Charles’ first foreign trip of his reign was to Germany.
“After the Second World War, we couldn’t wish that the first destination … [would be] Germany. And now, so many things have normalized and both armies are working together.” Woskanjan added: “It’s good, good vibes. And I think that the [German] President Frank-Walter Steinmeier really will be smiling all the time.”
For 59-year-old Christophe, who didn’t give his surname, this wasn’t his first royal event. Having been a fan of the British monarchy for two decades, he visited London last year for the late Queen’s state funeral and platinum jubilee celebrations. He told CNN he’d traveled from Hamburg to welcome the King to Berlin on Wednesday.
“I’m really hoping that [the visit] will heal the wounds that Brexit has done to the European countries,” he said. “I hope it will strengthen the relationship between Germany and the United Kingdom.”
And Jürg, 51, was one of the lucky few in the crowd to get a few moments to speak with the King. He told CNN: “The King was one of the first people ever talking about pollution and climate change and things like that … I think maybe he’s the right person for this moment to be King.”
The royal couple later traveled to the presidential palace for a state banquet.
Steinmeier described the royal visit as “both a great pleasure and a great honor” in a speech during the banquet.
Noting that King Charles’s state visit comes six years to the day since the U.K. alerted the EU to its intention to leave the bloc, the German statesman said that “back then many feared that Brexit could make the Germans and the British drift apart. However, that did not happen.”
He added: “Too strong are the ties between our countries, too close the friendships between our people, too precious the reconciliation efforts after two World Wars.”
Making his own speech in a combination of German and English moments later, the King also praised the ties between the UK and Germany, and highlighted how the two nations “stand together with Ukraine in defense of freedom and sovereignty in the face of unprovoked aggression.”
King Charles added: “In this regard, I did want to pay a particular tribute to Germany’s extraordinary hospitality in hosting over one million Ukrainian refugees. This, it seems to me, so powerfully demonstrates the generosity of spirit of the German people.”
He also said the relationship “mattered greatly to my mother” and offered his thanks for messages of support following her death last year.
Before arriving in Germany, King Charles and Camilla said in a statement that they were “very much looking forward to meeting all of those who make this country so special.”
They added: “It is a great joy to be able to continue the deepening of the longstanding friendship between our two nations.”
The trip should have started on Sunday in France but the first leg was scrapped amid strikes and civil unrest in the country over President Emmanuel Macron’s pension reforms. The French leader said Friday his government would have lacked “common sense” to proceed amid the protests, before suggesting the trip could be rescheduled for the beginning of summer.
On Thursday, Charles will address the Bundestag, Germany’s lower house of parliament. He’ll then meet some Ukrainian refugees who have sought sanctuary in Germany from the Russian invasion back home.
The following day, the King and Queen Consort will travel to Hamburg, where they will visit St. Nikolai Memorial, a church that was heavily damaged by Allied bombing during World War II. While there, the King and German president will lay wreaths as part of a short remembrance ceremony.
Despite the delayed start, the trip’s goals remain the same. Traveling at the request of the British government and following an invitation from the German president, the King will be hoping to renew and strengthen ties after Britain’s exit from the European Union.
“It is also a chance to look forwards and show the many ways our countries are working in partnership, whether that be to tackle climate change; respond to the conflict in Ukraine; seize trade and investment opportunities or share the best of our arts and culture,” Buckingham Palace said in a statement announcing the state visit earlier this month.
Charles last visited Germany as Prince of Wales in 2020 to mark the country’s National Day of Mourning for victims of war.
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