When Queen Elizabeth II visited Switzerland

Queen Elizabeth II visited the Rütli meadow as part of her trip, she is pictured here on May 2, 1980 Keystone / Str

Queen Elizabeth II, who died on Thursday at the age of 96, spent four days in Switzerland with her husband Prince Philip in April 1980. It was the Queen's only official state visit to Switzerland and it created quite a sensation.

This content was published on September 8, 2022 minutes

“Hardly any state visit created as much of a sensation as that of Queen Elizabeth II,” said Swiss public television SRF following her visit to Switzerland in 1980. The Swiss president at the time, Georges-André Chevallaz, welcomed her Majesty with a military parade. Despite heavy security, onlookers tried to catch a glimpse of her Majesty wherever she went.

During her four days in Switzerland, the British sovereign traveled by train and Rolls Royce to several towns including Zurich, Bern, Basel, Lausanne, Montreux, and Lucerne. She also visited the International Committee of the Red Cross in Geneva and gave a speech on the iconic Rütli meadow where she thanked the Swiss people for their warm welcome in this "delightful country".

>> Video: SRF archives on the Queen's visit, April-May 1980

Royal getaway

Although Queen Elizabeth didn’t spend her holidays in Switzerland, the country has been a popular destination for other members of the Royal Family. More than 150 years ago, Queen Victoria and a small entourage spent five days in central Switzerland. It was the first visit to the Alpine country by a reigning British monarch and left its mark not only on Victoria but also on the Swiss tourism industry. 

Prince Charles, who takes over the throne, has a chalet in Klosters, where he was often seen on the ski slopes with his two children Prince William and Prince Harry.

The Queen wasn’t a skier though. After the war, “it was already too late for me to learn to ski”, she told the Swiss magazine Schweizer Illustrierte after her state visit in 1980.

Receiving Swiss presidents

Over the course of her reign, Queen Elizabeth II received several Swiss presidents including Flavio Cotti and Samuel Schmid, in 1998 and 2005 respectively. In July 2012, the Swiss president at the time, Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf, met Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Charles following the opening ceremonies of the Olympic Games in London.

External Content

Ignazio Cassis, who holds the rotating Swiss presidency, met the Queen when he was in London for talks on a free trade agreement with the former UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Cassis tweeted a a photo at the time and said that it was "a great honour to meet Her Majesty The Queen".


Cassis, who holds the rotating Swiss presidency, joined world leaders on Thursday in expressing sympathy and condolences to the Royal Family as it mourns the death of Queen Elizabeth II.

“Deeply saddened by the passing of HM #QueenElizabethExternal link II,” wrote Cassis in a tweet shortly after news broke of the Queen’s passing on Thursday. “My sincere and heartfelt condolences to the Royal Family on behalf of the Federal Council and the people of Switzerland. She will be remembered as a woman of great strength & steady leadership.” He also recalled his visit to London in April to discuss a free trade agreement when he met the Queen.

He made further comments on Friday. "Queen Elizabeth II was a compass," Cassis said at a brief press conference at the parliament building in Bern. She had given many people a sense of direction and support in an increasingly confusing world, he added. Cassis went on to express his admiration for her. At his London meeting, which lasted longer than originally planned, the Monarch had been sharp: she understood how to summarise extremely complex issues in a few simple words, he said.

As a mark of respect, Switzerland's flag on the parliament building in the capital, Bern, was flying half mast on Friday.

Keystone / Peter Klaunzer
In compliance with the JTI standards

In compliance with the JTI standards

More: SWI certified by the Journalism Trust Initiative

Contributions under this article have been turned off. You can find an overview of ongoing debates with our journalists here. Please join us!

If you want to start a conversation about a topic raised in this article or want to report factual errors, email us at

Share this story

Change your password

Do you really want to delete your profile?