King Charles III became the first monarch to address Germany’s Parliament, the Bundestag, on March 30, as part of a high-profile visit by the U.K. head of state aimed at bolstering ties between the two European powers.
Speaking to lawmakers and other dignitaries in the packed lower house, the King stressed the close bonds between the United Kingdom and Germany going back centuries, including his own family links to the Royal House of Hannover, and the present-day economic, scientific, cultural and military cooperation between the two countries.
King Charles noted that London and Berlin have provided considerable aid to Ukraine in its efforts to fend off Russia’s invasion, a point that will appeal to German government officials more used to hearing how their country isn’t doing enough to help Kyiv.
“Germany’s decision to provide so much military support to Ukraine is extremely brave, important and welcome,” King Charles said.
Speaking mostly in fluent German, he noted how the intertwined history of the two nations could be seen in the home of the Bundestag itself. Heavily damaged during the war, the Reichstag building’s restoration in the 1990s was capped with a glass cupola designed by British architect Norman Foster intended to be a symbol for transparency and accountability.
“From here the citizens can actually watch their politicians work,” the King said. “Democracy in action.”
The 74-year-old largely trod on safe territory, making gentle jokes about soccer rivalry, national humor and mutual admiration for each others’ cultures — from the Beatles to Kraftwerk and Brahms to Byron . Charles briefly touched on the grim history of Nazism and World War II.
King Charles and Camilla, the Queen Consort, will visit Hamburg on March 31, to pay respects at a memorial to the Kindertransport, or children’s transports, which saw the lives of more than 10,000 Jewish children rescued from Nazi Germany 85 years ago. They will also commemorate those killed in the Allied bombing of Hamburg in 1943.
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“Heeding the lessons of the past is our sacred responsibility, but it can only be fully discharged through a commitment to our shared future,” he said. “Together we must be vigilant against threats to our values and freedoms, and resolute in our determination to confront them. Together we must strive for the security, prosperity and well-being that our people deserve.”
King Charles is on his inaugural foreign trip since becoming U.K. King. The King and the Queen Consort arrived in Berlin on March 29. Crowds of well-wishers and Germany’s head of state, President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, greeted the couple at the capital’s iconic Brandenburg Gate. They later attended a banquet in their honor at the presidential palace.
Pomp and royal glamour aside, the three-day visit has a decidedly political purpose. The U.K. government is trying to mend frayed ties with its continental partners following the painful Brexit process.
The fallout has been considerable: Britain’s departure from the European Union’s common market has resulted in trade barriers and labor shortages, and locked the country out of key European science programs. By devoting special attention to the EU’s two biggest powers — France and Germany — Prime Minister Rishi Sunak hopes to normalize relations with the 27-nation bloc.
King Charles originally planned to stop in France first, but anti-government protests there delayed that part of his trip. That put the focus on Germany, where the U.K. royal family and particularly the late Queen Elizabeth II have long enjoyed curiosity and admiration.
Not all were enamored by the visit, however. Jan Korte, a lawmaker with the opposition Left party, said it wasn’t in keeping with Germany’s democratic tradition to have King Charles address the country’s highest political body, the Bundestag.
“A King isn’t elected,” Mr. Korte told public broadcaster ZDF. “He can obviously speak everywhere and is very welcome, including by me, but I think that particularly in the Bundestag, which is about representing the people, it’s not really appropriate to have a monarch speak.”
King Charles has spoken to the Bundestag before, at an event in 2020 commorating the victims of World War II, though he was still the Prince of Wales at the time.
Before his speech Charles met briefly with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and visited a farmers market in Berlin.
After his speech, Charles and Camilla are scheduled to meet with refugees and U.K. and German military personnel stationed near Berlin before visiting an organic farm.
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