The Duke of Cambridge met German Chancellor Angela Merkel for the first time at the 70th anniversary gala celebrating the North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) state in Dusseldorf on Tuesday evening (23 August 2016).
Prince William – who visited the fashionable west German city for a series of events honouring the role of the British armed forces since the Second World War – attended a ceremony at the city's Tonhalle with the German stateswoman before they both made speeches.
The gala marked 70 years to the day of the state, which was created on 23 August 1946 by the British Military Government and known as 'Operation Marriage'. A large British military presence has remained in the region – known as British Forces Germany – and played a vital role during the Cold War.
The 34-year-old prince addressed the audience during the celebrations before beginning his statement with a characteristically humble opener.
He said: "Good evening everyone. I'm afraid I don't have much more in the way of German to offer, so I hope you will not mind if I keep the rest of my brief remarks in English."
The Duke's speech was concise yet compassionate. He continued: "We are here tonight to celebrate the 70th birthday of North Rhine-Westphalia. But I am here as well to pay tribute to an extraordinary 70-year partnership between the United Kingdom and the people of this region.
"The last few years have seen nations across Europe mark the end of the Second World War. The battles and suffering have been remembered and we have paid tribute to so many who lost their lives," he added. Read the full speech here.
William – whose wife Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge, and two children, Prince George and Princess Charlotte stayed at home during the event – met with Hamburg-born German Chancellor Merkel before the ceremony.
The 62-year-old former research scientist and Chancellor of Germany since 2005 also spoke some words about the Duke's arrival at the gala and looked bold in a red collarless suit. Merkel has just returned from a post-Brexit meeting in a bid to relaunch the EU project with Italian premier Matteo Renzi and French president Francois Hollande, who also spoke at the gala.
Aside from the speeches, the celebrations also included with musical performances from the likes of an orchestra and short films.
Operation Marriage merged the regions of North Rhine, part of the largely Catholic Rhineland, and the predominantly Protestant Westphalia. This has resulted in a close tie between Britain and the NRW state, which is partially thanks to the continued military presence.
The Duke looked upbeat on his arrival in Dusseldorf yesterday afternoon as he carried out the official visit at the request of the Government. He happily spoke to onlookers and British servicemen before being greeted by Minister-President of North Rhine-Westphalia, Hannelore Kraft.
The official Twitter account for Kensington Palace commentated the Duke's arrival in a series of tweets. One post stated: "The crowds are out in full in #Dusseldorf ahead of The Duke's arrival #NRW70".
Providing some background information on the event, another tweet read: "For 70 years, British Forces Germany played a vital role in NRW, particularly in its reconstruction after WW2, and during the Cold War."