The King got a two-minute standing ovation after becoming the first British monarch to address the German Parliament today with a witty speech celebrating our ability to laugh with and at each other. He cited the two nations’ mutual move of everything from Monty Python to The Beatles, the electronic Krautrock band Kraftwerk and in a solemn moment he even mentioned the war but he got away with it.
Even hard left MPs nervous about an unelected monarch addressing the heart of German democracy were cheering him from the rafters by the end.
In a 25-minute speech delivered in German and English he had MPs in stitches with several wisecracks and even got a laugh by mentioning the England women’s football team’s European Championship final victory over Germany last year.
“More recent generations may think as readily of The Beatles or Kraftwerk, as they do of Brahms or Byron, but the web of cultural connections is as strong as ever,” he said.
“And perhaps most importantly, for the last 50 years we have laughed together – both at each other, and with each other,” adding: “Like all old friends at moments, the warmth of our relationship allows a small smile at each other’s expense.”
In his speech he celebrated the shared bond between the two countries and urged the lower house of Parliament, the Bundestag, to help write a new chapter in the nations’ history.
“In the long and remarkable story of our two countries, there are many chapters yet unwritten,” he said. “Let us fill these with the restless pursuit of a better tomorrow.”
The 74-year-old monarch and Queen Camilla, 75, are on a three-day state visit, the first of the new reign, to Germany at the request of Rishi Sunak’s Government, which wants to strengthen ties with key European neighbours after the strain of Brexit and forge a united front against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
King Charles, who will tomorrow pay his respects to the memory of around 43,000 people who died in Allied bombing of Hamburg in 1943, said heeding the lessons of the past was a sacred responsibility.
But the monarch, who also addressed the parliament noted that the scourge of war was back in Europe.
“The unprovoked invasion of Ukraine has inflicted the most unimaginable suffering on so many innocent people. Countless lives have been destroyed; freedom and human dignity have been trampled in the most brutal way. The security of Europe has been threatened, together with our democratic values,” he said.
“The world has watched in horror – but we have not stood by. Even as we abhor the appalling scenes of destruction, we can take heart from our unity – in defence of Ukraine, of peace and freedom.”
He and Camilla spent the day in the capital at engagements illustrating the themes of his speech. They went to an organic food market, met Ukrainian and other refugees, and saw some of the sites of Berlin.
In a literal illustration of the message, the King and German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier watched a display of bridge-building between their two nations during a visit to the first joint Anglo-German military unit in modern history.
They went to Finowfurt, 30 miles north east of Berlin, to see soldiers from the integrated German and British Amphibious Engineer Battalion erect a crossing over the Oder-Havel Canal in five minutes.
The soldiers from the British 23 Amphibious Engineer Squadron, Royal Engineers,working with their German comrades in the Pionier Brücken Bataillon 130, used M3 amphibious bridges, swiftly manoeuvred into place, to create the crossing.
The integrated unit, which has a key role to play within NATO, was created in October 2021 when the British squadron was formally declared as a sub-unit of the German battalion.
Colonel Simon Hirst, the senior British liaison officer in Germany and military attaché, said it was the two countries’ first integrated unit, although British and German troops had fought together since at least 1759 when an Anglo-German army defeated the French at the Battle of Minden, the town in Germany where the battalion is based.
In spite of two world wars, he insisted there had been cooperation over much of our history.
“We have stood side by side more often than we have stood divided,” he said.
At an organ farm King Charles got a fit of the giggles trying to make traditional German cheese after donning a coat and plastic overshoes to join staff in the dairy.
There he was also presented with a magnificent cake in the shape of a crown lying on a purple cushion in honour of his Coronation.
The white chocolate and Victoria sponge cake took chef Antje Neumann 21 hours to make and weighed 10ths.
The King cut a slice and tasted it. “This is brilliant, it must have taken you weeks. This is seriously good cake,” he said.
President Steinmeier, in a jovial mood, turned to him and said: “It might be the model for your crown.”
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