King Charles III and the Queen Consort, Camilla, have begun their 3-day royal tour of Germany after landing in Berlin to a twenty-one gun salute and a military fly-past. The royal couple’s RAF Voyager plane was escorted by two German fighter jets on its final approach, as a sign of respect.
This is His Majesty’s first state visit since becoming King and also the first by a British monarch for eight years, since Queen Elizabeth II’s last visit in 2015, after which she announced she would no longer travel abroad, due to her age. The hope is it will reinforce what Buckingham Palace has referred to as “shared histories, culture and values”.
There were lots of smiles and handshakes as the two of them met German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier and his first lady Elke Büdenbender at the Brandenburg Gate with full red carpet treatment, after which they greeted some of the large crowd that had gathered to be part of the historic meeting.
Later they attended a state banquet at the president’s Bellevue Palace, along with some high-profile guests, where the King was believed to have dined with some of his German cousins. The two royals have a busy few days mapped out for them, with several events and engagements planned. They will hope to cement the countries good relationship and maintain their important role as major allies, whose contribution is vital to NATO, which is of primary importance with regards to the Ukrainian war situation.
This was of course supposed to be a dual trip for Charles and Camilla, but the French leg was cancelled at the request of President Emmanuel Macron following the violent protests in France over the weekend in response to controversial pension reform plans.
The royals are away just as Prince Harry has made a surprise showing in the UK to attend the preliminary hearing in person of his case against Associated Newspapers for misuse of private information, and they will not be best pleased when they learn how he has again taken a dig at what he calls “The Institution”.
First state visit hugely significant
There is undoubtedly some significant and representative importance attached to the very first state visit of any new reign, and here the aim is to demonstrate that despite Brexit, Europe is the UK’s diplomatic priority. These trips are not just thrown together on a whim, they are carefully thought out and undertaken on the advice of the government and conversations will have been a two way affair, with the common goal of rebuilding special relationships with European neighbours, although the French will now have to wait until another opportunity arises.
Queen did not visit until the sixties
Queen Elizabeth II did not visit Germany until 1965, when she was accompanied by Prince Philip, and that was the first made by a British head of state to the country since the year before the outbreak of the first World War in 1913, when King George V attended the wedding of Princess Victoria of Prussia.
When Buckingham Palace announced the tour they said it was to “celebrate Britain’s relationship” with Germany; and focus on modern challenges such as climate change and the war in Ukraine. However, most people recognised that they saw it as a chance to build some bridges with major European allies.
It of course comes hot on the heels of King Charles III’s meeting with the European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, when she came over to Windsor for the Northern Ireland Brexit deal announcement, late last month.
Twitter message shared in German
Shortly before the couple touched down in Berlin the Royal Family Twitter account shared a message which had been signed off by both Charles and Camilla. It expressed their delight at making the journey and was shared in German too. It read: “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 long standing friendship between our two nations.”
Red carpet welcome
On a cold afternoon in the German capital, King Charles III and the Queen Consort, Camilla – who was wearing a brooch previously owned by Queen Elizabeth II and which had been given to her by her grandmother, Queen Mary – received a very warm welcome from the crowd and the military band playing in front of the Brandenburg Gate.
The band had played several distinctly British sounds ahead of their arrival with “Land of Hope and Glory” and a collection of James Bond theme tunes, entertaining the waiting crowd. They then got serious and the anthems were respectfully received before a formal red carpet welcome was given. The royal couple along with President Steinmeier and his wife, then spoke and laughed with some of crowd, albeit to tight security.
Not Charles’ first time at Bundestag
If the aim is to reinforce Anglo-German relations, then the tour has got off to a pretty good start. The itinerary for the three days will see King Charles become the first British monarch to give an address to Germany’s parliament, the Bundestag. He has actually been through the process previously, but that was as the Prince of Wales, when he spoke in 2020 on the 75th anniversary of the end of World War Two.
Previous speech well received
In his previous speech he had expressed his own personal affection for Germany and the strong links uniting Berlin and London. Back then he said: “Our people have prospered from one another through commerce, and our drive for shared prosperity.” He had stated that it was his belief that the relationship between the two nations was so much more than a transactional one.
Rather it was one of mutual admiration of each other’s culture and ability to be inspired by each other’s ideas. “We have influenced and borrowed from one another in a virtuous circle of reinforcing connections that have been able to strengthen and enrich us both,” was his message, which was well received.
