Our Member Brian Downing addressed the recent meeting and provided very interesting details about Swiss history as well as his own experiences in Switzerland. Originally inhabited by the Helvetians, the territory comprising modern Switzerland came under Roman rule during the Gallic wars in the 1st century BC and remained a Roman province until the 4th century AD. Over the next many centuries the country was invaded by Germanic tribes and became subjected to the imperial sovereignty of the Holy Roman Emperors. Leopold III of Austria faced a rebellion by the Swiss peasants and in 1386 the Battle of Sempach proved to be a significant turning point. The victory helped turn the Old Swiss Confederacy into a more unified nation, and is seen as pivotal in the growth of Switzerland. There is a battle chapel at Sempach which displays much of the history of the event. Otto von Habsburg was the last crown prince, albeit at a very young age, of Austria-Hungary from 1916 until the dissolution of the empire in April 1919, and when he died in 2011 at the ripe old age of 98, he was accorded four funerals (not a wedding though!). Brian and Heather have spent some time in Switzerland with their daughter and Swiss son-in-law, and Brian described what he encountered by way of national characteristics as well as some of the historic customs that are observed. For example the Swiss equivalent of St Nicholas is Samichlaus who rewards the good kids, but he is accompanied by Schmutzli, the enforcer who has punishments for the bad ones! Undoubtedly the mark of a disciplined nation!