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Royal Swiss Confederacy | Royal Confederal Directory

The Royal Confederal Directory
Königlich Bundesdirektorium
Directoire Confédéral Royal
Direttorio Confederale Reale
Directurio Confederal Roial
Regiis Confoederal Directorium

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U N U SP R OO M N I B U S
O M N E SP R OU N O
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The Royal Confederal Directory
of the Royal Swiss Confederacy



......

First
Director

HCH Gertrud von Bibberegg

Formation

1850

Style

His/Her Confederate Highness

Structure

5 German nobles
(incl. Prince of Liechtenstein)
3 French nobles
2 Italian nobles
1 Romansh noble
1 Chancellor (observer, non-voting)


The Royal Confederal Directory (German: Königlich Bundesdirektorium, French: Directoire Confédéral Royal, Italian: Direttorio Confederale Reale, Romansh: Directurio Confederal Roial) is the eleven-member council that serves as the collective head of state of the Royal Swiss Confederacy.

The Confederal Directors (Bundesdirektor, or just Direktor), as they are known, serve collectively as a representation of the nobles of Switzerland. The Directors undertake various official, ceremonial, and diplomatic duties. As the Confederal Directory is constrained by Switzerland's status as a constitutional confederal monarchy, their roles are limited to those that are non-partisan in nature. The position of First Director of the Royal Swiss Confederacy rotates among the eleven directors on an annual basis. The Duchess of Schwyz has been the First Director since 1 January, 2001.

History


Origins of the Royal Confederal Directory

The Royal Confederal Directory was instituted in the Confederal Constitution of 1850 following the victory of the Confederates in the previous year's Sonderbund War. The Royal Confederal Directory is the "collective head of state and symbol of the enduring unity of the Confederation, whose legitimacy is derived not from succession but from the direct democratic traditions and the enduring support of the Swiss people."

When the Confederal Constitution was being written during the 1847-1849 Constitutional Convention of the Old Swiss Confederacy, the idea of a constitutional democracy was still either seen as too unknown or too radical, with the Confederation's only living examples of constitutional democracies being the fledgling United States of America, and the now-defunct governments of the pre-Brumaire French Revolution. They did, however, take some inspiration from the former in how to organize independent subnational units into a confederated state. However, instead of switching to an elected president or a consul wielding power, they opted to continue with the collegial system of executive rule, as this has been the traditional method of ruling right down to the cantonal level, with cantonal councils made up of either appointed or directly elected citizens being tasked with governing since the earliest days of the Old Swiss Confederacy, during the early years of the Carolingians, and every single canton has had great experiences with this directorial mode of exerting executive power.

Changes

Before the institution of the Royal Confederal Directory, executive power and the position of collective head of state was given to the Tagsatzung, or the Confederal Diet. This Parliament, which met several times per year, wasn't permanent, but at the same time held supreme authority over the Confederation over executive, legislative, and judicial concerns and issues.

Seeing the possible weaknesses with this approach, the participants of the Constitutional Convention opted to separate the executive and legislative branches of government into two bodies, at least on paper, as Switzerland was still going to be a constitutional monarchy with powers that are at the very least appropriate enough to act as a check on the power of the Tagsatzung.

Upon its ratification, the composition of the Royal Confederal Directory remained unchanged until the accession of the former Principality of Liechtenstein into the Confederation in 1970 where, as part of the agreement of union, the Prince of Liechtenstein was to have a seat reserved for the Canton and Principality of Liechtenstein from its entrance into the Confederation until after 50 years, which means that the future Prince of Liechtenstein who will be a member of the Royal Confederal Directory will be forced to abdicate his position in 31 December, 2020, and will not be eligible again until another spot in the Directory becomes open for a Swiss German.

Current Composition



Director

Home Canton

Primary
Language

Full Title

HCH Albrecht von Sutter

Appenzell

German

His Confederate Highness The Prince of the Swiss Confederation
Albrecht von Sutter,
Count of Appenzell
and Sovereign of the House of Sutter

HCH Alexander IV von Bernoulli

Basel

German

His Confederate Highness The Prince of the Swiss Confederation
Alexander IV von Bernoulli,
Count of Basel
and Sovereign of the House of Bernoulli

HCH Constanzia di Orelli

Bellinzona

Italian

Her Confederate Highness The Princess of the Swiss Confederation
Constanzia di Orelli,
Countess of Bellinzona
and Sovereign of the House of Orelli

HCH Francois XI de Maillardoz

Fribourg

French

His Confederate Highness The Prince of the Swiss Confederation
Francois XI de Maillardoz,
Lord of Corbičres
and Sovereign of the House of Maillardoz

