Swiss Guards

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Soldier and officer of the Gardes Suisses in French service in 1757 Gardes Suisses Marbot.jpg
Soldier and officer of the Gardes Suisses in French service in 1757

Swiss Guards (French : Gardes Suisses; German : Schweizergarde) are the Swiss soldiers who have served as guards at foreign European courts since the late 15th century.

French language Romance language

French is a Romance language of the Indo-European family. It descended from the Vulgar Latin of the Roman Empire, as did all Romance languages. French evolved from Gallo-Romance, the spoken Latin in Gaul, and more specifically in Northern Gaul. Its closest relatives are the other langues d'oïl—languages historically spoken in northern France and in southern Belgium, which French (Francien) has largely supplanted. French was also influenced by native Celtic languages of Northern Roman Gaul like Gallia Belgica and by the (Germanic) Frankish language of the post-Roman Frankish invaders. Today, owing to France's past overseas expansion, there are numerous French-based creole languages, most notably Haitian Creole. A French-speaking person or nation may be referred to as Francophone in both English and French.

German language West Germanic language

German is a West Germanic language that is mainly spoken in Central Europe. It is the most widely spoken and official or co-official language in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, South Tyrol in Italy, the German-speaking Community of Belgium, and Liechtenstein. It is also one of the three official languages of Luxembourg and a co-official language in the Opole Voivodeship in Poland. The languages which are most similar to German are the other members of the West Germanic language branch: Afrikaans, Dutch, English, the Frisian languages, Low German/Low Saxon, Luxembourgish, and Yiddish. There are also strong similarities in vocabulary with Danish, Norwegian and Swedish, although those belong to the North Germanic group. German is the second most widely spoken Germanic language, after English.

Switzerland federal republic in Central Europe

Switzerland, officially the Swiss Confederation, is a sovereign state situated in the confluence of western, central, and southern Europe. It is a federal republic composed of 26 cantons, with federal authorities seated in Bern. Switzerland is a landlocked country bordered by Italy to the south, France to the west, Germany to the north, and Austria and Liechtenstein to the east. It is geographically divided between the Alps, the Swiss Plateau and the Jura, spanning a total area of 41,285 km2 (15,940 sq mi), and land area of 39,997 km2 (15,443 sq mi). While the Alps occupy the greater part of the territory, the Swiss population of approximately 8.5 million is concentrated mostly on the plateau, where the largest cities are located, among them the two global cities and economic centres of Zürich and Geneva.

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Foreign military service was outlawed by the revised Swiss Federal Constitution of 1874, with the only exception being the Pontifical Swiss Guard (Latin : Pontificia Cohors Helvetica, Cohors Pedestris Helvetiorum a Sacra Custodia Pontificis; Italian : Guardia Svizzera Pontificia) stationed in Vatican City. The modern Papal Swiss Guard serves as both a ceremonial unit and a bodyguard. Established in 1506, it is one of the oldest military units in the world. It is also the smallest army in the world. [1]

Swiss Federal Constitution Constitution of the Swiss Confederation

The Federal Constitution of the Swiss Confederation of 18 April 1999 is the third and current federal constitution of Switzerland. It establishes the Swiss Confederation as a federal republic of 26 cantons (states). The document contains a catalogue of individual and popular rights, delineates the responsibilities of the cantons and the Confederation and establishes the federal authorities of government.

Italian language Romance language

Italian is a Romance language of the Indo-European language family. Italian descended from the Vulgar Latin of the Roman Empire and, together with Sardinian, is by most measures the closest language to it of the Romance languages. Italian is an official language in Italy, Switzerland, San Marino and Vatican City. It has an official minority status in western Istria. It formerly had official status in Albania, Malta, Monaco, Montenegro (Kotor) and Greece, and is generally understood in Corsica and Savoie. It also used to be an official language in the former Italian East Africa and Italian North Africa, where it still plays a significant role in various sectors. Italian is also spoken by large expatriate communities in the Americas and Australia. Italian is included under the languages covered by the European Charter for Regional or Minority languages in Bosnia and Herzegovina and in Romania, although Italian is neither a co-official nor a regional or a traditional language in these countries, where Italians do not represent a historical minority. In the case of Romania, Italian is listed by the Government along 10 other languages which supposedly receive a "general protection", but not between those which should be granted an "advanced or enhanced" one. Many speakers of Italian are native bilinguals of both Italian and other regional languages.

