THE BRUNSWICK MONUMENT
by Vivian Holding
A pretty impressive sized monument to commemorate Charles II, the Duke of Brunswick (the historical name for the German city of Braunschweig), considering he lived in Geneva for a mere 3 years.
Geneva benefitted from a legacy of 22 million francs in gold after his death. Without this legacy, it is very doubtful that Geneva would have constructed any of these beautiful buildings we know well in the city today.
A SHORT STAY IN GENEVA
The Duke came to Geneva on 10th August 1870, after being expelled from his Duchy forty years earlier. Prior to his arrival in the city, he had lived in various European cities, including Paris where he made his fortune.
He made the Hotel Metropole his first home when first arriving in the city, then moved onto the Beau-Rivage Hotel, where he died at the age of 68 whilst playing a game of chess. Must have been some game of chess!
Never married, he drew up a will leaving all his possessions to the city of Geneva, tied with two clauses – firstly that he would have a funeral that reflected his position/rank and secondly, that he would be buried in a mausoleum above ground, in a prominent and worthy position in the City. This mausoleum had to be a historic replica of the tomb of the Scaligeri family from Verona, which dates back from the XIV century.
20,000 FRANCS IN GOLD FOR EVERY DAY OF HIS STAY
So, the sum of 22 million francs in gold was left to the city – approximately 20,000 francs in gold for every day the Duke was living in Geneva!
2 million francs in gold were spent on the monument itself, which was built under the architect Jean Franel. The rest was invested in the construction of many new buildings, such as the Grand Theatre, the École d’Horlogerie, the École du Grütli and the University of Geneva, as well as the installation of the beautiful wrought iron railings and gates that surround the Parc des Bastions.
A FINE WAY TO END HIS STAY
The monument was inaugurated on 14th October 1879, but only one year after completion, two earthquakes and an extremely harsh Winter damaged it. The defects in its construction led to the removal in 1883 of the equestrian statue from the top of the monument. It proved to be too heavy for the construction and since that time, the equestrian statue with its marble pedestal is located on the right side of the terrace, facing the Beau Rivage Hotel – which was sadly the Duke’s last home, although not a bad place to finish your life don’t you think?