The Forgotten Occupation of Neuchâtel
13 December 2020
The town of Neuchâtel is named after the castle Novum Castellum which King Rudolf III of Burgundy (970-1032) had built around 1000, probably in 1011.
County of Neuchâtel
The county of Neuchâtel was founded in the 12th century. the county reached around 1500 the size of the present canton of Neuchâtel.
Colombier, Valangins, Corcelles, Môtier, Auvernier, (Val de) Travers, Nugerol, Boudry, Le Landeron, Bevaix and other towns and villages played a political role either as autonomous seigneuries or as towns with monasteries.
La Chaux-de-Fond, Le Locle, La Brévine, La Sagne, Les Verrières and other towns in the upper Jura region were founded in this period.
Neuchâtel was strategically located at the foot of the Jura and Lake Neuchâtel and the trade routes to the Franche-Comté and Burgundy, the route to (the Prince-Bisdom) Basel, Morat and Seeland.
Neuchâtel became part of the Holy Roman Empire in 1032 and was ruled by the dynasty of the Counts of Neuchâtel until 1395.
d’ Orléans-Longueville and the Prussian King
The county belonged by inheritance to German princes of the Houses of Freiburg and Hochberg (1395-1504) and the French dynasty d’ Orléans-Longueville (1504-1706). Neuchâtel elected the (Protestant) king of Prussia in 1707 as Prince of Neuchâtel. He was the successor of the extinct French dynasty.
The Swiss Confederation 1512-1529
The Prince of d’Orléans-Longueville rarely showed up in the principality after 1504.
The Confederates (Eidgenossen) were interested in this area. The Burgundian wars (1474-1477) were just over and they were in a winning mood (until 1515). Neuchâtel was ‘French’ territory and therefore a possible threat.
Four cantons (Bern, Solothurn, Fribourg and Lucerne) occupied Neuchâtel in June and July 1512 and took over the administration.
It was not a military occupation, as was the case in Aargau (1415), Thurgau (1460), Tessin (1512) or Vaud (1536).
It was rather a peaceful change of government. The French princes did not intervene. They (and the French king) had other worries, in particular in Italy.
After 1515 (Marignano) and his victory over the Eidgenossen, the French king concluded the Eternal Peace Treaty (der Ewige Bund) in 1516.
The government was handed over to the princes of d’Orléans-Lon16gueville in 1529.
This short intermezzo (1512-1529) strengthened the bond between Neuchâtel and the Eidgenossenschaft.
Vaud (territory of Savoy) was occupied in 1536 by the Eidgenossen (this time by the use of excessive violence). Neuchâtel was spared, but the Eidgenossen were dominant neighbours.
These centuries of history and close contacts contributed to the choice for the Eidgenossenschaft in 1813-1815.
The Congress of Vienna (1814-1815) was decisive, but the bond between Neuchâtel and the Confederation was centuries old.
The Prussian King formally abdicated as Prince of Neuchâtel in 1857.