La Chaux-de-Fonds, Monument 1848. Bild/Photo: TES.

The last Prince of Neuchâtel

Neuchâtel was a remarkable new canton of the new Swiss Confederation in 1815. The Prussian King William III (1770-1840) was still the legitimate ruler of this canton.

This history goes back to 1706 when Marie de Nemour (1625-1707) of the French d’Orléans-Longueville dynasty died without a legitimate heir.

This family had governed the county of Neuchâtel since 1504. After her death, the three estates of Neuchâtel chose the Prussian Protestant King Frederick I (1688-1740) as their Prince.

Neuchâtel has been Protestant since 1530, and Berlin was much further away than Paris. Moreover, Bern wanted to curb the influence of the French king.

Several palaces in  Neuchâtel are a  reminder of the Prussian period. The Prussian King Friedrich Wilhelm III (1770-1840) exchanged Neuchâtel for Hanover in 1806. The French Marshal Louis Alexander Berthier (1753-1815) became the new Prince of Neuchâtel (1806-1813). Due to the defeat of Napoleon in 1814, the King got Neuchâtel back.

The canton (particularly the industrial cities of La Chaux-de-Fonds and Le Locle) was a superpower in the watch industry. These cities rebelled against the royal patricians of Neuchâtel. After a failed revolt in 1831, the revolution succeeded in 1848 and the republic was proclaimed.

The Prussian king protested and even threatened to intervene military. However, he had to deal with uprisings and unrest in his kingdom.

The King had a might ally in the canton, however. the patriciate of Neuchâtel, which had always benefited from the Prussian military careers, trade and economic possibilities.

After a failed monarchist coup in 1856, military threats by the Prussian king and the mobilisation of troops by the Swiss Confederation, the king finally renounced his rights in 1857  (Treaty of Paris). The king kept the titles”Prince of Neuchâtel and Count of Valangin” in compensation.

The last royal left Switzerland in 1857.