King Charles warned that the scourge of war has returned to Europe as he became the first British monarch to address the Bundestag on a historic visit to Berlin.
In a speech packed with references from the Beatles to Kraftwerk, Monty Python to England’s Lionesses, the King celebrated the “special bond” between Britain and Germany, and praised the “vital leadership” shown by both countries in helping Ukraine. He received flurries of warm applause and a standing ovation in the packed chamber.
He spoke movingly of his mother, and how touched he had been by the tributes from the German people when she died. “This friendship meant so much to my beloved mother, the Queen,” he said.
In a sign of how mature the relationship the UK and Germany has become, the monarch even mentioned the war, remembering Germans who died in Allied bombing campaigns – still a sensitive topic.
Impressively, he delivered most of his address in German, with only the occasional slip-up. Unlike, his father, Prince Philip, the King isn’t fluent in the language, but the hint of amateurishness seemed to go down well.
The trip is being seen as a UK foreign policy reset post-Brexit, and the warmth of the King’s reception in Germany is an encouraging sign that despite seven years of animosity, the spirit of friendship with the UK’s continental neighbour is alive and kicking.
The war in Ukraine has put this bickering into perspective. The King said that while the world had watched on in horror at the “appalling scenes of destruction”, both nations could “take heart from our unity – in defence of Ukraine, of peace and freedom”.
He added: “As Europe’s two largest donors to Ukraine, we have responded with taking decisions which might previously have seemed unimaginable. Germany’s decision to send such significant military support to Ukraine is remarkably courageous, important and appreciated.”
Not everyone was pleased about the King’s historic address. Martin Schirdewan, and MEP and the party’s joint leader, said before the speech that it was “inappropriate for the highest democratic council to bow before a monarch,” while Ates Gürpinar, an MP and a deputy leader of the party who boycotted the speech said it was “absurd” that King Charles had received the invite: “Let’s not forget, monarchies are fundamentally dictatorships with a bit more historical glitz.”
Yet the trip has been hailed as a triumph by the much of the mainstream German media, with Bild, a daily tabloid, enjoying how the King “enthused about his German roots and love of German culture”.
Given the complexities of the Anglo-German relationship, the King’s first overseas trip as head of state is rightly being seen as a job well done.
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