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King’s poignant first state visit reaffirming Anglo-German relations

The King was still mid-flight when the military welcome began.

His plane was given a German jet escort into Berlin.

And then, the grandest gesture Germany has to offer, a full ceremonial welcome at the Brandenburg Gate.

He is the first visiting head of state offered the honour and we heard early on just how much this visit means to Germany.

President Frank-Walter Steinmeier told a reception the trip was a “magnificent personal gesture” of the King and one which is “opening a new chapter in our relations.”

Expect much more of this rhetoric. This state visit is all about looking forward, focusing on common interests rather than the divisions of Brexit.

After years of turbulence, this is a chance to reaffirm Anglo-German relations.

Of course, France was supposed to be the starting point, but political protests meant that couldn’t happen.

There is though a poignant symmetry in seeing the King’s first overseas tour begin in Germany.

This is where the late Queen started her last one, back in 2015.

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Image:
King Charles and Camilla, the Queen Consort, with German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier and his wife Elke Budenbender

Arriving now as monarch is foreign territory

The King is well used to these trips, he has visited Germany 28 times before, last coming in 2020, but arriving now as monarch is foreign territory.

His mother was famed for her so-called ballroom diplomacy, and it was echoed in Berlin today, with a state banquet at Bellevue Palace, the official residence of the president.

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In full: King speaks German in banquet address

The King and Queen Consort were guests of honour.

During toasts, the King, speaking in English and German, told his hosts he would do all he could, “to strengthen the connections” between Britain and Germany. He has a difficult job.

From the German president, a much blunter message on Brexit: “I’ll say it quite frankly: for me personally, this was a sad day. And it was the same for many people in this country.”

The King with German President Steinmeier
Image:
The King with German President Steinmeier
The Queen Consort with the president's wife, Elke Buedenbender
Image:
The Queen Consort with the president’s wife, Elke Buedenbender

Soft power in full motion

This is the soft power of the monarchy in full motion.

These visits are always organised by the government, and the fact a close European neighbour was chosen, rather than a Commonwealth country, symbolises how much this relationship matters.

We will hear how much the relationship matters to Britain when the King addresses the German parliament. He is the first British monarch invited to speak here, and will deliver his speech in both English and German.

The engagements throughout the three-day trip reflect shared values, from the climate crisis to the war in Ukraine.

But underlying it is this sense of trying to move on from Brexit, it is the most diplomatic of deployments for the new monarch.

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