Gardes suisses (France)

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Ordinance flag of the regiment

The Swiss Guard , actually a regiment of the Swiss and Graubünden Guards ( French Régiment des Gardes Suisses et Grisons or Gardes-suisses ) was a regiment of the French royal guards formed from Swiss soldiers . It began its service on March 12, 1616 and was disbanded in 1792. From 1815 to 1830 there were two regiments of Swiss Guards in the Royal Guard . The term mercenary , which is often mentioned in connection with foreign services , is sometimes misleading. Rather, the term rice traveler applies . Since these services abroad were based on repeatedly renewed contracts that followed the first surrender treaty after the Battle of Marignano , they became allies. Nevertheless, they maintained their own cohesion with great success and were subordinate to the federal locations to which they were responsible for their official visits.


Formation history

In 1567 Charles IX began. to recruit some Swiss companies for his guard , which, however, unlike the palace guard of the Hundred Swiss ( Cent-Suisses ), were real field troops. The federal locations allow the king to recruit 6,000 men in 20 pennons of 300 men and a squadron of 200 riders for this troop. The first in command was Colonel Ludwig Pfyffer von Altishofen . The following kings also kept a few Swiss companies under their guards . In 1599, Henry IV formed a special troop made up of two companies, which he called " gens de guerre à pied, suisses, servant à la garde du Roy ". From these companies finally formed Louis XIII. 1616 a permanent regiment , which served as a model for similar troops in the Netherlands (1748–1796), Spain , Naples (1734–1789) and Saxony (1730–1757 and 1763–1814) in the 18th century .

The Swiss Guard regiment ranked ahead of the Swiss regiments in French service in the line infantry . His commander was at the same time " Colonel général der Schweizer und Bündner" (ie these regiments) and owner of the 1st Company of the Swiss Guard Regiment, known as the General Company.

The Swiss Guard formed a brigade together with the Gardes françaises and took turns on duty with them. Their place was the first courtyard of the royal palace, the French soldiers on the right, the Swiss on the left. The guard regiment accompanied the king on all trips and performed its service outside the royal palaces, hence the name "Outer Guard". Inside the company formed of hundreds of Swiss the guard.

The regiment's population fluctuated greatly over time. When it was founded, it comprised eight companies of 160 men (Pfyffer, Lucerne; Schorsch, Graubünden; Greder, Solothurn; von Gugelberg, Graubünden; von Planta, Graubünden; Gallati, Glarus; Reding, Schwyz; Hässi, Glarus), until the middle of the 17th century In the 20th century it grew to 30 companies. In 1763 it was fixed at 16 companies, divided into four battalions . In 1792, the regiment consisted of a staff and four battalions as well as an artillery company with eight guns and had a nominal strength of 2,416 men, the actual strength had dropped to 1,500 men, as no new recruits could be recruited in Switzerland due to the uncertain situation in France . The regiment's general company had its own staff and judiciary.

In 1815, Louis XVIII. the Swiss Guard with two regiments as the 7th and 8th regiments of the royal guard. In 1830 the Swiss Guard was dismissed.


The first barracks for the Swiss Guard were set up around 1690 . Previously, the soldiers were housed privately in houses in the suburbs of Paris. Under Louis XIV, a battalion was housed in the barracks on Rue Grange-Batelière; under Louis XV. The barracks St. Roch, Montmartre, Chaillot for the 1st battalion , Rueil for the 2nd battalion and the Caserne Charras in Courbevoie for the 3rd and 4th battalion were added.


The recruitment for the guards regiments covered all social classes. The officer corps was only open to the nobility and patriciate of the thirteen federal and allied places , some positions were hereditary. The requirement for the recruitment was the fulfillment of the guards measure . This was 1.75 m for the fusilier companies , 1.82 m for the general company and the grenadiers . The general company was recruited from the remaining twelve Swiss regiments, from which the tallest and best-looking soldiers were selected.

The recruitment usually took place for four years, whereby the obligation could be renewed several times. From 20 years of service a soldier was considered a veteran. In addition to adult soldiers, the soldiers' children also served in the regiment as drummers and whistlers. The sons of the officers usually joined the fathers' regiments as cadets and ensigns at a young age.

