The Swiss and the Constantinian Order of ...

The Swiss and the Constantinian Order of Saint George (English)      

Written by Renato v. Schumacher   

 

The 150th Anniversary of Gatea

The current year marks the 150th anniversary of the defence of Gaeta, the last stronghold of the Spanish Bourbons in Naples-Sicily. The year 1861 also marks the end of a period of 147 years that the Grand Magistery of the Sacred Military Constantinian Order of Saint George was held by a reigning king.

This is an opportunity to remember the longstanding bond of friendship and loyalty between the Swiss and the Royal House of the Two Sicilies. The Sacred Military Constantinian Order of Saint George, whose Grand Masters by tradition are members of the Bourbon-Two-Sicilies-Family, still counts among its ranks names of the best-known Catholic families of the Swiss Confederation.


The Swiss Military Service and Christian Fidelity

The Swiss have a long history of military service and Christian fidelity, traditions well-suited to the distinguished heritage of the Sacred Military Constantinian Order of Saint George. Since Charles the Great and in particular since Francis I of France in 1515 the Swiss have often fought in the service of foreign monarchs. They were famous for their loyalty, courage and efficiency, and this tradition endures in the Papal Swiss Guard in the Vatican, whose commander is by tradition a Constantinian knight. The Swiss always fought under the Christian cross be that at home under the white cross on red ground during the heroic freedom fight or in foreign service under the flamed flag with the white cross.


The Swiss in Naples

 
 
 
The Swiss were also very active in Naples from the beginning of the Bourbon rule in the 1730s right up until the final defence of the kingdom of Two Sicilies in 1860. As so often in history, the Swiss troops and officers remained the most loyal. They formed the back bone of the army of Naples and enjoyed the same position of respect and prestige reserved to His Majesty's Own Royal Guard. The Swiss resisted in the street fights in 1848 and helped during the cholera epidemic in 1835/37 and the famine in 1852. They also fought in the battles at Messina and Catania and took part in the campaign to Rome. They distinguished themselves during the battles fought in 1860 and at the siege of Gaeta in 1861. Not less than 25 Swiss reached at the rank of generals. They bore such names as von Stockalper, Burckhardt, de Sonnenberg, de Muralt, de Tschudi, d'Aregger, Wirz, de Sury. An outstanding role between 1848 and 1861 was played by General Felix von Schumacher from Lucerne, Aide de camp of Ferdinand II and Francis II of Naples-Sicily and one of the main actors of the hopeless defence of the fortress of Gaeta. After the surrender, he accompanied the Royal family to their exile in Rome. He was made a Baron and remained a close friend and advisor to the Royal Family until his dead in 1894.


The Constantinian Order and the Order of Saint George of the Reunion

In Gaeta many Swiss were awarded the Order of Saint George of the Reunion. Although closely linked to the Constantinian Order of Saint George, which is a separate family inheritance from the Farnese dynasty since 1731, the Order of Saint George of the Reunion was established by Francis I of the Two Sicilies in 1819 to replace the Napoleonic Order of the Two Sicilies. It had the same motto as the Constantinian Order (in hoc signo vinces) and was awarded for distinguished service in war or after forty years service in at least two campaigns. The Constantinian Order of Saint George is, by contrast, not a Neapolitan-Sicilian institution. It received confirmation as a Religious-Military Order from the Holy See and is awarded for particular loyalty and support of the Pope.


The End of a Long and Tradition

The siege of Gaeta in 1861 also marked the end of the long tradition of foreign military service of the Swiss. The Swiss, who were always on the side of the Catholic cause, were never landless mercenaries. They were allies and strictly preserved their own national character and Christian and humanitarian tradition. Not for nothing has a famous international organisation adopted the Swiss cross in inverted colours as its emblem. While protecting the European monarchs and fighting for them on their battlefields, the Swiss always did it under their own flag knowing they would also fight for their country s own independence. Indeed, no European power, apart from Napoleon, has ever invaded Switzerland. Switzerland still exists, and so does the Swiss Guard in Rome having protected the Holy See since 1506, nearly half a century before the Constantinian Order was confirmed by the Pope. 


Maintaining the Continuity

Though the Swiss motto was Honour and Fidelity , they could also have accepted the Constantinian motto: In hoc signo vinces (in this sign you will conquer). This was certainly true during the service of the Swiss Guards in France, Spain and Italy where the saying went: Point de Suisse pas de Bourbon (no Bourbons without the Swiss). However, after the French Revolution and the Napoleonic area a new order was established in Europe. When the new Constitution of Switzerland forbade the foreign military service and thus carrying the Swiss flags abroad, King Ferdinand II of the Two Sicilies discharged most of the Swiss troops in 1859. Although several regiments stayed on until the siege of Gaeta in 1861, they no longer fought under the Christian cross.

Many descendants of the old Swiss families maintain their historical continuity and resist the claims of the modern anti-Christ. They manifest their faith and loyalty in many ways, so for example by their membership in the Sacred Military Constantinian Order of Saint George.



Image 1
General Felix v. Schumacher - The defender of Gaeta
Image 2
A Swiss Regiment in Naples in 1780 - Typical for the Swiss were their flamed flags
with the white cross

 

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