HCH Luciene de Thoire

Geneva

French

His Confederate Highness The Prince of the Swiss Confederation
Luciene de Thoire,
Count of Geneva
and Sovereign of the House of Thoire

HCH Ioana II da Zaccons

Grisons/Graubünden

Romansh

Her Confederate Highness The Princess of the Swiss Confederation
Ioana II da Zaccons,
Baroness of Surselva
and Sovereign of the House of Zaccons

HCHą Alois von Liechtenstein

Liechtenstein

German

His Confederate Highness The Prince of the Swiss Confederation
Alois von Liechtenstein,
Prince of Liechtenstein
and Sovereign of the House of Liechtenstein

HCH Vittorio V di Magoria

Lugano

Italian

His Confederate Highness The Prince of the Swiss Confederation
Vittorio V di Magoria,
Baron of Locarno
and Sovereign of the House of Magoria

HCH Gertrud von Bibberegg

Schwyz

German

Her Confederate Highness The Princess of the Swiss Confederation
Gertrud von Bibberegg,
Duchess of Schwyz,
Sovereign of the House of Bibberegg,
and First Director of the Royal Confederal Directory

HCH Ulrich von Rudenz

Unterwalden

German

His Confederate Highness The Prince of the Swiss Confederation
Ulrich von Rudenz,
Duke of Unterwalden
and Sovereign of the House of Rudenz

HCH Catherine III de Vaud-Savoy

Vaud

French

Her Confederate Highness The Princess of the Swiss Confederation
Catherine III de Vaud-Savoy,
Princess of Vaud
and Sovereign of the House of Vaud-Savoy

While technically a member of the Bundesdirektorium, the Chancellor of the Directory, Annemarie Huber-Hotz of the Free Democratic Party isn't considered a full member but is instead regarded as a non-voting observer. The Chancellor is elected by the Confederal Diet to act as the representative of the Tagstzung to the Directory. They fulfill several duties and responsibilities as Chancellor, but they don't have the same privileges and responsibilities as the other Directors, isn't required to be a member of the directory, and has a renewable term of four years.

The Chancellor is also in charge of the Confederal Chancellery, which acts as the staff of the Confederal Directory, with the Chancellor acting as a kind of Chief of Staff.

ą: The Prince of Liechtenstein is allowed to be addressed as His Serene Confederate Highness during official events and functions within the Canton of Liechtenstein so long as he does not claim to represent the Confederacy as a whole. Otherwise, to foster "equality among princes," he's simply known as His Confederate Highness.

Roles and Duties


As constitutional monarchs of supposedly the same rank, at least officially if not in terms of personal prestige, the roles and duties of the monarchs are limited to officially non-partisan designations. Before any of that however, as the de facto collective head of state of the Swiss Confederation, the Royal Confederal Directory is the supreme wielder of confederal executive power, legislative power (concurrently held with the Tagsatzung), and judicial power (concurrently held with the Supreme Court).

The most important of these non-partisan roles is that the Directory, unlike many of their fellow European monarchs, actually has a say in the passage of laws. Royal assent is given to a law passed by the Tagsatzung through a simple-majority vote in the Bundesdirektorium, and there have been several instances wherein royal assent has not been given and bills that pass parliament fail to become laws. To counter this, however, a constitutional amendment passed in the wake of World War II allowed the Tagsatzung to overturn a veto with a two-thirds majority vote, similar to how an executive veto in the United States of America can be overturned. The only other time the Direktorium is not allowed to veto bills would be if the bills personally concern the Directory, such as bills concerning their budget, or bills proposing referendums on the status of the monarchy.

Their next and equally as important role is as representatives of the Swiss Confederation. To be a member off the Royal Confederal Directory is to be one of Switzerland's top eleven diplomats. Many official state visits made to foreign countries are done by several members of the Directory, but the constitution states that because the quorum for Bundesdirektorium meetings requires seven Princes to be present, it means that no more than four members of the Directory usually participate in diplomatic affairs outside of the Confederation at any given time. The First Director is also barred from conducting state visits while others are concurrently conducting state affairs, due to the fear of other nations being offended by the possible slight of one nation being visited by the First Director, while merely a regular Director is visiting their nation.

The Bundesdirektorium is also responsible for appointing the Council of States, the 26-member council consisting of one official from each of the 25 cantons plus the Prime Minister, who act as a cabinet of sorts for the executive and handle the minutiae of ruling in the name of the Directory. This is very important for the Confederal Directory because the Directors are not allowed to participate in politics that may involve partisanship and partisan actions, which is where the Council of States comes in.

