King Charles will on Thursday become the first British monarch to address the Bundestag parliament in Berlin during the first state visit of his reign.
The king and his wife, Queen Consort Camilla, were greeted on Wednesday afternoon with military honours at the Brandenburg Gate. The official ceremony was moved to the historic landmark to allow the royal couple meet crowds of well wishers.
A planned trip to France earlier in the week was postponed because of widespread public protest against pension reforms.
German president Frank Walter Steinmeier said the royal couple’s visit, a conscious effort to improve post-Brexit ties with the Continent, was “an important signal for German-British relations”.
“Together, as friends and partners, we are now looking forward,” he added. With work beginning later this year on a new 700km electricity interconnector from Wilhelmshaven and the Isle of Grain in Kent, the president said: “Our countries will literally be linked.”
On Wednesday afternoon, the king participated in a gathering of climate and renewable energy experts and his Thursday address is also expected to touch on green issues close to his heart.
After meeting chancellor Olaf Scholz, the king will visit Brodowin, an ecological model village outside Berlin, before heading on to Hamburg via high speed train before returning to the UK.
British ambassador to Berlin, Jill Gallard, said the visit – recommended by the British government – would underline that though Britain had left the EU, it remained a part of Europe.
“For the king, Germany is right at the top of his list of priorities,” she said. “The king has already visited Germany 40 times and has historical, family and culturally strong ties to this country.”
Crowds waiting for the royal couple around the Brandenburg Gate were entertained by a military band playing James Bond themes and the British patriotic song, Land of Hope and Glory.
Berliner Anne Zange said she was continuing a family tradition as her mother turned out to see Queen Elizabeth on her first visit in 1965. “My interest in the royal family was laid in the crib,” she told the Tagesspiegel newspaper, “but I’ve never seen them live.”
Local man Horst Schulz said he was happy to see the king in Germany, even before his coronation in May, “given he has German ties on both sides of his family”.
While in Berlin, the couple are staying in the Hotel Adlon’s most luxurious suite, 185sq m and costing €20,000 a night.
The royal visit has seen the release of documents relating to state visits of the late Queen Elizabeth II. In advance of her second state visit in 1978, when asked what gift she would like to receive from West Germany, documents show she requested two horses: a brown Holsteiner, “not too bright, definitely not too dark” and a Schimmel, “white if possible, definitely not dirty grey”. While Bonn officials baulked at the cost – the equivalent of about €60,000 – then-president Walter Scheel agreed.
On her next visit in 1992, Queen Elizabeth requested to deliver an address to the Bundestag. Chancellor Helmut Kohl was wholeheartedly against the idea, according to a margin note by an aide on a memo: “BK: Nein!”