Vatican City Independent city-state within Rome, Italy

Vatican City, officially Vatican City State, is an independent city-state enclaved within Rome, Italy. Established with the Lateran Treaty (1929), it is distinct from yet under "full ownership, exclusive dominion, and sovereign authority and jurisdiction" of the Holy See. With an area of 44 hectares, and a population of about 1,000, it is the smallest sovereign state in the world by both area and population.

The earliest Swiss guard unit to be established on a permanent basis was the Hundred Swiss (Cent Suisses), which served at the French court from 1490 to 1817. This small force was complemented in 1567 by a Swiss Guards regiment. In the 18th and early 19th centuries several other Swiss Guard units existed for periods in various European courts.

In addition to small household and palace units, Swiss mercenary regiments have served as regular line troops in various armies; notably those of France, Spain and Naples (see Swiss mercenaries). They were considered the most effective mercenaries of the 15th century until the Landsknechte (German mercenary pikemen) outmatched the Swiss battle-drill. At the Battle of Marignano (1515), the Landsknechte in French service defeated the Swiss pikemen, ending their pre-eminence.

Swiss mercenaries Swiss mercenaries in European armies

Swiss mercenaries (Reisläufer) were notable for their service in foreign armies, especially the armies of the Kings of France, throughout the Early Modern period of European history, from the Later Middle Ages into the Age of the European Enlightenment. Their service as mercenaries was at its peak during the Renaissance, when their proven battlefield capabilities made them sought-after mercenary troops. There followed a period of decline, as technological and organizational advances counteracted the Swiss' advantages. Switzerland's military isolationism largely put an end to organized mercenary activity; the principal remnant of the practice is the Pontifical Swiss Guard at the Vatican.

France Republic with majority of territory in Europe and numerous oversea territories around the world

France, officially the French Republic, is a sovereign state whose territory consists of metropolitan France in Western Europe and several overseas regions and territories. The metropolitan area of France extends from the Mediterranean Sea to the English Channel and the North Sea, and from the Rhine to the Atlantic Ocean. It is bordered by Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany to the northeast, Switzerland and Italy to the east, and Andorra and Spain to the south. The overseas territories include French Guiana in South America and several islands in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans. The country's 18 integral regions span a combined area of 643,801 square kilometres (248,573 sq mi) and a total population of 67.0 million. France is a unitary semi-presidential republic with its capital in Paris, the country's largest city and main cultural and commercial centre. Other major urban areas include Lyon, Marseille, Toulouse, Bordeaux, Lille and Nice.

Spain Kingdom in Southwest Europe

Spain, officially the Kingdom of Spain, is a country mostly located in Europe. Its continental European territory is situated on the Iberian Peninsula. Its territory also includes two archipelagoes: the Canary Islands off the coast of Africa, and the Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean Sea. The African enclaves of Ceuta, Melilla, and Peñón de Vélez de la Gomera make Spain the only European country to have a physical border with an African country (Morocco). Several small islands in the Alboran Sea are also part of Spanish territory. The country's mainland is bordered to the south and east by the Mediterranean Sea except for a small land boundary with Gibraltar; to the north and northeast by France, Andorra, and the Bay of Biscay; and to the west and northwest by Portugal and the Atlantic Ocean.