Mission history

Storming of the Tuileries 1792; Painting by Jean Duplessi-Bertaux, 1793

Even the first regiment under Colonel Pfyffer distinguished itself by protecting the French king during the retreat from Meaux over a 72-hour march through the opposing army. The Swiss Guard regiment under Colonel Kaspar Gallati defended King Heinrich III. on Barricade Day 1588 and took part in the battles of Arques in 1589 and Yvry in 1590 . Heinrich IV used the Swiss Guard troops in the war against Savoy.

The guard regiment took part in 71 campaigns, 154 battles and 30 sieges, but in the last years of the Ancien Régime it was limited to protecting the royal residences in Paris and Versailles . At the beginning of the French Revolution there was a mutiny in the 2nd Battalion in August 1789 and some soldiers deserted , but the majority of the troops were loyal to the king . The regiment owner was his brother, the Count of Artois Charles Philippe , the commander (Colonel-lieutenant) was a Swiss professional officer. Most of the Swiss Guard paid for their loyalty to the Bourbons during the Tuileries storm on August 10, 1792 and the September massacres . The lion monument in Lucerne , the medal dated August 10, 1792 and the name of the federal foundation Fondation 1792 commemorate this tragedy . In the same year the National Assembly dissolved the regiment.

After the Restoration , the Swiss Guard took part in the campaign to Spain in 1823 and defended the royal family for the last time during the July Revolution , which again resulted in several hundred deaths.


At first the guards wore gray skirts with blue lapels . The characteristic red skirts with white lapels were introduced around 1700, along with blue trousers and stockings. The soldiers wore white gaiters, the grenadiers wore bearskin hats from 1780, the rest of the soldiers wore tricorns. Since 1763 the officers wore scarlet skirts with royal blue , silver-embroidered lapels and collars, white vests and trousers, silver epaulettes , white rapier belts and a silver-embroidered tricorn. After the restoration , the shako replaced the hat.

Since Louis XIV, each company in the regiment had its own flag. All showed a continuous white cross, which formed four quarters flamed in the colors of the Colonel General of the Swiss and Graubünden. Later a battalion had two flags. The general company had a special flag that was white and studded with golden lilies.

Regiment owners and commanders

Louis Augustin d'Affry, last commandant of the Guard

The owners and commanders of the Swiss Guard Regiment were:

Regimental owner

Swiss commanders with the rank of Colonel (corresponds to German Colonel ):

Commanders of the Swiss Brigade of the Royal Guard in the position of lieutenant-général were:

Since 1759 the office of general inspector of the Swiss troops also existed, to which the guard regiments were also subordinate:

Income situation

The wages of the guards were higher than the normal wages for Swiss troops in French service. It was per year:

Prominent members of the Swiss Guard


  • Liliane Funcken , Fred Funcken : Historical uniforms. Volume 1: 18th century. French Guard and Infantry, British and Prussian Infantry. Mosaik-Verlag, Munich 1977, ISBN 3-570-04361-4 , p. 38ff.
  • P. de Vallière: Loyalty and honor. History of the Swiss in foreign service. 2nd edition. German by Walter Sandoz. Les Editions d'art suisse ancien, Lausanne 1940.
  • Thilo Hirsch: Music by the Gardes Suisses for Fifres & Tambours , Zurich (STPV) 2015, ISBN 978-3-9524552-0-3 .

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. a b de Valliere: Loyalty and honor. P. 281.
  2. ^ De Valliere: Loyalty and honor. P. 593.
  3. Article “ Guard regiments (Switzerland. In foreign service). “In: Heinrich Türler (Hrsg.): Historisch-Biographisches Lexikon der Schweiz. Volume 3: Egolf - Güttingen. Administration of the Historical-Biographical Lexicon of Switzerland, Neuchâtel 1926, p. 395.
  4. Jürg Stadelmann: To Paris to the mass grave of the Swiss Guards from 1790 ( Memento of the original from May 12, 2014 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. , Office for History, Culture and Current Affairs, Lucerne, January 22, 2013  @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  5. a b article “ Guard regiments (Switzerland. In foreign service). “In: Heinrich Türler (Hrsg.): Historisch-Biographisches Lexikon der Schweiz. Volume 3: Egolf - Güttingen. Administration of the Historical-Biographical Lexicon of Switzerland, Neuchâtel 1926, p. 396.