How the late Queen annoyed Germany by demanding two horses as gifts

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Elizabeth II with Walter Scheel, then the president of West Germany, in 1978. He agreed to give her the horses to smooth diplomatic relations - DPA/AKG-Images/Picture Alliance
Elizabeth II with Walter Scheel, then the president of West Germany, in 1978. He agreed to give her the horses to smooth diplomatic relations - DPA/AKG-Images/Picture Alliance

Queen Elizabeth II surprised German officials with an “excessive” demand for two prize stallions as a gift during a royal visit in 1978, it has emerged.

Before arriving, the late monarch told the West German government that she would “be delighted” with a gift of two coach horses.

In a detailed wish list, she said that she wanted one Holsteiner of around 17hh, with a coat that was not too light and “under no circumstances too dark”.

She said the other horse should be grey and “not too dirty” in complexion, national archive documents published by Spiegel magazine show.

A German aristocrat who passed on the request said that one of horses was needed to pull the late Queen’s carriage, while another would be used by her husband, the late Duke of Edinburgh, to compete in events.

A German civil servant baulked at the price, describing it as “excessive”, while Germany’s auditing office had “serious reservations”.

The value of the gift, £52,800 in today's money, was the largest ever given by the Bonn republic to a foreign dignitary.

However Walter Scheel, the German president at the time, agreed to the request so that the visit would be “as comfortable as possible for both sides”.

The late Queen visited the country on five different occasions during her reign and was wildly popular among the German public.

Records of plans made for her visit in 1992, also published by Spiegel, show that she also tried to speak in front of the German parliament - something that would have been a first for a monarch in the republic.

But Helmut Kohl, then the German chancellor, appears to have personally blocked the plan.

A letter to the chancellor’s office from a German civil servant informing him of the proposal was returned with “nein!” written on it in red ink.

The late Queen at RAF Gatow, in Berlin, in 1978 - John Dempsie/ANL / Shutterstock
The late Queen at RAF Gatow, in Berlin, in 1978 - John Dempsie/ANL / Shutterstock
A Holsteiner stallion was one of the breeds on Elizabeth II's gift list - Somogyvari
A Holsteiner stallion was one of the breeds on Elizabeth II's gift list - Somogyvari

Mr Kohl, known in Germany as the “father of reunification”, was angered by Margaret Thatcher's misgivings about German unity during the late 1980s.

The decision to snub the late Queen’s efforts to speak in front of the Bundestag could have been late revenge for Thatcher’s efforts to derail reunification, the report in Spiegel speculated.

The late Queen and the late Duke of Edinburgh on their visit to Germany in 1978 - DPA Picture Alliance Archive/Alamy
The late Queen and the late Duke of Edinburgh on their visit to Germany in 1978 - DPA Picture Alliance Archive/Alamy

However, the King will become the first sitting monarch to speak inside the German parliament during his state visit later this week.

It will be the first foreign visit of Charles’s reign after a planned trip to France was postponed because of the unrest there.

The King spoke in front of the Bundestag while still Prince of Wales in 2020, giving his address in fluent German.

The Left-wing Linke Party has called it inappropriate to allow a monarch to talk in a republican debating chamber.

But Charles can bank on the goodwill built up among the German public by his mother.

On her visit in 2015, Germans turned out in droves to catch a last glimpse of Elizabeth II in Berlin.