King Charles III chooses France and Germany for his first state visit

King Charles III will travel to France and Germany for his first state visit since becoming king, underlining Britain’s efforts to build bridges with its European neighbours.

The royal palace announced that Charles and Camilla, the Queen’s consort, are set to visit the two largest countries in the European Union from March 26 to 31, hosted by French President Emmanuel Macron and German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

“The visit will celebrate the UK’s relationship with France and Germany, signaling our shared history, culture and values,” the palace said. “It is also an opportunity to look ahead and show the many ways our countries are working in partnership, whether it is to address climate change; respond to conflict in Ukraine; seize trade and investment opportunities or share the best of our art and culture.”

What highlights the importance of the trip is the fact that it will be the first state visit by a British monarch since 2015; The late Queen Elizabeth II, Charles’ mother, stopped traveling abroad in her later years.

The announcement came just days after Charles met European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen at Windsor Castle, and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced a breakthrough in talks to resolve the dispute over Northern Ireland’s post-Brexit trade arrangements.

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Sunak will be keen to use the monarchy’s soft power to highlight the thaw in UK-EU relations, which have been strained by Britain’s decision to leave the bloc.

The palace said the trip to France and Germany is taking place at the request of the British government and at the invitation of both governments.

The royals will first travel to France, where Macron will receive them and take part in a ceremony of remembrance at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. Charles would later meet members of the National Assembly and the Senate and attend a state banquet at the Palace of Versailles.

The French leg of the trip will also include travel to Bordeaux, home to a large British community. The royal couple plans to visit an organic vineyard and one of the areas devastated by bushfires last summer.

Charles and Camilla are scheduled to travel to Germany on March 29, where Steinmeier will receive them and Charles plans to address the German Parliament. Steinmeier will also host a state banquet for the royal couple.

While Britain’s royals have ceded most of their power to the country’s elected leaders, the royal aura and pomp of royal visits and ceremonies are still seen as a way to burnish the UK’s image and strengthen ties with countries around the world.

This role was summed up by Elizabeth, who made 121 state visits during her 70-year reign, prompting royal historian Robert Hardiman to dub her the “Queen of the World”.

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When Charles met von der Leyen on Monday, Buckingham Palace was quick to stress that it was working in concert with the government.

“The King is pleased to meet any world leader, if they are visiting Britain, and the government advises that he do so,” the palace said before the meeting.

The French leg of the trip may have particular significance for Charles, who is said to have forged a close relationship with Macron because of the two men’s shared focus on environmental protection and combating climate change.

The President of Germany also expressed mutual respect. And in a video message, Steinmeier said that he last met Charles at Elizabeth’s funeral and invited him to visit Germany as king. He said that Charles’ decision to visit after half a year showed how much the king valued the friendship between the Germans and the British.

The German president said Charles’ decision to travel to Germany and France was “an important European gesture as well”.

“I would say to him, but of course also to all Britons: we in Germany, we in Europe, we want close and friendly relations with the UK after Brexit as well,” Steinmeier said.

In November, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa made the first state visit to Britain under Charles. But the visit was in the works before the late Queen’s death.


Associated Press writer Ger Molson in Berlin contributed to this report.

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