Period IV newsletter

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

The Prussian sovereign of Neuchâtel

Neuchâtel was a remarkable new canton of the Swiss Eidgenossenschaft in 1815: after all, the Prussian king Wilhelm III was still ruler of this canton. This history goes back to 1707 when Marie de Nemour of the French Orléans-Longueville family died without a legitimate heir. Since 1504, this family was the ruler of the formerly independent county of Neuchatel. After her death, the three estates of Neuchâtel chose the Protestant King Friedrich I as their ruler. Neuchâtel had been Protestant since 1530 and Berlin was much further away than Paris.

Moreover, the mighty Bern wanted to curb the influence of the French king. Several palaces still remind us of this time. The French revolution and French domination of Switzerland did not pass Neuchâtel unnoticed. In 1806 the Prussian King Friedrich Wilhelm III gave Neuchâtel to Napoleon in exchange for Hanover. Because of Napoleon’s defeat in 1814, the Prussian king got Neuchâtel back. He wouldn’t enjoy it for a long time.

The canton, in front of La Chaud-de-Fonds, was a superpower in the watch industry, revolted against the royal patriciate of Neuchâtel. After an unsuccessful revolt in 1831, the revolution succeeded in 1848 and the republic was proclaimed. The Prussian king still protested and even threatened to intervene, but he had to deal with uprisings and unrest. However, the king had two pillars of support: the patriciate of Neuchâtel, which had always benefited from Prussian ties (military careers and economic relations) and the valley of La Sagne in the Jura. After an unsuccessful monarchist putsch in 1856, military threats from the Prussian king and mobilisation of troops from the Eidgenossenschaft, the king definitively renounced his rights in 1857. As a compromise, the Prussian king kept the title “Prince of Neuchâtel and Count of Valangin”. IT was the end of the last principality of Switzerland.