In France

Grenadier of the Swiss Guard in France, 1779 Zentralbibliothek Solothurn - Garde Suisse en 1779 - a0417.tif
Grenadier of the Swiss Guard in France, 1779

There were two different corps of Swiss mercenaries performing guard duties for the Kings of France: the Hundred Swiss (Cent Suisses), serving within the Palace as essentially bodyguards and ceremonial troops, [2] and the Swiss Guards (Gardes Suisses), guarding the entrances and outer perimeter. In addition the Gardes Suisses served in the field as a fighting regiment in times of war. [3]

Francis I of France used some 120,000 Swiss mercenaries in the Italian Wars. After the Perpetual Peace of 1516, a separate Soldbündnis or service pact between the Swiss Confederacy and the kingdom of France was concluded in 1521, allowing the service of Swiss mercenary regiments as regular parts of the French armed forces. This arrangement outlasted three centuries, with four Swiss regiments participating in the French invasion of Russia in 1812, foreign military service of Swiss citizens being finally outlawed in 1848 with the formation of Switzerland as a federal state.

Francis I of France King of France

Francis I was King of France from 1515 until his death in 1547. He was the son of Charles, Count of Angoulême, and Louise of Savoy. He succeeded his cousin and father-in-law Louis XII, who died without a son. Francis was the ninth king from the House of Valois, the second from the Valois-Orléans branch, and the first from the Valois-Orléans-Angoulême branch.

Italian Wars Wars in Italy from the 15th to 16th centuries

The Italian Wars, often referred to as the Great Wars of Italy and sometimes as the Habsburg–Valois Wars, were a series of Renaissance conflicts that involved most of the Italian states as well as France, the Holy Roman Empire, Spain, England and the Ottoman Empire. The wars followed the end of the 40-years long Peace of Lodi agreed in 1454 with the formation of an Italic League between the Republic of Venice, the Duchy of Milan, Medici Florence, the Kingdom of Naples and the Papal States. The collapse of the alliance in the 1490s made Renaissance Italy, economically advanced but politically divided, the main battleground for supremacy in Europe.

French invasion of Russia Napoleon Bonapartes attempted conquest of the Russian Empire

The French invasion of Russia, known in Russia as the Patriotic War of 1812 and in France as the Russian Campaign, began on 24 June 1812 when Napoleon's Grande Armée crossed the Neman River in an attempt to engage and defeat the Russian army. Napoleon hoped to compel the Emperor of All Russia, Alexander I, to cease trading with British merchants through proxies in an effort to pressure the United Kingdom to sue for peace. The official political aim of the campaign was to liberate Poland from the threat of Russia. Napoleon named the campaign the Second Polish War to gain favor with the Poles and to provide a political pretext for his actions.

Hundred Swiss (Cent Suisses)

The Hundred Swiss were created in 1480 when Louis XI retained a Swiss company for his personal guard. [4] By 1496 they comprised one hundred guardsmen plus about twenty-seven officers and sergeants. Their main role was the protection of the King within the palace as the garde du dedans du Louvre (the Louvre indoor guard), but in the earlier part of their history they accompanied the King to war. In the Battle of Pavia (1525) the Hundred Swiss of Francis I of France were slain before Francis was captured by the Spanish. The Hundred Swiss shared the indoor guard with the King's Bodyguards ( Garde du Corps ), who were Frenchmen.

Battle of Pavia 1525 battle during the Italian War of 1521–1526

The Battle of Pavia, fought on the morning of 24 February 1525, was the decisive engagement of the Italian War of 1521–26.

Garde du Corps (France)

The Gardes-du-Corps was the senior formation of the King of France's Household Cavalry within the Maison militaire du roi de France.

The Hundred Swiss were armed with halberds, the blade of which carried the Royal arms in gold, as well as gold-hilted swords. Their ceremonial dress as worn until 1789 comprised an elaborate 16th century Swiss costume covered with braiding and livery lace. A less ornate dark blue and red uniform with bearskin headdress was worn for ordinary duties. [5]

The Cent Suisses company was disbanded after Louis XVI of France left the Palace of Versailles in October 1789. It was, however, refounded on 15 July 1814 with an establishment of 136 guardsmen and eight officers. The Hundred Swiss accompanied Louis XVIII into exile in Belgium the following year and returned with him to Paris following the Battle of Waterloo. The unit then resumed its traditional role of palace guards at the Tuileries but in 1817 it was replaced by a new guard company drawn from the French regiments of the Royal Guard. [6]

Swiss Guards (Gardes Suisses)

Reg des Gardes suisses.png
Regimental flag of the Swiss Guards
Gardes suisses 1750.png
Uniform of the Swiss Guards c. 1750

In 1616, Louis XIII of France gave a regiment of Swiss infantry the name of Gardes suisses (Swiss Guards). The new regiment had the primary role of protecting the doors, gates and outer perimeters of the various royal palaces. [7] In its early years this unit was officially a regiment of the line, but it was generally regarded as part of the Maison militaire du roi de France.

