UK's King Charles to make first state visits as monarch to France, Germany
By Michael Holden
LONDON (Reuters) -King Charles will travel to France and Germany on his first state visits since succeeding his mother Queen Elizabeth as British monarch last September, Buckingham Palace said on Friday.
Charles will address the chambers of both European neighbours' parliaments in a first for a British monarch during his busy five-day visit with his wife Camilla, the Queen Consort, which will begin on March 26.
"The visit will celebrate the UK's relationship with France and Germany, marking our shared histories, culture and values," a Buckingham Palace spokesperson said. "It is also a chance to look forwards and show the many ways our countries are working in partnership."
While his mother embarked on an extensive tour after becoming queen in 1952 which took in Australia, New Zealand and realms where she was head of state, Charles will make the short trip across the English Channel at the behest of the government, which is seeking better European relations after Brexit.
Both the French and German presidents had also extended speedy invitations to Charles since he ascended the throne, a palace source said.
During his time in France he will join President Emmanuel Macron for a state banquet at the Palace of Versailles and for a ceremony of remembrance at the Arc de Triomphe.
Macron notably paid a heartfelt tribute to Elizabeth following her death in a message to Britain, when he said she would be "with us forever". "To you, she was your queen. To us, she was the queen," he said.
Charles will address senators and members of the National Assembly at the French Senate as well travelling to Bordeaux to see the impact of last summer's wildfires and tour an organic vineyard, a nod to the king's long-running environmental campaigning.
STRAINED FRENCH RELATIONS
Relations between London and Paris have been strained since the British vote to leave the European Union in 2016, and long-standing rows over fishing rights and migrants travelling from France to Britain across the English Channel in small boats.
However, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has sought to reset the relationship, agreeing a deal to ramp up efforts to tackle illegal migration and has also struck a deal with the EU to settle a bitter row over post-Brexit trade to and from Northern Ireland.
He will meet Macron for a bilateral summit himself in March.
In Germany, the British royals will be greeted by the German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier at the Brandenburg Gate, the first time a visiting head of state had received a ceremonial welcome there.
"It's important for the president to tell the king but also all Britons that we in Germany and also Europe hope our relations with the United Kingdom stay close and friendly even after Brexit," said Steinmeier spokesperson Cerstin Gammelin.
Charles will also address the German parliament, and meet refugees who have recently arrived from Ukraine. The trip will include a visit to Hamburg where they will go to the St Nikolai Memorial, the remains of a church destroyed when the Allies bombed the city during World War Two.
(Reporting by Michael Holden; Additional Reporting by Sarah Marsh in Berlin; Editing by Kate Holton, Alex Richardson and Sharon Singleton)