The first stop on The Duke’s official visit to Lower Saxony was Wolfsburg, home to Europe’s largest carmaker, Volkswagen.
Upon arrival HRH heard about the pivotal role played by a British officer, Major Ivan Hirst, in the reconstruction of VW after the Second World War. The Duke also took the opportunity to inspect a 1951 Beetle.
Next came a briefing on VW’s well-regarded apprenticeship programme, which provides trainees with a mix of academic instruction and workshop application. The Duke learned how Bentley, which was acquired by VW in 1998, is adapting the German model to the benefit of UK apprentices at its plant in Crewe. On the factory floor, HRH met young engineers from Germany and Britain, the latter on secondment from Bentley as part of an exchange of skills and training.
The Duke is in Germany to mark the 300th anniversary of the “Personal Union” of the crowns of Britain and Hanover, which lasted from 1714 until 1837. After lunch, there were echoes of that shared past as HRH paid a visit to Goettingen University, which was founded by George II in 1734. After meeting academic staff and students, including young Britons on exchange programmes, The Duke spoke warmly of the UK’s continuing links with one of Germany’s most prestigious seats of learning.
The historical theme continued with a visit to Lower Saxony State and University Library Goettingen, where HRH was shown treasures including an original Gutenberg Bible and a medieval manuscript detailing military strategies. At Goettingen town hall, parts of which date from 1270, the royal visitor was invited to sign the city’s Golden Book. Mayor Wolfgang Meyer also presented The Duke with a replica of a local statue, which is traditionally kissed by graduating doctoral students. HRH gladly followed the custom.
Responding to the Mayor’s warm welcome, The Duke reflected on Britain’s links with Lower Saxony. He noted: “as far as I’m concerned, I am learning about my family in a way that is truly remarkable.” He expressed hopes that Britain and the Royal Family’s relationship with this part of Germany would become even stronger.
The day ended in Hanover, where HRH enjoyed spectacular evening views from the cupola of the Rathaus, having ascended in the historic and unique “curved lift.” Back on terra firma, The Duke attended a dinner hosted by Hanover’s mayor, Stefan Schostock, which focused on collaboration between the UK and Germany through Science, Technology and Engineering Education.