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‘A woman of great strength’: How Switzerland remembers Queen Elizabeth II

Helena Bachmann in Geneva
Helena Bachmann in Geneva - [email protected] • 9 Sep, 2022 Updated Fri 9 Sep 2022 11:00 CEST
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Britain's Queen Elizabeth II poses for a photograph during an audience with Switzerland's President Ignazio Cassis (C) and his wife Paola Cassis, at Windsor Castle, west of London on April 28, 2022. (Photo by Dominic Lipinski / POOL / AFP)

Ignazio Cassis was the last Swiss president to meet Queen Elizabeth, but she has left a mark on the entire country during her visit 42 years ago.


Cassis, who had met the Queen in April in London, tweeted on Thursday that he is “deeply saddened” by her passing, and presented the “sincere and heartfelt condolences to the Royal Family on behalf of the Federal Council and the people of Switzerland»

He met Her Majesty at the Balmoral Palace on April 28th, 2022 and remembers that “she was curious about Switzerland. She wanted to know how the country had changed in recent years," he said.


Other Swiss personalities also have warm memories of meeting the Queen.

In his tweet post showing him speaking to the Queen, tennis champ Roger Federer said he is “deeply saddened” by her death, adding that her “elegance, grace and loyalty to her duty will live on in history".

A whirlwind visit

The Queen came to Switzerland on an official state visit only once, on April 29th, 1980.

After she and Prince Philip landed in Zurich, they were met by the then Swiss president Georges-André Chevallaz.

The Queen’s first minutes on the Swiss soil were marked by a (royal) etiquette snafu: as the media reported at the time, “while Her Majesty is finishing the review of the guard of honor and does not really know where to go, Chevallaz makes her turn around with a sudden movement of his hand”.

The rest of the visit went without a glitch, however.

During their four-day tour, the Royal couple criss-crossed the depth and breadth of Switzerland.

From Zurich, they took a train to Bern, where the Queen was driven around the city and gave her first speech (in English) in the hall of the Federal Palace, before dining at the Town Hall with the Federal Council.

The next day, Elizabeth II — “wearing a long blue coat”, according to press reports — took a scenic train ride to Montreux. She dined at the Château de Chillon (VD), which her countryman, Lord Byron, immortalised in his poem, The Prisoner of Chillon, in 1816.

She then drank a cocktail at the English Speaking Club in Lausanne, in company of  "several hundred people making up the British community in Switzerland".

"Despite a busy schedule, the Sovereign also finds time to go to the second Swiss horticultural and landscape exhibition. It is in a Rolls-Royce that she arrives in Basel and spends the day there. She also plants a beech tree", according to reports.

The whirlwind tour continued with a trip to Lucerne, where the Queen took a boat to the Rütli meadow, where Switzerland was founded in 1291. She only spent a short time there, listening to an alphorn concert. She then was driven back to Zurich and on to Liechtenstein.


Knowledge of Switzerland

Though she visited Switzerland only once, the Queen has met a number of Swiss presidents, besides Cassis and Chevallaz.

She met the then-presidents Flavio Cotti and Samuel Schmid in London in 1998 and 2005, respectively. The latter spoke to the Queen for about 20 minutes and was “very impressed” by the Queeen’s knowledge of Switzerland.

At the end of July 2012, president Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf attended the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games in London.

“She had the opportunity to chat with Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Charles. They talked about Klosters, [the Swiss ski resort] where the royal family often vacations”.





Helena Bachmann in Geneva 2022/09/09 11:00

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