'Green' King Charles set for eco-focused visit to Germany

British monarch attempting to heal old wounds after Brexit

King Charles and Queen Consort Camilla will go ahead with their Germany trip despite the French leg being postponed. PA
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Britain's King Charles III has a passion for the environment, but conceded upon taking the throne that he could no longer be outspoken in public.

Yet climate change is high on the agenda of his first state visit as he uses the monarchy's soft power to win friends in Germany.

Both his stay in Germany and the postponed French portion of his trip were arranged with environment-related stops in the schedule.

Royal experts say the king will not step out of line by “treading on political toes” but he has spent recent days learning about green initiatives from energy sector leaders in the UK.

The monarchy is regarded as a diplomatic “secret weapon” that could help heal wounds between Britain and Europe after Brexit, with the king set to highlight ways the UK and Germany can co-operate.

The monarch “will undoubtedly be happy his first state visit will involve environmental issues”, royal commentator Richard Fitzwilliam told The National.

“He has campaigned about the environment since his first speech in 1969 and we know how deeply and strongly he feels about it.”

Charles set to shy away from controversy

Dickie Arbiter, a former press spokesman for Queen Elizabeth II, said King Charles was unlikely to make controversial remarks in public. The king will address the German parliament on Thursday.

“What he has to say might be of interest but I do not believe he will go as far as treading on political toes,” Mr Arbiter said.

“He is a travelled person, having done official visits, but this is his first official state visit and he will mind his Ps and Qs. He will not be as vocal as he was as Prince of Wales.”

Mr Fitzwilliam said it would be a surprise if the king highlighted issues without government approval.

“The king obviously has to keep out of party politics to avoid any controversy,” he said. “When he was Prince of Wales he did his own job but now the king would never make a speech that was not approved by the government.

“Maybe there will be talking around wind farms, but anything publicly said will have been government approved.”

King met energy leaders to prep for visit to Germany

King Charles and Queen Consort Camilla will visit Berlin and Hamburg during their three days in Germany. It was one of the last countries visited by the late queen and the Duke of Edinburgh in 2015.

In the port city of Hamburg, there are plans to build Germany’s first large-scale green energy import terminal, which will see ammonia converted to green hydrogen.

Near Berlin, the royal couple will see an organic farm known as Brodowin Eco-Village, which prides itself on its local and seasonal produce. A reception on sustainability is also planned.

In preparation for the trip, the king met energy leaders in the UK to enhance his knowledge of clean power initiatives including wind farms and hydrogen.

The king will also meet Ukrainian refugees in Germany and visit the St Nikolai Memorial, which marks the location of a church destroyed during an Allied raid in the Second World War.

He is expected to attend a state banquet at Bellevue Palace.

King Charles on tour through the years — in pictures

King Charles to be UK's 'secret weapon'

Despite the ultimate decision to send the king laying with the British government, Mr Arbiter believes he will be the UK’s secret weapon, saying the visit will “quietly” heal old wounds.

“The state visits are up to the government and the king does not go unless the government backs them,” Mr Arbiter said.

“He is just a fronting head. If the government feels it is right for diplomacy and physical schmoozing they will send their secret weapon.

“It is their decision, probably to smooth over the relationship following Brexit and we need to make friends following Boris Johnson’s bull-in-a-china-shop behaviour and issues over migrants.

“However, we may have had a vocal Prince of Wales but we will now have a mute monarch.”

Mr Fitzwilliam said Britain's alliance with Nato partner Germany was especially significant during the war in Ukraine.

“A visit by the royal family is important. They are after all Britain’s soft power, showing goodwill and engaging business,” he said.

Germany beats France to host Charles

In the deferred French segment, the king was to meet emergency workers who had battled wildfires near Bordeaux and residents affected by the disaster.

He was due for a state dinner at the Palace of Versailles, where energy systems have been upgraded since a 1999 storm that devastated thousands of ancient trees, some planted by Napoleon and Marie Antoinette.

However, the optics of a luxurious Versailles dinner while workers protest in the streets were considered a risk for French President Emmanuel Macron.

Mr Macron had built bonds with Britain by making one of the most impassioned global tributes after the late queen's death.

“To you, she was your queen. To us, she was 'the queen',” he said proudly.

But the French unrest means it is German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, another guest at the queen's funeral, who will get the honour of hosting King Charles first.

Mr Steinmeier spoke of the queen as a “true friend and shining example to us”, whose visits to postwar Germany were a symbol of reconciliation.

“I appreciate this state visit all the more because the king decided to visit us in Germany before his coronation,” he said. “This early visit underscores the close and warm friendship between our countries and our citizens.

“I last met King Charles on the sad occasion of his mother Queen Elizabeth's funeral. At that time I invited him to Germany as the new king. The fact that he is now accepting this invitation six months later shows how much the king values the friendship between our people.

“The fact that King Charles has chosen Germany and France as the first destinations before his coronation is also an important European gesture,” he said before the French portion was cancelled.

Updated: March 27, 2023, 11:48 AM