It is thought his speech here will be of similar warmth, with special mention to the support and affection his family received in the wake of his mother’s passing. Additionally, he is expected to strongly denounce the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and share a common belief in standing together with shared democratic values of providing continued assistance for the Ukrainians to defend their nation from unlawful and unprovoked aggression.
In total, whilst in his previous role he carried out 28 official visits to German soil.
Itinerary will keep couple busy
He is also set to travel to Hamburg, where there will be a focus on reconciliation, with a visit to the St Nikolai Memorial, a ruined church kept in memory of the Allied wartime bombing of the city. Whilst in the northern city the King will make clear his support for climate change when being introduced to pioneering use of green technology.
The couple are due to meet with Ukrainian refugees, and make a trip to an organic farm. In addition, they will be meeting members of the British and German militaries who are currently operating as a joint unit, to see a demonstration of their bridge-building amphibious vehicles.
At the banquet there are likely to be some family reunions as the King meets some German relatives which could include cousins: Bernhard, hereditary prince of Baden, who is the grandson of the late Duke of Edinburgh’s sister Theodora, and Prince Philipp of Hohenlohe-Langenburg, the grandson of the elder sister of King Charles III’s father, Princess Margarita. As he is known to speak German very well, there should be no language barriers to overcome.
No meeting with Harry
It may have been a coincidence, but Prince Harry’s unexpected arrival in the UK on Monday 27 March, occurred when as far as he knew, his father should have been away in France. The unfortunate postponement of that trip meant they might well have had chance to meet up, but the fact that they did not strengthens the suspicion that Charles is still furious with his youngest son for the accusations so randomly dished out in his hugely controversial memoir, Spare.
Plus, the fact that in subsequent interviews the troubled Duke of Sussex has stated that his recollection of facts are “blurry” and that his memory “does as it sees fit”, which has to call into question much of his book’s content.
The widely held belief is that even if Harry did wish to reconcile ahead of his father’s fast approaching coronation, it is highly unlikely to be reciprocated, as William appears to have no time for his sibling at present, and the King himself is still infuriated over Harry’s shocking portrayal of Camilla.
Duke aims yet another dig at family
The reason for his two-day visit was seen by many as something of a stunt, possibly with his next documentary in mind. The four-day preliminary hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice in central London concerned claims he and other individuals are bringing against Associated Newspapers for misuse of private information. He attended Monday and Tuesday’s proceedings, but chose stay away on day three.
However, he may well feel he has done what he set out to do by making a claim that there was a private arrangement between the Royal Family, who he referred to as the “institution” and Rupert Murdoch’s News Group Newspapers (NGN).
His allegation was that: “There was in place an agreement between the Institution and NGN that we would not engage, or even discuss, the possibility of bringing claims against NGN until the litigation against it relating to phone hacking was over.”
He continued further to say: “The Institution made it clear that we did not need to know anything about phone hacking and it was made clear to me that the Royal Family did not sit in the witness box because that could open up a can of worms.” This he went on to say meant that as far as he was concerned: “The Institution was without a doubt withholding information from me for a long time about NGN’s phone hacking and that has only become clear in recent years, as I have pursued my own claim with different legal advice and representation.”
Still no decision on coronation
He of course still has not said whether he will attend the coronation of his father, which is now less than five weeks away; but it certainly looks a long way back for him if he wants to win over the family he has so thoughtlessly trampled over, and as he seemingly continues to believe that his approach is the right way to go about it, the chances of smoothing things over are probably zero.
More important things to be concerned with
In the mean time, his father has more pressing matters and irrespective of what anybody may think of him – including his youngest son – King Charles III is somebody who is instantly recognisable, all around the world, and because of that cameras, crowds and commentary will always be there.
There is a saying that suggests “theatre matters just as much as the substance,” so with that in mind, there is a school of thought which points towards Charles being able to give the UK a diplomatic advantage, in so much that he is more famous than many heads of state, certainly more so than Rishi Sunak, the UK prime minister.
He can create a better impression and this is a role that the King will absolutely relish, as there is a genuine sense of purpose to the visit. It has given him the platform to put his own stamp on his reign, whilst at the same time represent the country that he is immensely proud of, with the good grace and distinction that everyone would expect.