Despite its republican tradition, Switzerland has always welcomed royalty from all over the world. Elisabeth of Austria, Napoleon III, Victoria, Kaiser Wilhelm II, the Egyptian royals, the last Emperor of Abyssinia – various kings and queens have visited the Alpine land over the years.This content was published on May 8, 2021 - 09:00
- Deutsch Die Schweiz - Ferienland der Könige
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- Français La Suisse, pays de vacances des rois
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In 1939, for the National Exposition, the Swiss artist, Hans Erni, painted a fresco depicting “schwingen” wrestling, yodelling, and cheesemaking as a nod to almost every Swiss cliché. The title of the work read like a promise: “Switzerland – the people’s holiday destination”.
A more apt title might have been : “Switzerland – the holiday destination of kings and queens”. For most of the world’s “peoples” Switzerland was, and remains, beyond the average budget.
One of the first royal trendsetters was Queen Victoria, whose stint in Switzerland in 1868 sparked a subsequent boom in tourism. The Queen herself in fact had planned to come incognito, under the name of the “Duchess of Kent”, but when she arrived on the Rigi mountain, she was greeted with the refrains of “God save the Queen”.
Steamboats, hotels, and squares in Swiss towns would be later be named after Victoria.
Aristocratic tourists have always been greeted cordially, to say the least. When Emperor Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia arrived in Bern 70 years ago, 100,000 people lined the streets to welcome him. Children had the day off school, so that they could wave the emperor along with flags. Selassie, however, was less interested in the tourism than he was in finalising some arms deals.
When the much-loved Queen Astrid of Belgium died in a car accident in central Switzerland in 1935, the interest of the worldwide media was so strong that Swissair risked its first ever night-flight from Zurich to London to deliver the Associated Press photos. To commemorate the Queen, an “Astrid Chapel” was then built at the site of the accident. Visitors to the chapel arrived in such great numbers that the building later had to be moved to make space for the traffic.
Sometimes monarchs brought money in with them. Ten years ago, Spanish king Juan Carlos – today faced with accusations of tax evasion – was welcomed by the Swiss government, who lined up in the pouring rain for the King. The visit was live-streamed on national TV.
Pia Schubiger, a historian and curator at the “Forum Schweizer Geschichte Schwyz”, which is hosting the exhibition “The Royals are coming” says that the “incredible soft spot [of the Swiss] for monarchs might seem like a paradox. But the less a society has itself experienced royalty, then the more it can be interested or moved by the charm and glamour of a queen or king”.
“The Royals are comingExternal link” runs from 13.03.2021 to 03.10.2021.