“The war of aggression against Ukraine has brought unimaginable suffering to so many innocent people,” said King Charles of England during his speech to the German Bundestag – in almost flawless German, with a charming British pronunciation.
“Countless lives have been destroyed; freedom and human dignity have been brutally trampled on. The security of Europe is threatened, as are our democratic values.
“You were shocked by the terrible destruction. But you can draw courage from unity – in defense of Ukraine, peace and security,” he added in his speech, effortlessly alternating between German and English.
Charles’s first official trip abroad as king, scheduled ahead of his coronation on May 6, underlined the historic ties between Germany and Britain, politically as well as culturally.
Political speech, but not a word on Brexit
He did not mention Brexit, which had severed relations between the UK and Europe before either side could reach an agreement in the Northern Ireland dispute protocol.
However, his speech was by no means apolitical. The British monarch focused on the partnership between Germany and the UK, which he said was reflected in a wide variety of areas in both countries.
He has repeatedly spoken of a new beginning, leaving open whether this was referring to his reign or Brexit.
The speech by the British monarch was also positively received in the Bundestag. The deputies gave Carlo a standing ovation, despite the criticisms expressed by the opposition the night before.
For example, Left Party leader Martin Schirdewan had said in advance that “it was not appropriate for the highest democratic body to bow down to a monarch”.
Linking to the legacy of Elizabeth II
Charles also remembered his mother, who had visited Germany more than 15 times during her 70-year reign, including five state visits. She, Charles said, had worked hard for British-German reconciliation since the end of World War II, and not just because her husband Prince Philip had German roots:
“My mother knew what an enormous achievement this reconciliation meant. And with her many visits, she wanted to make her own contribution… perhaps that is why she has won a special place in the hearts of Germans.”
On several occasions during her visits to France, Queen Elizabeth II gave speeches in French, secure the goodwill of the nation.
He also knew how to convey messages in subtle ways, as in 2017 when, in a speech on how to make Brexit a success, he wore a blue hat trimmed with blue flowers with a yellow centre. Some argued that this headdress resembled the flag of the European Union and sparkled speculation on social networks.
The fact that Charles greeted German delegates at the Bundestag and 130 guests at the state banquet in the national language, eliciting a few laughs with his British humor – and a sense for German – showed that he can build on his mother’s legacy.
He said he was aware that Miss Sophie follows “the same procedure every year, James” – a quote from the famous “Dinner for One” \- is now part of a happy german new year.
He had already expressed at the state banquet at Bellevue Palace that he would do everything possible to strengthen ties between the two countries, adding: “And, of course, we stand side by side to protect and promote our democratic values.”
In Germany and the United Kingdom, the royal visit was seen as a positive sign: a new start after Brexit, which began on 29 March 2017, in a letter from then Prime Minister Theresa May to former President of the European Council, Donald Tusk , which triggered Article 50 and outlined the UK’s intention to withdraw from the European Union.