This special report was written for Royal Central by royal correspondent Netty Leistra, who saw the historic State visit unfold firsthand.
In Germany, especially in Berlin and Hamburg, people could hardly not have heard that King Charles III and Queen Camilla were making a State Visit as March came to an end.
In an unexpected turn of events, the State Visit to France was cancelled, which made Germany the first State Visit of a new reign. TV and online coverage was extensive. TV channels were eager to report on the event, and there were even live broadcasts. While Germany itself hasn’t been a monarchy since November 1918, royalty from other countries are still a major subject of gossip magazines, tabloids and even the more serious media. And that is only increased when they are actually visiting Germany in person.
My experience of the State Visit arrived as this historic event was nearing its close. I was on hand for some of the most important moments of the last day in Hamburg. I was at the Kindertransport Memorial for a moving visit, and I also saw The King’s arrival and departure from a boat in one of the many harbours of Hamburg. Meanwhile, other engagements took place at the Rathaus (city hall) of Hamburg while Queen Camilla visited a school.
While the weather was rather nice on the previous day, when I departed from my home town in the Netherlands, unfortunately, the day itself was extremely cloudy and wet. Luckily it didn’t rain really heavily; however, at the end of the day, my rucksack and I were pretty wet. But we’d seen a lot, and being part of this milestone in the reign of a new King was certainly interesting.
The Rathaus was the place where I had to pick up my accreditation. By the time I got there, crowds were already starting to form. The fences were rather close to the entrance, so these onlookers would have a good chance of seeing the royal couple. As I could see much later on pictures and videos, they had indeed succeeded in shaking hands and giving presents, including flowers and a gingerbread heart with the names of Charles and Camila – not my spelling mistake! By that time, in the afternoon, the square was packed with people, but even first thing, the numbers were growing.
My day started with a quick glance from a balcony into the hall where the King and Queen, accompanied by the German president Frank-Walter Steinmeier and his wife Elke Büdenbender, would be received. The red carpet and the flags were already there. But I was on my way to a moving moment on this visit.
The Kindertransport Memorial is situated directly next to the Dammtor railway station and would be the first stop after the royal train ride from Berlin to Hamburg. It was erected in 2015 to remember the thousands of children that were saved from Nazi Germany in 1938 and1939 and were taken to the United Kingdom and other countries.
After arriving there, the first I saw was a woman, who had just heard King Charles and Queen Camilla would be coming, and decided it was time for a tiny demonstration. On a card hanging around the neck of one of the “children”, a statue that makes up part of the memorial, was a note about Ukraine. The woman who had put it there was happy to give interviews. She was happy to give some interviews. Of course, the royal guests would never see her note, as it was taken away soon. There was also another homeless man with a huge sign around his neck, hoping to receive some royal help.
While the German trains are known to usually arrive a little late, the train from Berlin actually arrived nearly too early. After a long wait in the rain – long live the umbrella – one could see a helicopter in the air. Around 12.25 pm, the train arrived, and all the press pack could do was wait. The royal and presidential couple were, among others, welcomed by the Mayor of Hamburg, Peter Tschentscher and his wife, Eva Maria Tschentscher. Then they left the railway station, surrounded by a huge group of people, and walked to the nearby memorial.
What looks like a lot of space was quickly filled, and getting a close-up view is hard. Umbrellas and a busy press pack made the area very busy. However, we soon got a good look at what was going on.
King Charles and Queen Camilla met Lisa Sophie Bechner, the Chairwoman of Kindertransport Organisation Germany, who in 2020 was awarded an MBE. They also laid white roses at the memorial in a moving moment.
There was a good turnout for the royal visitors, and so, instead of walking to the cars, the King and Queen then greeted the crowd before leaving for the next stops: the St. Nikolai Memorial Church and the city hall. No time for a break for me – it was all speed ahead to the next stop of the German State Visit.
You can read the next instalment of the historic State Visit to Germany here.
Netty Leistra is a renowned reporter and correspondent and has covered royalty and royal history for over twenty years. She writes extensively for European media and is the editor at Netty Royal and On Royal Tour with Netty.