From the Vatican: On the morning of May 6th, 1527, from his headquarters set up in St. Onofrio's Convent on the Gianicolo hill, Captain General Bourbon launched a series of attacks on Rome. During one of them, at the Torrione Gate, while leading the assault of the walls, he himself was mortally wounded. After just a moment's hesitation, the Spanish mercenaries broke through the Torrione Gate, while the lansquenets invaded the road of Borgo Santo Spirito and St. Peter's. The Swiss Guard, standing firm at the foot of the obelisk (now in St. Peter's Square, but then near the German cemetery within the Vatican close to the Basilica), together with the few remnants of the Roman troops, resisted desperately. Their Captain, Kaspar Röist was wounded, and later killed by the Spaniards in his quarters in front of his wife, Elizabeth Klingler. Of the 189 Swiss Guards, only 42 survived, the ones who, when all was lost, under the command of Hercules Göldli guarded Clement VII’s retreat to safety in Castel Sant’Angelo. The rest fell gloriously, massacred together with two hundred fugitives, on the steps of the High Altar in St. Peter's Basilica. Pope Clement VII and his men were able to escape to safety, thanks to the "Passetto", a secret corridor which Pope Alexander VI had built along the top of the wall connecting the Vatican with Castel Sant’Angelo.
Despite all the genealogy I've done on my Swiss ancestors, I haven't found any connected to the elite Swiss Guards. And, my Swiss ancestors are from among the most conservative and staunchly Catholic cantons...impressive if you remember the incredible influence Calvin and Zwingli (and others) had on this region.
This year, however, the chief of the Guard said they may consider allowing women.
Vatican army 'may recruit women'
Women may be allowed to join the exclusive ranks of the world's smallest army, the head of the Vatican's Swiss Guard says.
"I can imagine them for one role or another," Commander Daniel Anrig told Italian television. Such a move would represent a significant departure from tradition.
The 500-year-old force, devoted to protecting the pope, usually recruits only young, single, Roman Catholic soldiers from Switzerland.
Previously logistical problems, such as the cramped living quarters for the forces, had been cited as an obstacle to allowing women to join. But Commander Anrig said he believed such problems could be overcome. His predecessors have fiercely opposed such a move. The comments came on the eve of an annual swearing-in ceremony for new recruits. The Swiss Guard was founded in 1506 when Swiss mercenaries marched into Rome to serve under Pope Julius II, known as the "warrior pope".
Yes, such a move would be a departure from tradition and sense. I come from a long line of military folks, men and women, but c'mon, leave the Guard alone. They are the second best thing to see at the Vatican!
More on the Swiss Guard