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'New chapter': Charles III in Germany for first foreign trip as king

AFP
AFP - [email protected]
'New chapter': Charles III in Germany for first foreign trip as king
King Charles greets fans after arriving in Berlin. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Carsten Koall

Britain's Charles III arrived in Germany on Wednesday for his first state visit as king, with the trip billed as "an important European gesture" to maintain strong ties after Brexit.

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The royals' plane, with "United Kingdom" marked on the sides, landed at Berlin-Brandenburg airport shortly before 2:00 pm.

"Ahead of our first State Visit to Germany, we are very much looking forward to meeting all of those who make this country so special. It is a great joy to be able to continue the deepening of the longstanding friendship between our two nations," said Charles and Queen Consort Camilla on Twitter
via the Royal Family's account.

Standing at the top of the plane's steps, the royal couple were greeted with a 21-gun salute as two military jets made a flypast.

During his three-day visit, Charles will become the first monarch to address the German parliament, with a speech on Thursday, before travelling to the port city of Hamburg on Friday.

Red carpet

A worker lays out a red carpet for King Charles on Wednesday morning in front of Berlin's Brandenburg Gate. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Michael Kappeler

On Wednesday morning, the British Union Jack was flapping alongside the German and European Union flags along Berlin's central Unter den Linden avenue, which leads to the Brandenburg Gate, where Charles will receive a formal welcome.

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Well-wishers arrived at the Brandenburg Gate hours before the royal couple touched down in hope of getting a glimpse of the royals.

Anja Wieting 50, who works at a clothing store, took days off to drive five hours to Berlin with her daughter Lili, 18, for the spectacle.

"It's the visit of the king in Germany. We want to celebrate it, regardless of how long the queue is," she told AFP, adding that she finds "big ceremonies and state visits by royals great".

The decision to visit close neighbours first is widely seen as an attempt to build post-Brexit bridges, with German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier calling it "an important European gesture".

"Today, on the day six years ago when Britain began its exit from the European Union, we are opening a new chapter in our relations," said Steinmeier in his welcoming speech.

Steinmeier and German first lady Elke Büdenbender welcomed Charles and Queen Consort Camilla with military honours at Berlin's Brandenburg Gate, the first time the famous landmark has provided a backdrop for receiving a state guest.

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The couples will then travel to Steinmeier's Bellevue Palace in the city centre, where he will host a state banquet for the royals.

King Charles III in London. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/AP Pool | Kirsty Wigglesworth

The king will on Thursday make a speech in the German federal parliament and meet refugees recently arrived from Ukraine.

Steinmeier and the royal couple will then visit a German-British military unit in the surrounding state of Brandenburg.

The king will move on to the northern port city of Hamburg on Friday, where he is due to tour a renewable energy project.

"It's not a surprise that having become king he hasn't ditched his longstanding interest in environmental issues," said Bob Ward, from the London School of Economics.

"This is an issue that transcends politics and it can't possibly be right that as our head of state he shouldn't speak out on such a major issue," added Ward.

'Friendly ties'

Charles and Steinmeier will lay wreathes in the ruins of the city's St. Nikolai church, which was destroyed during a World War II air raid, and which now stands as a memorial.

The UK monarch will also sign the city's "Golden Book", which he previously signed in 1987 during a visit with then-wife Princess Diana.

The German head of state said he had extended the invitation to Charles, who has visited Germany more than 40 times, at the funeral of his mother, Queen Elizabeth II, last September.

"The fact that he is now visiting half a year later shows how much the king values the friendship between our peoples," Steinmeier said.

"I want to tell him, but of course also all Britons: we in Germany, we in Europe, want close and friendly ties with the United Kingdom after Brexit as well," he added.

READ ALSO: IN PICTURES: Germany pays tribute to the Queen

Brandenburg Gate King Charles III

A police notice indicates a security zone that will be erected around Brandenburg Gate during King Charles' visit. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Annette Riedl

Charles will be keen to kick off his first state visit as king after his trip to France, which was meant to take place earlier this week, was postponed in the wake of violent pension reform protests.

The visit was intended to highlight warming Franco-British relations, but instead underlined the severity of demonstrations engulfing Britain's neighbour just 10 months into President Emmanuel Macron's second term.

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The decision was made "to welcome His Majesty King Charles III in conditions which reflect our friendly relations", Macron's office said.

Macron told reporters that discussions over rescheduling the visit could take place in the coming months. 

"We have proposed that at the beginning of the summer, depending on our respective agendas, we can arrange a new state visit," he said.

Public interest

"The British royal family garners a lot of interest" in Germany, said Michael Hartmann, a sociology professor at Darmstadt Technical University, noting the bestseller status of the tell-all memoir by Charles's son Prince Harry.

The fascination with the House of Windsor has not dimmed since the death last year of Elizabeth II, Hartmann told AFP.

The late queen first visited Berlin in 1965 when the city was divided between a capitalist West and communist East, a trip that was seen as a key step in postwar reconciliation.

READ ALSO: What are the German roots of the British royal family?

Charles himself has been a regular visitor to Germany, with the British Embassy in Berlin saying that he has been to the country 40 times.

"We will always be friends, partners and associates," the then-Prince of Wales told the Bundestag in 2020 switching between English and German.

Charles's command of German may be a nod to the British royal family's roots in Germany notably through Charles's great-great-great-grandfather Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, queen Victoria's husband.

 

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