Britain’s King Charles III met German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and is preparing to become the first monarch to speak before 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 first foreign trip since becoming king. He and Camilla, the queen consort, arrived in Berlin on Wednesday. Crowds of wellwishers 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 British government is trying to mend frayed ties with its continental partners following the painful process that preceded and followed the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union.
The fallout from Brexit has been considerable: Britain’s departure from the EU’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.
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 British royal family has 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 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.”
After his speech, Charles and Camilla are scheduled to meet with refugees and British and German military personnel before visiting an organic farm outside of Berlin. They plan to be in Hamburg on Friday.