King Charles becomes first British monarch to address German parliament

King Charles III on Thursday (local time) became the first British monarch to address the Bundestag, the German parliament, paying tribute to the deep historical bonds and longstanding ties between the two nations.

The British sovereign is in Germany on the inaugural state visit of his reign with the Queen Consort until Friday.

Alternating between German and English, Charles said it was a "great honor" to address the Bundestag on Thursday, adding he was proud to be in Berlin to "renew the special bond of friendship between our two countries."

He said the friendship between the two nations "meant so much to my beloved mother," who spoke often of her visits to the country.

Charles discussed the war in Ukraine, and praised the countries' support of Kyiv.

"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 told the crowded chamber. "Even as we abhor the appalling scenes of destruction, we can take heart from our unity -- in defense of Ukraine, of peace and freedom."

The monarch's speech also touched on cultural connections, technology and even soccer -- referencing England women's football team's 2-1 win against Germany at Euro 2022.

"In the long and remarkable story of our two countries, there are many chapters yet unwritten. Let us fill these with the restless pursuit of a better tomorrow. The legacy of our past, and the great promise of our future, demand nothing less," he concluded, before receiving a standing ovation which lasted nearly two minutes.

Earlier on Thursday morning, King Charles met with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

Following his address at the Reichstag, the King and Queen Consort split for their remaining engagements of the day. Charles visited a refugee center supporting Ukrainians displaced by the war, located at Berlin's former Tegel Airport. He told some of those who recently arrived in Germany, "I'm praying for you."

Meanwhile, Camilla visited a community center and the Komische Oper, which is one of three opera houses in Berlin.

It was a grand entrance for King Charles and Camilla when they arrived in Germany on Wednesday afternoon with a 21-gun salute and a flypast.

It was a day of many firsts. Even before landing, the royal couple's plane was escorted by two Typhoon fighter jets as it entered German airspace in an unprecedented sign of respect.

After touching down, King Charles became the first head of state to be greeted with a full ceremonial welcome at Berlin's famous Brandenburg Gate -- a symbol of the country's division during the Cold War and subsequent reunification.

King Charles III of Great Britain speaks in the Bundestag on the second day of his trip to Germany.
King Charles III of Great Britain speaks in the Bundestag on the second day of his trip to Germany. Photo credit: Reuters

Despite the overcast spring weather, hundreds of well-wishers turned out in the historic Pariser Platz, waving German and British flags. They were rewarded with a walkabout after King Charles and German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier inspected a guard of honor in the shadow of the monument.

The three-day trip is Charles's 29th official visit to Germany, though he has traveled to the country on more than 40 occasions. The British government will be hoping the trip helps reinforce relations with European allies following its departure from the European Union.

President Steinmeier referenced Brexit during a speech at a lavish state banquet hosted in King Charles and Camilla's honor on Wednesday night.

"Back then many feared that Brexit could make the Germans and the British drift apart. However, this did not happen. Too strong are the ties between our countries, too close the friendships between our people, too precious the reconciliation efforts after two World Wars," Steinmeier said.

He called Charles' decision to visit Germany on his first foreign trip as King a "highly symbolic visit" and a "tremendous personal gesture."

In his own toast, delivered in a mix of German and English, King Charles vowed to "do all I can to strengthen the connections between us."

On Friday, the King and Queen Consort will travel to Hamburg, where they will visit St. Nikolai Memorial, a church that was heavily damaged by Allied bombing during World War II. While there, the King and German president will lay wreaths as part of a short remembrance ceremony.