The Business with the Mercenaries
Over several centuries and owing to economic hardship at home, a very substantial number of men from Grisons had little choice but to serve as soldiers for foreign rulers. By the middle of the 18th century approximately 70,000 people lived within the boundaries of the „Three Alliances“ (Drei Bünde). Of these some 10,000 young men, i.e., every seventh male, served as mercenaries in foreign armies.
Regular soldiers were serving for several years, mostly under miserable conditions. The Three Alliances and local patrician families on the other hand profited handsomely from their lucrative business with the foreign European powers. They received large sums of money, so-called „pensions“, for mercenaries from their own territory, either by leaving the hiring to foreigners or by doing so themselves. The sons of the upper social classes in Grisons able to pursue their military careers in foreign services received handsome pay as officers. One of these was Ambrosius von Sprecher whose uniform is on display here. He rose to the rank of major in the French army.
In 1859 the Swiss Federal government declared it illegal for its citizens to serve under foreign banners, putting an end to a controversial issue – one exception still being the Papal Swiss Guard. The full-dress uniform of Luigi Hirschbühl, commanding officer of the Swiss Guard, is also on display in this Showcase.
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