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King Charles III makes world debut as tour starts in Germany

Published:Thursday | March 30, 2023 | 1:02 AM
German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier (right), and his wife Elke Buedenbender (left), welcome Britain’s King Charles III and Camilla, the Queen Consort, in front of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, on Wednesday.
German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier (right), and his wife Elke Buedenbender (left), welcome Britain’s King Charles III and Camilla, the Queen Consort, in front of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, on Wednesday.

BERLIN (AP):

King Charles III arrived in Berlin on Wednesday for his first foreign trip as Britain’s monarch, hoping to improve the UK’s relations with the European Union and show he can win hearts and minds abroad, just as his mother did for seven decades.

Charles and Camilla, the queen consort, landed at Berlin’s government airport in the early afternoon. The king, dressed in a black coat, and his wife, in a light blue coat and a feather-trimmed teal hat worn at a jaunty angle, paused at the top of their plane’s stairs to receive a 21-gun salute as two military jets performed a flyover.

The royal couple said in a joint statement, released on their official Twitter account, that it was a “great joy” to be able to develop the “longstanding friendship between our two nations.”

An hour later, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier and his wife, Elke Buedenbender, welcomed them with military honors at the German capital’s historic Brandenburg Gate.

Soldiers hoisted the British and German flags as the national anthems were played. Steinmeier and Charles then strolled past the cheering, flag-waving crowd, shaking hands and chatting briefly with people.

Some took close-up pictures on their phones as Charles and Camilla approached, while others gave them flower bouquets. One woman handed Charles a gift bag. Journalists and security personnel trailed the royal couple and their German hosts as they made their way back to their motorcade.

Charles, 74, who ascended the throne after the death of Queen Elizabeth II in September, is set to be crowned on May 6. As Britain’s head of state, the king meets weekly with the prime minister and retains his mother’s role as leader of the Commonwealth.

He had initially planned to visit France before heading to Germany, but the first leg of his trip was cancelled due to massive protests over the French government’s efforts to raise the country’s retirement age by two years.

Billed as a multi-day tour of the EU’s two biggest countries, the trip was designed to underscore British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s efforts to rebuild relations with the bloc after six years of arguments over Brexit and highlight the countries’ shared history as they work together to combat Russian aggression in Ukraine.

Now everything rests on Germany, where the king faces the first big test of whether he can be an effective conduit for the “soft power” the House of Windsor has traditionally wielded, helping Britain pursue its geopolitical goals through the glitz and glamour of a 1,000-year-old monarchy.

Highlighting the diplomatic importance of the trip, Charles was accompanied by Britain’s Foreign Secretary, James Cleverley.

Charles, a former naval officer who is the first British monarch to earn a university degree, is expected to insert heft where his glamorous mother once wielded star power.

During an afternoon reception and again at a white tie evening banquet at Palace Bellevue, the German president’s official residence, Steinmeier remarked on the significance of Charles’s first visit taking him to Berlin, calling it “a wonderful personal gesture and at the same time an important sign for German-British relations.”