King Charles III became the first monarch to address Germany’s parliament, the Bundestag, on Thursday as part of a high-profile visit aimed at bolstering ties between the two European powers.
Charles, 74, is on his inaugural foreign trip since becoming U.K. king. He and Camilla, the queen consort, arrived in Berlin on Wednesday. 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 honour 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 labour 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.
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 enamoured 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 Charles address the country’s highest political body, the Bundestag.
“A king isn’t elected,” 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.”
Charles has spoken to the Bundestag before, at a commemorative event held by the German War Graves Commission in 2020, 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 British and German military personnel stationed near Berlin before visiting an organic farm. They plan to be in Hamburg on Friday.