During the 17th and 18th centuries the Swiss Guards maintained a reputation for discipline and steadiness in both peacetime service and foreign campaigning. Their officers were all Swiss and their rate of pay substantially higher than that of the regular French soldiers. [8] Internal discipline was maintained according to Swiss codes which were significantly harsher than those of the regular French Army.

By the end of the 17th century the Swiss Guards were formally part of the Maison militaire du roi. [9] As such they were brigaded with the Regiment of French Guards ( Gardes Françaises ), with whom they shared the outer guard, and were in peace-time stationed in barracks on the outskirts of Paris. Like the eleven Swiss regiments of line infantry in French service, the Gardes suisses wore red coats. The line regiments had black, yellow or light blue facings but the Swiss Guards were distinguished by dark blue lapels and cuffs edged in white embroidery. Only the grenadier company wore bearskins while the other companies wore the standard tricorn headdress of the French infantry. [10] The Guards were recruited from all the Swiss cantons. The nominal establishment was 1,600 men though actual numbers normally seem to have been below this.

During the Revolution

Massacre of the Swiss Guards Jean Duplessi-Bertaux 001.jpg
Massacre of the Swiss Guards
Swiss Guards on the grand staircase of the palace during the storming of the Tuileries Tuileries Henri Motte.jpg
Swiss Guards on the grand staircase of the palace during the storming of the Tuileries

The most famous episode in the history of the Swiss Guards was their defence of the Tuileries Palace in central Paris during the French Revolution. Of the nine hundred Swiss Guards defending the Palace on 10 August 1792, about six hundred were killed during the fighting or massacred after surrender. One group of sixty Swiss were taken as prisoners to the Paris City Hall before being killed by the crowd there. [11] An estimated hundred and sixty more died in prison of their wounds, or were killed during the September Massacres that followed. Apart from less than a hundred Swiss who escaped from the Tuileries, some hidden by sympathetic Parisians, the only survivors of the regiment were a three-hundred-strong [12] detachment that had been sent to Normandy to escort grain convoys a few days before 10 August. [13] The Swiss officers were mostly amongst those massacred, although Major Karl Josef von Bachmann in command at the Tuileries was formally tried and guillotined in September, still wearing his red uniform coat. Two Swiss officers, the captains Henri de Salis and Joseph Zimmermann, did however survive and went on to reach senior rank under Napoleon and the Restoration. [13]

The Lion Monument in Lucerne. The incised Latin may be translated, "To the loyalty and courage of the Swiss". Lionmonumentlucerne.jpg
The Lion Monument in Lucerne. The incised Latin may be translated, "To the loyalty and courage of the Swiss".

There appears to be no truth in the charge that Louis XVI caused the defeat and destruction of the Guards by ordering them to lay down their arms when they could still have held the Tuileries. Rather, the Swiss ran low on ammunition and were overwhelmed by superior numbers when fighting broke out spontaneously after the Royal Family had been escorted from the Palace to take refuge with the National Assembly. A note has survived written by the King ordering the Swiss to retire from the Palace and return to their barracks but this was only acted on after their position had become untenable. The regimental standards had been secretly buried by the adjutant shortly before the regiment was summoned to the Tuileries on the night of 8/9 August, indicating that the likely end was foreseen. They were discovered by a gardener and ceremoniously burned by the new Republican authorities on 14 August. [14] The barracks of the Guard at Courbevoie were stormed by the local National Guard and the few Swiss still on duty there also killed. [13]

