Last modified: 2023-04-08 by martin karner
Keywords: switzerland | mercenary | war flag | flame | swiss guard |
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The wavy flames radiating from the center originated in the 16th century.
In Switzerland proper cantonal flags predominated over the confederate white
cross, but in mercenary service the units were mixed and of little cantonal
The Swiss Guards Regiment in France (which was massacred in the August 1792 assault on the Tuilleries, an event commemorated by the Lion Monument in Lucerne) had a rainbow design of black, blue, yellow and red rays.
The de Meuron Regiment, which served the British in India and America from 1795 to 1816 had similar rays in all cantons but the first which was the UJ (altered in 1801 to include the St. Patrick saltire).
French regiments of the 18th century borrowed the Swiss cross and put their own regional devices in the cantons.
T.F. Mills, 14 May 1996
The Swiss Guard does not have a regimental flag any more, but I think
the colors of the uniforms go back to such a flag.
Harald Müller, 14 May 1996
If the Guard no longer has a flag, that is relatively recent. I think each pope presented a new one. There is one hanging in the Musée des Suisses au Service Etranger near Geneva. It consists of the Swiss white cross extended to the edges, the arms of Colonel Pfyffer d'Altishofen in the 1st quarter, the arms of Pius XII (1939–1958) in the 4th, and horizontal rays in the colors of the Guard uniform.
T.F. Mills, 14 May 1996
The Swiss were a special class of mercenaries, because they belonged to Switzerland first and secondarily to their foreign employer. In 1515 at the battle of Marignan two Swiss armies did each other considerable damage. Some time later the Swiss negotiated "military capitulations" with other countries whereby mercenary regiments enjoyed unusual extra-territorial rights. The units flew their own Swiss flags, were officered only by Swiss, the men were subject to Swiss law, and Switzerland reserved the right forbid mercenary regiments from participating in campaigns which might bring them into battle with other Swiss units. Swiss regiments in France were essentially Swiss colonies, and legally not considered mercenaries.
A few days ago, I posted the flag of the "Cent Suisses", the French King's company of Swiss guards. That company belonged to a larger regiment called the "Regiment des Gardes-Suisses". The Swiss "mercenaries" were temporarily engaged for campaigns until 1616 when this permanent regiment was formed from the Gallati Regiment. The "Cent Suisses" guarded the King inside the royal residence and the "Gardes-Suisses" mounted guard outside the building. On 10 August 1792 the Paris mob stormed the Tuilleries Palace where the Swiss were guarding the King and killed some 600 Swiss (at a cost to themselves of 3000). On 3 September, 156 Swiss prisoners were slaughtered. When Switzerland heard the news, they withdrew all their other regiments from France. The Lion Monument in Lucerne commemorates this Swiss tragedy.
image by T.F. Mills
The Regiment de Gardes Suisses had six flags. I think they were
identical, but they probably evolved over time. Attached is a GIF
of one representation I have seen. It has the typical white Swiss
cross "traversante" and thirteen "piles wavy" in each quarter. I have
seen another version with only nine stripes per quarter, and a small
fleur de lys at the end of each arm of the cross. A white cravat
tied to the pike signified that the regiment was in the service of
T.F. Mills, 26 July 1997