Berlin: Britain’s Charles III will address the German parliament on Thursday, becoming the first monarch to do so, on the occasion of his inaugural state visit as king.
Germany marks the first trip abroad for Charles since ascending the throne, and is being interpreted as a “strong gesture” to build post-Brexit ties with the continent.
Arriving for his three-day trip on Wednesday, he and Queen Consort Camilla were greeted with military honours at the Brandenburg Gate, the first time the iconic site had lent the backdrop for such a ceremony.
Speaking at a state banquet hosted by German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Charles hailed the “enduring value” of the UK’s relations with Germany.
The two countries’ joint support for Ukraine in its battle against Russia’s unprovoked aggression epitomised their commitment to “protecting and advancing shared democratic values”, he added.
After the ceremonial pomp marking Wednesday’s arrival, Charles will undertake key political engagements on the second day of his trip.
He will start the day with talks with Chancellor Olaf Scholz, before addressing the Bundestag.
– Reconciliation –
Thursday will not be the first time Charles finds himself standing at the lectern of the German lower house.
In November 2020, the then-crown prince addressed German lawmakers on the occasion of Remembrance Day in a highly symbolic gesture marking post-war reconciliation between the two countries.
“We have you and your family to thank for the work of reconciliation, the deep friendship between our two people,” said host Steinmeier.
Charles’ mother, the late Queen Elizabeth II, had been a symbol of rapprochement after two devastating World Wars in which the countries found themselves on opposing sides.
It was World War I that had led the British royal family to drop their German name — Saxe-Coburg and Gotha — for Windsor.
Charles, who speaks German in a nod to his blood ties to the country, is expected to make his Bundestag address partly in the hosts’ language.
But not all German lawmakers approve of the speech.
MP Ates Gurpinar of the far-left Linke party said he planned to boycott the event, calling it “absurd to allow a king to speak at the Bundestag” after Germany abolished the monarchy over a hundred years ago.
“To bring a monarch with all honours into the heart of democracy now is highly out of touch with history,” he told Augsburger Allgemine daily.
– Green issues –
Following the speech, Charles will meet Ukrainian refugees before travelling to neighbouring state Brandenburg where he will speak with a German-British battalion.
A tour of an organic farm is also on the programme with environmental issues, which Charles championed long before he became Britain’s sovereign, featuring prominently in his three-day programme.
Among his first engagements on Wednesday was a reception on sustainability, where he met with Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock and Economy Minister Robert Habeck, both from the Greens party.
On Friday, in the port city of Hamburg, he will tour a renewable energy project.
Charles, who has visited Germany 40 times, has always made sustainable farming a part of his visits to the country.
The monarch’s decades-long commitment to green farming has partly been nurtured by German professor Hardy Vogtmann, a leading voice on organic agriculture who became Charles’ advisor in the 1980s.
During one trip to Germany in 1997, Vogtmann arranged for Charles to tour several eco projects in the western state of Hesse, culminating in Charles jokingly being gifted a bag of compost.
On another occasion in 2013, the Welt newspaper said Charles was “clearly in his element” chatting to organic farmers and stroking a piglet on a field in Langenburg, north of Stuttgart.
In 2019, Camilla joined her husband on a tour of an organic farm in Glonn, near Munich, where Charles gamely held a rooster in his arms.
The British monarch was initially supposed to travel to France before heading on to Germany, but that trip was postponed in the wake of violent pension reform protests.