The heroic but futile [11] stand of the Swiss is commemorated by Bertel Thorvaldsen's Lion Monument in Lucerne, dedicated in 1821, which shows a dying lion collapsed upon broken symbols of the French monarchy. An inscription on the monument lists the twenty-six Swiss officers who died on 10 August and 2–3 September 1792, and records that approximately 760 Swiss Guardsmen were killed on those days. [15]

Swiss Guards during the July Revolution Louvre 1830.jpg
Swiss Guards during the July Revolution

Following the Restoration

The French Revolution abolished mercenary troops in its citizen army, but Napoleon and the Bourbon Restoration both made use of Swiss troops. Four Swiss infantry regiments were employed by Napoleon, serving in both Spain and Russia. Two of the eight infantry regiments included in the Garde Royale from 1815 to 1830 were Swiss and can be regarded as successors of the old Gardes suisses. When the Tuileries was stormed again, in the July Revolution (29 July 1830), the Swiss regiments, fearful of another massacre, were withdrawn or melted into the crowd. They were not used again. In 1831 disbanded veterans of the Swiss regiments and another foreign unit, the Hohenlohe Regiment, were recruited into the newly raised French Foreign Legion for service in Algeria. [16]

Pontifical Swiss Guard

The Pontifical Swiss Guard (German : Päpstliche Schweizergarde; French : Garde suisse pontificale; Italian : Guardia Svizzera Pontificia; Latin: Pontificia Cohors Helvetica or Cohors Pedestris Helvetiorum a Sacra Custodia Pontificis) is an exception to the Swiss rulings of 1874 and 1927. A small force maintained by the Holy See, it is responsible for the safety of the Pope, including the security of the Apostolic Palace. The Swiss Guard serves as the de facto military of Vatican City.

In other European states

Franz Rudolf Frisching, Colonel of the Swiss Guards in the Netherlands, painted by Jean Preudhomme in 1785 Franz Rudolf Frisching.jpg
Franz Rudolf Frisching, Colonel of the Swiss Guards in the Netherlands, painted by Jean Preudhomme in 1785
The famous red-black Swiss Gate (Schweizertor) at the Hofburg Palace, Vienna Hofburg Schweizertor 5.2006.jpg
The famous red-black Swiss Gate (Schweizertor) at the Hofburg Palace, Vienna

Swiss Guard units similar to those of France were in existence at several other Royal Courts at the dates indicated below:

Swiss constitutional prohibition

The Swiss constitution, as amended in 1874, forbade all military capitulations and recruitment of Swiss by foreign powers, [17] although volunteering in foreign armies continued until prohibited outright in 1927. The Papal Swiss Guard (see above) remains an exception to this prohibition, reflecting the unique political status of the Vatican and the bodyguard-like role of the unit.

When writing Hamlet , Shakespeare assumed (perhaps relying on his sources) that the royal house of Denmark employed a Swiss Guard: In Act IV, Scene v (line 98) he has King Claudius exclaim "Where are my Switzers? Let them guard the door". [18] However, it may also be due to the word "Swiss" having become a generic term for a royal guard in popular European usage. Coincidentally, the present-day gatekeepers of the royal palace of Copenhagen are known as schweizere, "Swiss". [19]

See also

Related Research Articles

Grenadier infantry soldier armed with grenades or a grenade launcher

A grenadier was originally a specialized soldier, first established as a distinct role in the mid-to-late 17th century, for the throwing of grenades and sometimes assault operations. At that time grenadiers were chosen from the strongest and largest soldiers. By the 18th century, dedicated grenade throwing of this sort was no longer relevant, but grenadiers were still chosen for being the most physically powerful soldiers and would lead assaults in the field of battle. Grenadiers would also often lead the storming of fortification breaches in siege warfare, although this role was more usually fulfilled by all-arm units of volunteers called forlorn hopes, and might also be fulfilled by sappers or pioneers.

