On the third day of her Germany trip, the Queen visited Frankfurt. Fans waited for Her Majesty for hours and gave her a warm welcome in the summer heat. Elizabeth II. also learned about the cradle of German democracy.
Frankfurt has seen many famous visitors over the years. US-President John F. Kennedy came in 1963 and all German World Cup-winning teams, except for the most recent one, stepped on the Römer balcony to celebrate. But the guest who waved to the crowds from the town hall's balcony on Thursday was still special.
"The Queen's visit electrifies Frankfurt," the city's government spokesman Michael Busser told DW before Her Majesty's four-hour stay in the German banking capital, and Hesse's governor Volker Bouffier said it was an "honor" to receive Queen Elizabeth and her husband Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh.
Tea and gin
It was a big day for the city: even though Her Majesty is on her fifth state visit to Germany, she has never been to Frankfurt. Maybe her husband told her the beautiful Paulsplatz, framed by half-timber houses and the town hall Römer, was a sight not to be missed - Prince Philip visited Frankfurt in 1993.
The crowds were appropriately excited. Among the first to arrive in the square in front of the Römer, from whose balcony the Queen would later wave, was Klaus Del Ponte. He set up his picnic table around 10 am. With a thermos full of tea and the original "Illustrated London News" from Elizabeth's coronation in 1953, the male nurse from Frankfurt was the picture of a British gentleman.
Donald Berube looked a little more unconventional. The member of the "Queen Mum Club," which meets every Tuesday in a Frankfurt gay bar to drink gin, wore Lederhosen and carried a welcome sign for the Queen adorned with the rainbow flag. "When the Chinese tourists come, maybe I can make some money," he joked.
But said tourists were dressed up themselves. A Chinese mother wore a skirt sporting the famous red London buses, her two small sons waved home-made Union Jack flags.
A little history before lunch
The Queen's arrival at Frankfurt airport was broadcast on a big screen. When the crowds finally caught their first real glimpse of the Queen and Prince Philip in front of the Paulskirche (Paul's Church) they madly waved little German, Hessian and British flags that were handed out earlier for free. The couple, accompanied by German President Joachim Gauck, his partner Daniela Schadt, Frankfurt's mayor and Hesse's governor and his wife, was only seen for a few seconds before they disappeared into the building.
Supposedly, the wish to visit the Paulskirche came from Buckingham Palace. The church is considered the cradle of German democracy. The members of the Frankfurter Nationalversammlung, the first democratically elected assembly in the German states, gathered here in 1848.
The Queen was also shown the "Goldene Bulle," the book of law of the Roman Empire, which designated Frankfurt as the place where all German kings should be chosen from 1356.
After that, the Queen, Prince Philip and their hosts walked to the Römer, where they had lunch (or rather a "mid-day banquet" as it was officially called) with 120 hand-picked guests ranging from her royal German relatives, the British ambassador and European Central Bank President Mario Draghi to some very lucky "regular folks."
Strict safety regulations
The royal guests were served a wine from 1953, the Queen's coronation year, and a selection of regional specialties including Frankfurt green herb sauce, veal from Frankfurt and a variation of apple-themed desserts.
"The old lady had to turn 89 years old to finally get some good food!" Karl, a 63-year-old from Hesse, said with a laugh when told what food Queen Elizabeth would eat at her banquet. Fans waiting in the square to see her would have been happy enough with some water. All bottles had to be relinquished at the police barrier around the inner circle right in front of the balcony, so that no one could attempt to hurl them at Her Majesty later.
The question most asked of Michael Busser by those invited to the lunch: What should I wear? "The ladies were especially concerned about which hat to choose," Busse said with a laugh. He emphasized that keeping with the right etiquette was much more important. Only speak to the Queen when spoken to, only shake her hand if she extends it first. Curtsying isn't required but considered polite.
Klaus Berube and his club-mates invited the Queen to have gin with them, but her personal secretary declined
Busser himself was at the lunch as well, but didn't know in advance whether he would actually get to meet the Queen face-to-face. "Should I be introduced to her, I would definitely bow, no question," he said, admitting he was quite nervous and excited before the big day.
The excitement among the people in Paulsplatz waned a little bit after the royal couple, along with the German dignitaries, had disappeared into the Römer. For around two hours, there was nothing to do but wait in the burning sun. An elderly woman couldn't cope with the heat and had to be carried away by police.
The grand, short finale
But the closer 2:40pm came, the announced time for Her Majesty to step out onto the balcony, the more the mood improved. A group spontaneously started singing "God save the Queen" and the square finally went from half-empty to full.
When Queen Elizabeth finally stepped onto the balcony, it was hard to see her for all the cameras, phones and tablets held up to capture the moment. She smiled, she waved, and after about a minute, it was all over.
"I stood here for three hours for this?" a young man complained to his girlfriend. But Great Britain aficionado and Queen fan Klaus Del Ponte was ecstatic. "I'm still a bit enchanted," he said afterwards. Chances are he will cherish this day for the rest of his life.