he King has pledged to “strengthen the connections” between the UK and Germany as he paid tribute to the “enduring value” of the two nations’ relationship.
In the first state banquet speech of his reign, Charles stressed that he was “utterly convinced” the bond between Britain and one of the EU’s leading nations “will grow ever stronger”.
Speaking in German, he drew laughs from guests at the white-tie event when he referenced a British comedy sketch hugely popular in Germany called “dinner for one”, about an elderly aristocrat who dines alone while her waiter gets progressively more drunk as he consumes alcohol poured for her missing dinner guests.
The historic day saw the King and Queen Consort receive an official welcome in front of Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate, a symbol of peace and unity and the first time the location has been used to greet a foreign head of state.
Germany’s president Frank-Walter Steinmeier and his wife Elke Budenbender warmly welcomed Charles and Camilla as their first state visit began, heralding a deepening of the post-Brexit relationship between the two countries.
At an event promoting UK and German climate and sustainability efforts, he praised the King’s green “convictions” and thanked him for making the “personal gesture” of choosing his country as the destination for the monarch’s inaugural state visit.
In his banquet speech, he later highlighted how six years ago the UK began its “withdrawal” from the EU but despite the fundamental change the bond between the two countries “will remain firm”.
Among the guests were a few celebrities, including German resident and former Strictly Come Dancing judge Motsi Mabuse, and distant German relations of the King, who told those gathered: “The relationship between Germany and the United Kingdom matters greatly to me, too, Mr President, and I am more convinced than ever of its enduring value to us all.
“It means so much to us that my wife and I could come to Germany for this very first overseas tour of my reign.
“I can only assure you, that throughout the time that is granted to me as King, I will do all I can to strengthen the connections between us.”
Charles’ historic visit was marked by the German president presenting him with the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany 1st class, which he wore.
Camilla, dressed in a black evening dress by Bruce, also wore her Grand Cross – special class – of the Order of Merit, also presented by the German head of state, and the late Queen’s fringe diamond necklace.
The mention of the sketch, which has been watched by millions of Germans every New Year’s Eve since 1973, raised a laugh in the room as His Majesty told them in German: “It is nice of you all not to have left me alone with a ‘dinner for one!’”
Charles, speaking at Bellevue Palace, added: “Mr President, Germany and the United Kingdom are deeply invested in each other’s futures. I am utterly convinced that the connections between us will grow ever stronger as, together, we pursue a more sustainable, prosperous and secure future.”
Speaking about how the UK and Germany remain close despite Brexit, the German president told the guests: “March 2017 marked the start of the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union. Today, exactly six years later, we are opening a new chapter. Our situation is different as we look to the future, yet we are doing so together.
“No matter what lies ahead, I know that our German-British friendship will remain significant and will remain firm. Our friendship is important and it is strong.”
He also joked about the footballing rivalry between the two nations, saying: “Even football was an English invention that the Germans were all too keen to take on. And although not every game is a friendly, it is good that these days German and British rivalries are only ever played out on the football pitch.”
The president reminded the King that he had “a close personal relationship with Germany” and presented him with a touching photograph of Charles as a boy with his late father, the Duke of Edinburgh.
Mr Steinmeier said: “At the tender age of 13, you came to Germany – with no official welcome, no press, no photographers. And yet there is a captivating photo, a snapshot of you together with your father, Prince Philip, as you arrive at Frankfurt airport.
“A young journalist, at that stage a mere trainee, took the photo on the tarmac. And it gives me great pleasure to present you with this photo to remember this special moment today, 61 years on, as a sign of your longstanding close bond with our country.”
Banquet guests included names from the worlds of engineering, technology, science, the environment, the arts and education, including punk rocker Campino, sculptor Sir Tony Cragg and some of Charles’ distant relatives – Bernhard, Margrave of Baden and Prince Philipp of Hohenlohe-Langenburg.