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Speech by His Majesty the King at the State banquet hosted by His Excellency Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa

22 October 2018

Mr President,

Since our arrival this morning, the Queen and I have had a chance to catch a glimpse of your beautiful capital, on our way to our official meetings.  We thank you for your warm welcome, and the kind words you have just spoken on our behalf.

From the Jerónimos monastery this morning, to the Palace of Ajuda this evening - not forgetting the Santa Maria Maior cathedral, the Sé of Lisbon, of course - we have experienced eight centuries of Portuguese history. It is the history of a great nation, with an enterprising and glorious character.

Over the course of this unrivalled narrative, close ties have been forged between our two countries. Crusaders from our northern regions helped your first King, Alfonso Henriques, to reconquer Lisbon. Philip, the Count of Flanders, married King Alfonso's daughter, Mathilde. During the centuries that followed, our countries were led by the same ruling families, who have continued to create alliances among themselves. I myself have Portuguese blood and my great-grandmother Queen Elizabeth spoke your beautiful language fluently.

Maritime trade has long connected our major port cities, facilitating their rise in a similar fashion. Our peoples have always maintained friendly relations. And today, we still reserve a warm welcome for the nationals of our respective countries. Our soldiers have fought side by side at critical moments in history, and this is still the case in various theatres of action today. On this centenary of the end of the First World War, I would like to pay tribute here to the countless Portuguese soldiers who fought and even sacrificed their lives for the liberation of Belgium.

Portugal is the face of Europe turned towards the West. It is Europe's sphinx-like eyes and destiny. These words, taken from Pessoa, express the irresistible allure of the ocean. We looked down this morning on the Straw Sea and the majestic Vasco da Gama Bridge. We looked out into the distance at Cape Roca, the westernmost tip of the continent of Europe, "where the land ends and the sea begins". And we thought, of course, of your great navigators. Men, who pushed back the boundaries of terra cognita, five hundred years ago.  The pervasiveness of the ocean has led you to open up to the world, to connect to different cultures and encourage the learning of foreign languages. Today, it engenders an unwavering commitment on your part to preserve the oceans and ensure a sustainable use of natural resources.

Portugal is a nation of people who gracefully combine courage and humility. Throughout your history, and especially over the past 50 years, you have borne witness to an unceasing faith in a better future. This inner strength has enabled you to win the battle for democracy, to accede to the European Union, to access the single currency, and to recover from the most recent global financial crisis. This strength is also inherent in those of your compatriots, who have adapted and integrated beyond your borders.

Perhaps the secret of this resilience and these past and future successes lies in "saudade", which your great poet Camões described as "a happiness outside the world". A mixture of wisdom and hope, of regret for what was lost, or what was unobtainable, and of the greatness of individuals who go to the very limits of what is possible.

It is precisely this strength that Europe and the world need today. For more than thirty years, Portugal has been a committed and constructive member of the European Union, at the forefront of a better functioning Union and the necessary reforms. We Portuguese and Belgians share a deep conviction regarding the community of values between all European countries. Your compatriots have distinguished themselves, and continue to do so, at the highest levels of our European institutions. And this is the same clear-sighted and positive energy that we are delighted to see at work today at the head of the United Nations.

Mr President,

The Queen and I, and our entire delegation, are delighted to celebrate with you the deep friendship that unites our two peoples. We sincerely thank you for the eventful programme you have organised for us during this trip.

As your illustrious compatriot Saramago wrote, "The end of one journey is simply the start of another (…). You have to go back to the footsteps already taken, to go over them again or add fresh ones alongside them. You have to start the journey anew. Always". Our state visit is a wonderful milestone in the centuries-old journey, the adventure shared by our two countries. It unites all our energies to build a better future. It is with this conviction that I ask you to please stand for a toast.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I invite you to raise your glass to the President of Portugal.