Swiss Guard

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Swiss Guards is the name given to the Swiss soldiers who have served as bodyguards, ceremonial guards, and palace guards at foreign European courts since the late 15th century. In contemporary usage, it refers to the Pontifical Swiss Guard of Vatican City. They have a high reputation for discipline and loyalty to their employers. Apart from household and guard units regular Swiss mercenary regiments have served as line troops in various armies; notably those of France, Spain and Naples up to the 19th century.

Various units of Swiss Guards existed for hundreds of years. The earliest such unit was the Swiss Hundred Guard (Cent-Garde) at the French court (1497 – 1830). This small force was complemented in 1567 by a Swiss Guards regiment. The Papal Swiss Guard in the Vatican was founded in 1506 and is the only Swiss Guard that still exists. In the 18th century several other Swiss Guards existed for periods in various European courts.

The institution reflects the situation of Switzerland at the time. Unlike the present, Switzerland was a poor country whose young men often sought their fortunes abroad.


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