Every year, the title of First Director of the Royal Confederal Directory (Erster Direktor, Premier Directeur, Primo Direttore) rotates among the eleven members of the Bundesdirektorium. According to the Swiss order of precedence, the First Director of the Royal Confederal Directory is the highest-ranking official in Switzerland. They preside over Directory meetings and primarily carry out the representative duties that in other countries would be reserved to the head of state. In times of urgency or emergency, the First Director has the right to carry out decision on behalf of the whole Directory. Due to the rotational nature of the title of First Director, apart from all of this he has no special powers above all of the other directors and is regarded more as primus inter pares than as a chief executive.

Election and composition


Eligibility

To be eligible to be nominated and elected to the Royal Confederal Directory, a candidate must be a Swiss citizen of legal age who is the sovereign or head of a noble family that was ennobled by the Swiss Confederation on or before 1850, and a member of a Christian faith (usually either a Catholic or one of the Protestant churches of Switzerland). The language requirement depends on which noble has vacated their seat in the Bundesdirektorium, but the formula states that there must always be five German, three French, two Italian, and one Romansh nobles in the Directory.

Election

Whenever a member of the Direktorium dies or abdicates, a Royal Election is called, wherein all the sovereigns (heads) of all registered noble families of Switzerland send everyone eighteen years and above to the home canton of the recently deceased or recently abdicated member of the Directory. There, they convene to nominate and elect amongst themselves the next member of the Directory. With nearly a thousand registered noble families in Switzerland, the election is considered the largest example of an elective monarchy in the world, with the last election, in 1990, having over 25,000 voters, or 0.004% of all Swiss citizens. A candidate must receive a two-thirds supermajority in order to be elected into the Directory.

Originally, only the sovereign of a noble family whose descendants are one of those Swiss noble families that were ennobled on or before 1850 were allowed to both vote and be nominated in the royal elections. However, this article in the constitution was amended in 1950, exactly a hundred years later, to allow Swiss noble families ennobled after 1850 to vote during elections, but their sovereigns continue to be barred from being nominated to the Confederal Directory.

Before the advent of better means of communication and transportation, the Royal Elections were large, confederal affairs that lasted weeks and sometimes months (the record being two months and thirteen days in the Royal Election of 1913) as noble families discussed amongst themselves which nominee they would back. Today, only the sovereigns or heads of the noble families are required to physically be at the Royal Election, with their dozens of family members allowed to send in their votes through telephone lines and electronically.

The Royal Election goes through a series of votes, until only around five or fewer candidates remain. The candidates with the lowest scores usually drop out on their own accord, and noble families negotiate to get their votes to transfer to theirs. During times when there are only two candidates remaining and neither is able to get the two-thirds supermajority, both candidates, by tradition, either attempt to negotiate or they both drop out of the race and the whole process starts off again with a new set of nominees.

Coronation

Once a person gets the two-thirds supermajority required to win the election, a coronation ceremony is set up in their home canton in a church of their choosing with a priest or minister of their choosing. A mass is held in their honor and, if they are replacing a director who passed away or lawfully abdicated, in honor of the person who previously held the seat.

In this coronation ceremony, their chosen minister bestows upon them the title of Prince or Princess of the Swiss Confederation (Fürst / Fürstin der Schweizerischen Eidgenossenschaft, Prince / Princesse de la Confédération Suisse, Principe / Principessa della Confederazione Svizzera). This title is meant to equalize every single member of the Bundesdirektorium, so that everyone from the lowliest baron to the highest duke can regard each other as equals, thus creating the saying that in the Swiss Directory, there is an "equality among princes."

Once the coronation ends, a banquet is held in honor of the new Prince or Princess of the Swiss Confederation, and by tradition they are to take up their post in the following year, which presents a problem when a seat in the Directory is vacated early in the year, such as in the Royal Election of 1972 when a Director died in a plane crash in February, and their replacement was technically a Prince of the Swiss Confederation for ten months before they could be part of the Confederal Directory.

Regional Balancing

Since the inception of the Royal Confederal Directory, the Constitution of 1850 already had mandated rules to limit the influence of one group. Under the current rules, the Royal Confederal Directory will be composed of five Swiss German nobles, three Swiss French, two Swiss Italian, and one Romansh noble. Under the rules, it's also stated that no canton will be represented by more than one noble in the Royal Confederal Directory.

Because of the limited number of cantons with large populations of Italian and Romansh-speaking Swiss, these rules all but guaranteed that the cantons of Bellinzona, Lugano, and Grisons are going to have a director in the Bundesdirektorium.


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