BERLIN (AP) — King Charles III arrived in Berlin on Wednesday for his first foreign trip as Britain’s monarch, hoping to improve the U.K.’s relations with the European Union and to show that 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 and paused at the top of their plane’s stairs to receive a 21-gun salute as two military jets performed a flyover.
German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier was scheduled to welcome the royal couple with military honors at the German capital’s historic Brandenburg Gate.
Charles, 74, who ascended the throne after the death of Queen Elizabeth II in September, is set to be crowned on May 6.
He had initially planned to first visit France, but the first leg of his trip was canceled due to massive protests over planned pension changes there.
Billed as a multi-day tour of the European Union’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.
At Berlin’s iconic Brandenburg Gate, royal fans started lining up early in the morning for security check,s hoping to get a close view of Charles and Camilla as workers rolled out red carpets.
By noon, hundreds of fans awaited their arrival as police and sniffer dogs carried out security checks in the area. About 1,500 spectators were admitted to the cordoned-off area, German news agency dpa reported.
Christoph Muehlbach, 59, had traveled by train from Hamburg to see the British royals. He described himself as a supporter of the royal family for the last 20 years and said he had traveled to London in the past for weddings, anniversaries and the queen’s state funeral.
“I take great pleasure in the British royal family,” Muehlbach told dpa.
Gabriele Fluechter, 57, of Berlin, said she came “out of love for England,” where she had attended university. She said she had seen Elizabeth on one of the queen’s visits to Berlin, and also had spotted Charles and Camilla before.
“They walked along there very casually,” she said, adding that the long wait was no problem.
On Thursday, the king is scheduled to give a speech to the Bundestag, Germany’s parliament. He will also meet Chancellor Olaf Scholz, talk to Ukrainian refugees, and meet with British and Germany military personnel who are working together on joint projects. In the afternoon he will visit an organic farm outside of Berlin.
The royal couple go to Hamburg on Friday, where they will visit the Kindertransport memorial for Jewish children who fled from Germany to Britain during the Third Reich, and attend a green energy event before returning to the U.K.
The king was urged to make the trip by Sunak, who during his first six months in office negotiated a settlement to the long-running dispute over post-Brexit trading rules for Northern Ireland and reached a deal with France to combat the people smugglers ferrying migrants across the English Channel in small boats. Sunak hopes goodwill created by a royal visit can help pave the way for progress on other issues, including Britain’s return to an EU program that funds scientific research across Europe.
This is the first big test of whether Charles 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 glamor of a 1,000-year-old monarchy.
The Windsors are among the most recognizable people on the planet. While their formal powers are strictly limited by law and tradition, they draw attention from the media and the public partly because of the historic ceremonies and regalia that accompany them — and also because the public is fascinated by their personal lives.
The late Queen Elizabeth II was the embodiment of this — the monarch everyone wanted to meet for tea, if for no other reason than that she’d been around so long.
Elizabeth’s influence stemmed in part from the fact that she made more than 100 state visits during her 70 years on the throne, meeting presidents and prime ministers around the world in a reign that lasted from the Cold War to the information age.
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.
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.
His visit to Germany will showcase these roles while also giving him an opportunity to highlight the causes he holds dear, like sustainability and the environment.
But there will also be a full dose of the pomp and circumstance that screams royal visit, starting with the ceremonial welcome at the Brandenburg Gate and a white tie dinner at Schloss Bellevue, the German president’s official residence, on Wednesday evening.
Kirka reported from London.