BERLIN — Queen Elizabeth II received a lavish welcome Tuesday at the start of a three-day state visit that will reconnect the 89-year-old British monarch with her German roots and include a tete-a-tete with Chancellor Angela Merkel.
On her fifth state visit to Germany, the queen and her husband, Prince Philip, 94, will make their first official trip to a World War II-era concentration camp, visiting a memorial at Bergen-Belsen, in Lower Saxony, where the young diarist Anne Frank died in February 1945.
On the international jaunt — increasingly rare for the aging monarch — the couple are also slated to make a stop in Frankfurt.
Germany, meanwhile, braced for a blast of royal pomp.
A military honor guard greeted the queen and Philip at Berlin’s Tegel Airport. Artillery gunners fired a 21-gun salute, and fighter jets flew overhead in ceremonial formation. The two were later driven to the capital’s Hotel Adlon, overlooking the Brandenburg Gate.
The German tabloid Bild supplemented its print edition Tuesday with a poster of the queen in a bright-pink outfit and a matching hat alongside the caption “Herzlich Willkommen, Ma’am!” (“Warm Welcome, Ma’am!”). The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung hailed the “Royal High Five” in a headline accompanied by a photo of the queen’s trademark wave (more of a hand pivot, really.)
The welcome underscored the bang for their buck the British still get out of their royal family, which tends to generate goodwill and crowds waving Union Jacks on international trips. Yet the queen’s visit also takes place at a particularly important time. Before the end of 2017, Britain is set to hold a referendum on whether it will stay in the 28-nation European Union — a bloc increasingly dominated by its economic powerhouse, Germany.
The queen, a constitutional monarch who is expected to stay out of politics, nevertheless could be a good lobbying target for Merkel, who is eager to see Britain stay in the fold.
In keeping with tradition, neither Buckingham Palace nor German officials would offer details of the agenda for the queen’s planned conversation with Merkel on Wednesday. But the chancellor hinted in her weekly podcast that she might raise the thorny question of Britain’s future in Europe.
“I do wish for Great Britain to stay in the European Union,” Merkel said, later adding: “But we will of course discuss what ideas the British government has in order for such a referendum to be successful.”
The queen is scheduled to take a boat trip down Berlin’s Spree River on Wednesday and to be feted at a belated birthday bash in the capital. Local papers in Frankfurt and Berlin were advising readers where to best catch a glimpse of the queen and what to do in case of a chance encounter. The list includes: no selfies; never introduce yourself first; men bow their heads; women curtsy.
Bild commentator Franz Josef Wagner could barely contain his excitement about the queen’s visit.
“She is the mother of fairy tales. Everyone in Germany will be enchanted. We will forget our iPhones, iPads . . . the postal service strike and everything stupid. We will be kids again.”
The British have not always been as enthusiastic about their royal family’s German roots. Britain’s current royal house, the House of Windsor, was formerly known as the House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha but was renamed during World War I in deference to anti-German sentiment in Britain.
The queen is the great-great-granddaughter of Prince Albert, a German-born aristocrat of royal lineage who was married to Queen Victoria.
Citing an unnamed source, Britain’s Daily Mail said that the queen would not be speaking German on the trip, “maybe to avoid stirring up pesky republicans by reminding them how the Royal Family changed their name.”
Karla Adam in London contributed to this report.