King Charles salutes 'special bond' in historic speech in Germany

Britain's head of state becomes first monarch to address German parliament

King Charles spoke to German MPs on the second day of his state visit. Reuters
Powered by automated translation

Britain's King Charles III made a historic speech to Germany's parliament on Thursday to “renew our friendship” on the first state visit of his reign.

The king spoke partly in German under the glass dome designed by British architect Norman Foster that symbolises German unity after the ruins of the Second World War.

He saluted the UK and Germany's climate efforts and joint support for Ukraine as he became the first monarch to address the German parliament, having appeared there as Prince of Wales in 2020.

“It gives me particular pride to be with you once again, now as king, and to renew the special bond of friendship between our two countries,” the king said.

“We are still admiring of each other's culture, dependent upon each other's economies and inspired by each other's ideas.”

King Charles spoke in a parliament building redesigned by British architect Norman Foster. Reuters

The state visit marks the first time in the king's reign that Britain has deployed the full diplomatic power of the monarchy, aiming to mend fences after the acrimony of Brexit.

A stop in France was cancelled because of mass unrest over President Emmanuel Macron's pension reforms.

In Berlin, MPs gave a standing ovation after a speech in which the king said his mother, the late Queen Elizabeth II, had a “special place in the hearts” of the German people.

He said UK-German relations “meant so much” to the queen, whose visit to West Germany in 1965 he described as a “pivotal moment” in postwar reconciliation.

The king won laughs from the parliament as he nodded to friendly Anglo-German rivalry and saluted British comedy acts that have won a following in Germany.

“For the last 50 years we have laughed together, both with each other and at each other,” he said.

The king alternated between English and German in a prepared speech that watching MPs hailed as a symbol of friendship. Parliament speaker Baerbel Bas said it was a “great honour” to host the monarch.

King Charles gave a "likeable, clever and modern description" of the UK-German friendship, said German Finance Minister Christian Lindner.

Although mostly applauded, the speech raised eyebrows among some left-wing MPs who objected to an unelected monarch taking the lectern.

Day two of King Charles III's visit to Germany — in pictures

The king earlier met German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on the second day of his state visit.

Amid high security, he spoke to traders at a food market during a walkabout with Berlin's Mayor Franziska Giffey.

After his speech to parliament, he played table football with Ukrainians at a disused Berlin airport that has served as a reception centre for refugees.

The former Tegel airport was built in divided Berlin in 1948, when Britain, the US and France airlifted food and fuel to defeat a Soviet blockade of West Berlin.

Queen Consort Camilla meanwhile toured a refugee centre in Neukoelln, one of Berlin's most diverse neighbourhoods.

Later the king was scheduled to visit an organic farm in Brandenburg, in another nod to his interest in the environment.

A visit is also planned to a joint British-German battalion of specialist military engineers.

The royal couple arrived in Berlin to a ceremonial salute on Wednesday and will spend the final day of their trip in Hamburg on Friday.

Well-wishers turned out to see the king as he was granted the unusual honour of a military ceremony at the Brandenburg Gate.

Britain's royal family has long ancestral links to Germany, having changed its name from Saxe-Coburg-Gotha to Windsor amid anti-German sentiment during the First World War.

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier said the king's visit was a “tremendous personal gesture”.

He praised King Charles for having championed healthy nutrition, sustainability and climate action “very early on”.

Updated: March 30, 2023, 3:19 PM