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24 June 2015

As they arrive in Germany, why Queen Elizabeth and Duke of Edinburgh are an inspiration

A punishing schedule for an 89-year-old who remains a priceless asset for Britain

The Queen inspects the Guard of Honour as she and Prince Philip arrive at
Berlin Tegel airport for the start of her state visit to Germany yesterday

Yesterday evening, the Queen and Prince Philip flew to Berlin, responded graciously to formal greetings and reviewed an honour guard. Today, there will be a ceremonial welcome by President Gauck, a boat journey, a meeting with Chancellor Angela Merkel, a wreath-laying at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, a lecture by the Director of the British Museum in Berlin's University of Technology and a State Banquet.

Tomorrow, they will travel with the President and his wife to Frankfurt, visit a church, meet representatives of the local community and hear about the significance of the building as the birthplace of German parliamentary democracy, be guests of honour at a lunch given by the Minister-President of Hesse, do a walk-about in the central square and talk to guests at a Garden Party given by the British Ambassador.

On Friday, after a walk-about in Berlin and a visit to the Brandenburg Gate with the Mayor of Berlin, they will fly to Lower Saxony, visit the harrowing site of Bergen-Belsen, say farewell to locals at the airport and head home. The Queen has never before visited a concentration camp: it was her idea and when there she will meet survivors and liberators.

This is the Queen's 270th foreign visit as head of state and, as always, she will conduct herself with total professionalism and sensitivity.

Prince Philip will do the same, though he may make a joke which some of the media pick up and try to turn into an international incident.

They know the reason they are in Germany is because David Cameron is using them to strengthen the British-German relationship as he embarks on an attempt to find an accommodation with the EU that will persuade a disillusioned British electorate to agree to stay in it.

Though the German ancestry of the Queen and Prince Philip matters, her tremendous popularity in Germany is mainly based on her own personal qualities. She has always been a part of the lives of the tens of thousands of Germans who will turn out to see her on this, her seventh and probably last visit to their country. Her first visit, 50 years ago, lasted 11 days, covered 18 cities and was believed at home and abroad to have made a huge contribution to healing the psychological wounds of war.

Last year, the Queen carried out 393 engagements, Philip 273 (reduced because of a period recovering from surgery), Charles 533 and Princess Anne 528.

The Queen is 89. Prince Philip is 94, Charles is 66 and Anne 64.

Every time they are in the news, social media is full of posts and tweets abusing them as parasites. Have the inhabitants of the UK any idea how lucky we are to have such extraordinary national assets?

Ruth Dudley Edwards

© Ruth Dudley Edwards