Period IV

Neuchâtel, vue de plan 1842. Bild/Photo: TES. Galeries de l'histoire.

The last Prince on Swiss Territory

Neuchâtel is one of the twenty-six cantons that constitute the Swiss Confederation today. The Celts, the Romans, the Alemannic immigrants/invaders and Burgundian kings have all been present until the year 1000, like in many other parts of Switzerland.

After the foundation of the castle novum castellum by Burgundian kings in 1011, hence the name Neuenburg/Neuchâtel, the newly formed borough soon expanded the Jura-upper valleys. New settlements were founded, such as Le Locle and La Chaux-de-Fonds. Neuchâtel became an Earldom of the House of Neuchâtel from the thirteenth to the fifteenth century. After the extinction of the House of Neuchâtel, the earldom found itself at the crossroads of European interests, visits and influences.

The Principality of Neuchâtel was ruled by German (Houses of Freiburg and Hochberg, 1454-1504), French (House d’Orléans-Longueville, 1504-1707) and finally the Prussian King (1707-1856), with short intermezzo’s of occupation by Swiss Confederats (1512-1529) and the French marshal Alexander Berthier during the French occupation (1806-1813).

Neuchâtel became a Swiss canton of the Federation in 1815, keeping the status of Principality of the Prussian King, however. The hybrid status became the dangerous ‘Neuchâtel Affair’ in 1856.

The Swiss Federation mobilized its troops when the King of Prussia, Prince of Neuchâtel, claimed his property. There had already been an attempt to thwart the monarchy in 1831. What failed in 1831 was a success in 1848. It provoked a monarchist coup d’etat in 1856.

The Neuchâtel Affair’ was born. The great powers Russia, England, Austria, Prussia and France concluded the Paris Treaty om May 26th, 1857, and Prussia gave up his rights to its Principality. The last King left Swiss territory.