Republican Guard (France) security branch of Frances Gendarmerie responsible for Paris-area security and honor guards

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Foot guards senior infantry regiments in some militaries

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Spahi specific type of light cavalry, used by France and some other countries

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Flight of the Wild Geese

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Irish Brigade (France)

The Irish Brigade was a brigade in the French Royal Army composed of Irish exiles, led by Lord Mountcashel. It was formed in May 1690 when five Jacobite regiments were sent from Ireland to France in exchange for a larger force of French infantry who were sent to fight in the Williamite War in Ireland. The regiments comprising the Irish Brigade retained their special status as foreign units in the French Army until nationalised in 1791.

Royal guard group of military bodyguards for protection of royal person

A royal guard describes any group of military bodyguards, soldiers or armed retainers responsible for the protection of a royal person, such as the emperor or empress, king or queen, or prince or princess. They often are an elite unit of the regular armed forces, or are designated as such, and may maintain special rights or privileges.

Gardes Françaises regiment

The French Guards were an infantry regiment of the Military Household of the King of France under the Ancien Régime.

Tirailleur type of light infantry

A tirailleur, in the Napoleonic era, was a type of light infantry trained to skirmish ahead of the main columns. Subsequently tirailleurs was used by the French Army as a designation for infantry recruited in the French colonial territories during the 19th and 20th centuries, or for metropolitan units serving in a light infantry role.

Facing colour

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Garde Écossaise

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Walloon Guards

The Walloon Guards were an infantry corps recruited for the Spanish Army in the region now known as Belgium, mainly from Catholic Wallonia. As foreign troops without direct ties amongst the Spanish population, the Walloons were often tasked with the maintenance of public order, eventually being incorporated as a regiment of the Spanish Royal Guard.

<i>Lion Monument</i> Sculpture in Lucerne by Bertel Thorvaldsen

The Lion Monument, or the Lion of Lucerne, is a rock relief in Lucerne, Switzerland, designed by Bertel Thorvaldsen and hewn in 1820–21 by Lukas Ahorn. It commemorates the Swiss Guards who were massacred in 1792 during the French Revolution, when revolutionaries stormed the Tuileries Palace in Paris.

Karl Josef von Bachmann Swiss aristocrat and soldier

Baron Karl Joseph Anton Leodegar von Bachmann was a Swiss aristocrat and soldier.

When the National Constituent Assembly dissolved itself on 3 September 1791, it decreed as a final measure that King Louis XVI should have a Constitutional Guard, also known as the garde Brissac after its commander Louis Hercule Timolon de Cossé, duc de Brissac. This guard's formation was the only court reform to be put into effect, but it only lasted a few months, being superseded by the National Guard.

Maison militaire du roi de France Military branch of the French royal household

The maison militaire du roi de France, in English the military household of the king of France, was the military part of the French royal household or Maison du Roi under the Ancien Régime. The term only appeared in 1671, though such a gathering of units pre-dates this. Like the rest of the royal household, the military household was under the authority of the Secretary of State for the Maison du Roi, but it depended on the ordinaire des guerres for its budget. Under Louis XIV, these two officers of state were given joint command of the military household.

French Royal Army (1652–1830)

The French Royal Army served the Bourbon kings beginning with Louis XIV and ending with Charles X with an interlude from 1792 until 1814, during the French Revolution and the reign of the Emperor Napoleon I. After a second, brief interlude when Napoleon returned from exile in 1815, the Royal Army was reinstated. Its service to the direct Bourbon line was finished when Charles X was overthrown in 1830 by the July Revolution.

Cent-gardes Squadron

The Cent-gardes Squadron,, also called Cent Gardes à Cheval, was an elite cavalry squadron of the Second French Empire primarily responsible for protecting the person of the Emperor Napoleon III, as well as providing security within the Tuileries Palace. It also provided an escort for the emblems of the Imperial Guard and their award ceremony with flag and standard bearers.

References

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  19. "Obituary of former "Swiss" Henry A. Ulstrup". Kristeligt Dagblad (in Danish). 28 July 2009. Retrieved 4 January 2013. The Swiss (Schweizeren) were at that time doormen at the royal palaces and thus the first to receive the royal family's private and official guests.