Queen Camilla draws the Gruffalo after reading the book to Hamburg schoolchildren

·6-min read
Queen Camilla - Samir Hussein/WireImage
Queen Camilla - Samir Hussein/WireImage

Attempting to draw the Gruffalo in front of its acclaimed creator, Axel Scheffler, must have been more than a little daunting.

But Julia Donaldson’s classic is one of the Queen Consort’s favourite children’s books and she was clearly familiar with her subject’s purple prickles and knobbly knees.

After reading passages of the book to children at a primary school in Hamburg, Camilla made a valiant attempt at drawing the beast herself.

After carefully following instructions from illustrator Mr Scheffler, a Hamburg native, she proudly held her effort aloft and said: “This is my Gruffalo.”

Mr Scheffler, an ardent campaigner against Brexit, wore his Drawing Europe Together EU badge featuring a blue owl with a European flag design on its breast.

The illustrator, who was born in the German city but lives in the UK, launched a project to promote Europe through drawing in 2017.

He said at the time: “I strongly believe that it’s completely wrong to break the collaboration and the sense of togetherness in Europe, and that’s something I wanted to speak up about.

“I’m full of anger and sadness and disbelief about this whole mess. I came here as an EU citizen to study because it was possible, and over 35 years it has been my home. Now all that has been brought into question.”

The event with Mr Scheffler was one of the final engagements of the King and Queen Consort’s three-day state visit to Germany.

Camilla Hamburg - Samir Hussein/WireImage
Camilla Hamburg - Samir Hussein/WireImage

One of the key themes of the visit was reconciliation and the monarch did not shy away from recognising the horrors of war committed by both sides.

If earlier engagements were packed with light-hearted moments such as an attempt at cheese making and sampling organic produce at a market, Friday was dedicated to sombre reflection.

The King and Queen Consort paid an emotional visit to a Hamburg memorial honouring the UK-led kindertransport rescue mission that saved thousands of Jewish children from the Holocaust.

The couple went on to acknowledge the huge number of Germans who perished at the hands of the Allies.

Standing silently in the ruins of a Hamburg church, Charles stood shoulder to shoulder with Germany's President, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, as they laid wreaths in remembrance of the victims of war.

charles hamburg - Annegret Hilse/Reuters
charles hamburg - Annegret Hilse/Reuters

In July 1943, Allied leaders approved a mission to target the workers in Hamburg’s military factories. More than 40,000 were killed in eight days.

The towering spire of St Nikolai Memorial Church was a landmark used by the bomber crews who destroyed the city port but its ruins have now become a memorial to the dead.

Floral wreaths from the King, the President and Hamburg Mayor Peter Tschentscher were already lying in place and the three men each stepped forward to touch them before pausing for a moment of contemplation.

The King’s wreath of poppies featured a handwritten card with the poignant message “In everlasting remembrance“ with the same words in German below and the signature “Charles R”.

Coventry Cathedral was also destroyed during a Second World War bombing raid by the Nazis and Lutheran Bishop Kirsten Fehrs read the famous Coventry Litany of Reconciliation.

Before reading the poignant words she told those gathered: “At this special place of remembrance where 80 years ago under National Socialism this church was destroyed by bombs.

“We stand in solidarity with people throughout the world who strive for reconciliation in the face of violence and war, [we are] deeply grateful for this moment of unity.”

Camilla, who wore an Anna Valentine coat pinned with a Queen Victoria brooch, a wedding gift from Prince Albert, left her own tribute of a single white rose.

King and Queen Hamburg - Ronny Hartmann/AFP via Getty Images
King and Queen Hamburg - Ronny Hartmann/AFP via Getty Images

She had earlier laid a white rose on the bronze Final Parting kindertransport sculpture, which was erected in 2015 and depicts two groups of children – those who were evacuated to new lives abroad and the thousands transported by train to concentration camps.

Created by Frank Meisler, it is one of five such installations across Europe, one of which is at Liverpool Street Station in London.

Lisa Bechner, a second generation survivor who was awarded an honorary MBE in 2022 for services to UK-Germany relations and the British commemoration of the kindertransport rescue effort, said: “Even as Prince of Wales, the King was very supportive and people from the kindertransport scheme memorial meet every five years at Buckingham Palace or St James’s Palace.

“Now, with this Royal visit, it is the first time the German government are showing appreciation of the sculptures and that is why it is important.”

Between November 1938 and August 1939, thousands of children were bundled onto trains and travelled unaccompanied by their parents to countries whose language and culture they did not know. Few saw their families again.

The UK continued to accept children and young people until 1943, taking in 10,000 in total.

Charles and Camilla had taken a train from Berlin to Hamburg for the last day of the historic state visit.

The couple were given a rapturous reception as they stepped on to the balcony at Hamburg City Hall, where they were greeted by huge cheers.

King Hamburg - Chris Jackson/Getty Images
King Hamburg - Chris Jackson/Getty Images

They were accompanied by President Steinmeier, who joked: “Your Majesty, your speech now?”

It was perhaps not lost on the couple that their next appearance on a balcony will be at Buckingham Palace on May 6, the day of the coronation.

One devoted fan went to such lengths to see the royal couple that by their third encounter, the King recognised him.
Bjoern von der Ohe, a 60-year-old lawyer, greeted the monarch outside Hamburg City Hall.

“It’s a great honour to meet you,” he said, only for Charles to reply “Again!”

He had previously seen them twice in Berlin – both of them at the market and the Queen Consort at the refugee centre.

King and Queen Hamburg - Maja Hitij/Getty Images
King and Queen Hamburg - Maja Hitij/Getty Images

Meanwhile, the King admitted he was becoming “a frustrated old man” over attitudes to the global climate emergency.
On a boat ride around Hamburg’s sprawling harbour to view a state-of-the-art electrolyser site, he said the world must rely on the younger generation in order to avert an environmental catastrophe in the next few years.

Speaking to President Steinmeier, Charles said: “I’m becoming a frustrated old man. It all seems obvious to me.

“The younger generation know, certainly.”

The King’s late mother, Queen Elizabeth II, completed 121 state visits. For him, it was just the first.

Germany was never meant to play host to such an historic moment but given the warmth with which he was received at every turn, it may in the end be considered fortuitous.

The King and Queen Consort were deployed to renew the close ties that bind Anglo-German relations and the successful deployment of this soft power was tangible throughout the visit.

As they battled their way through huge crowds, their smiles never faltered.

Whether sketching the Gruffalo, attending a white tie state banquet or addressing the Bundestag in German, the couple were met with cheers at every turn.

The repeated cries of “God Save the King” as they went perhaps said it all.