Prince William, his wife Kate, and their children Prince George and Princess Charlotte are on a visit to Poland to build ties between the countries. It comes as the fates of the near one million Poles living in the UK are as yet undetermined in Brexit talks between the UK and EU.
Prince William said deep and broad Polish-British ties “go back centuries” and that “diplomatic, military, cultural [ties] offer promise and opportunity for the future”.
“Links between Britain and Poland go back centuries and are steeped in a rich history of cultural exchange and close commercial relations,” he said.
Ahead of his visit to the Shakespeare Theatre in Gdańsk, northern Poland, on Tuesday, Prince William said that the 16th-century English playwright’s work had been staged in Poland shortly after their London premieres, and at about the same time as grain merchants were forging trade routes between the countries.
During his speech, the British royal also pointed to Poland's turbulent history, which included more than one hundred years of foreign occupation during which Poland disappeared from the map of Europe, followed by another occupation by Nazi Germany only two decades after regaining independence, and a later communist dictatorship.
“Poland threw off the authoritarian shackles,” Prince William said.
“We admire Poland as a remarkable example of courage, fortitude and resilience,” he added.
Prince William and Kate on Monday toured the Warsaw Uprising museum, dedicated to the failed uprising to liberate Warsaw in 1944, and spoke to WWII veterans. On Tuesday they were to visit the site of a former Nazi German concentration camp near Gdańsk.
Prince William said Poland and the UK were NATO allies and that British troops have been stationed in Poland for the first time since WWII.
NATO decided in 2016 to bolster its eastern flank.
Prince William also read a letter from his grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II, in which she said ties between Poland and the UK date nearly a millennium.
She also said her memories of her 1996 trip to Poland were very fond.
“It gives me great pleasure that the friendship between our two nations and peoples has gone from strength to strength. I have no doubt it will continue to prosper in years to come,” the queen’s letter said. (vb/pk)