Swiss Guard Marks 500 Years as Popes' Potted Plants

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In late 1505, Pope Julius II asked the Swiss, an impoverished people at that time before bank secrecy, whose exports consisted mainly of their own sons, to dispatch 200 soldiers to Rome to serve as his personal palace guard.

Swiss mercenaries once served in a number of European countries, most notably as the guard of the French kings, but the papal guard is the only one to have survived.

So this year the veterans of the guard throughout the valleys and mountains of Switzerland are preparing to celebrate its 500th anniversary. Pins and baseball caps with the distinctive guard helmet, T-shirts, watches, ties and Swiss Army knives are on sale.

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