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Principality of Neufchâtel

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Title: Principality of Neufchâtel  
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Subject: Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Besançon, Léonor d'Orléans, duc de Longueville
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Principality of Neufchâtel

République et Canton de Neuchâtel
Canton of Switzerland

Coat of arms

Location in Switzerland

Coordinates: 46°59′N 6°47′E / 46.983°N 6.783°E / 46.983; 6.783Coordinates: 46°59′N 6°47′E / 46.983°N 6.783°E / 46.983; 6.783

Capital Neuchâtel
Largest City La Chaux-de-Fonds
Subdivisions 53 municipalities, 6 districts
 • Executive Conseil d'Etat (5)
 • Legislative Grand Council (115)
 • Total  km2 (Formatting error: invalid input when rounding sq mi)
Population (12/2012)[1]
 • Total 174,554
ISO 3166 code CH-NE
Highest point 1,552 m (5,092 ft) - Chasseral Ouest
Lowest point 429 m (1,407 ft) - Lake Biel
Joined 1815
Languages French
Website .ch
County (Principality) of Neuchâtel
Grafschaft (Fürstentum) Neuenburg (de)
Comté (Principauté) de Neuchâtel (fr)
State of the Holy Roman Empire (to 1648)
Associate of the Old Swiss Confed. (from 1406)


Coat of arms

Capital Neuchâtel
Government Principality
Historical era Middle Ages
 -  City founded 1011
 -  County founded 1034
 -  Became associate
    of Old Swiss Confed.
from 1406
 -  Inherited by Orléans-
 -  Elected to Prussia 1707
 -  French occupation 1806–14
 -  Joined Swiss Confed.
    as canton
1815 1848
 -  Neuchâteloise

1 March 1848

Neuchâtel (French: Canton de Neuchâtel, IPA: [kɑ̃tɔ̃ də nøʃɑtɛl]) is a canton of French speaking western Switzerland. In 2007, its population was 169,782 of which 39,654 (or 23.4%) were foreigners.[2] The capital is Neuchâtel.


The only part of present-day Switzerland to enter the Confederation as a principality (in 1814), Neuchâtel has a unique history. Its first recorded ruler, Rudolph III of Burgundy mentioned Neuchâtel in his will in 1032. The dynasty of Count Ulrich von Fenis took over the town and its territories in 1034. The dynasty prospered and by 1373 all the lands now part of the canton belonged to the count. In 1405, the cities of Bern and Neuchâtel entered a union. The lands of Neuchâtel passed to the lords of Freiburg im Breisgau (Germany) about a century later, and then in 1504 to the French house of Orléans-Longueville (Valois-Dunois). Neuchâtel's Swiss allies then occupied it from 1512-1529 before returning it to its widowed Countess Jeanne de Hochberg.

The French preacher Guillaume Farel brought the teachings of the Protestant Reformation to the area in 1530. When the house of Orléans-Longueville became extinct with Marie d'Orléans-Longueville's death in 1707, the Principality of Neuchâtel (German: Fürstentum Neuenburg) went to King Frederick I in Prussia of the Berlin-based Hohenzollern dynasty, who then ruled Neuchâtel in personal union. Napoléon Bonaparte deposed King Frederick William III of Prussia as prince of Neuchâtel and appointed instead his chief of staff Louis Alexandre Berthier. In the course of the Napoleonic Wars the principality provided for a rangers battalion within Napoléon's Grande Armée since 1807. The rangers were nicknamed Canaris (i.e. Canaries) because of their yellow uniforms.

After the Liberation Wars the principality was restored to Frederick William III in 1814.[3] The Conseil d’Etat (state council, i.e. government of Neuchâtel) addressed him in May 1814 requesting the permission to establish a special battalion, a Bataillon de Chasseurs, for the service of his majesty.[3] Frederick William III then established by his most-supreme cabinet order (allerhöchste Cabinets-Ordre), issued in Paris on 19 May 1814, the Bataillon des Tirailleurs de la Garde following the same principles as with the Neuchâtel battalion within the Grande Armée.[3] The Conseil d'Etat of Neuchâtel had the right of nomination for the battalion's officers. The commander was the battalion's only officer chosen by the monarch.

A year later he agreed to allow the principality to join the Swiss Confederation, then not yet an integrated federation, but a confederacy, as a full member. Thus Neuchâtel became the first and only monarchy to join the otherwise entirely republican Swiss cantons. This situation changed in 1848 when a peaceful revolution took place and established a republic, in the same year that the modern Swiss Confederation was transformed into a federation. King Frederick William IV of Prussia did not give in immediately and several attempts at counter-revolution took place, culminating in the Neuchâtel Crisis of 1856–57. In 1857, Frederick William renounced his claims on the area.


The canton of Neuchâtel is located in Romandy, the western part of Switzerland, it is also located in the Jura mountainous region. To its northeast it borders the canton of Bern, to the northwest France. Lake Neuchâtel lies southeast of the canton, while the canton of Vaud is southwest of the canton of Neuchâtel. The canton lies in the central area of the Jura Mountains. Lake Neuchâtel drains the lands in the south, whilst the River Doubs drains the northern areas.

The canton is commonly divided into three regions. The viticultural region is located along the lake. Its name derives from the many vineyards found there. The region called Les Vallées lies further north. The two largest valleys of the canton of Neuchâtel lie in this region: the Ruz Valley and the Val de Travers. Both valleys lie at about 700 m (2,297 ft). The highest region of the canton, however, is the Neuchâtelois Mountains at 900 m (2,953 ft) to 1,065 m (3,494 ft). This region is made up of a long valley home to La Chaux-de-Fonds, Le Locle and La Brévine.


Neuchâtel was one of the first cantons in Switzerland to grant women the vote (1959) and also to grant the vote to foreigners holding a residence permit and who have been domiciled in the canton for at least 5 years (2002), as well as to lower the voting age to 18.

The legislature, the Grand Council of Neuchâtel, has 115 seats distributed in proportion to the population of the 6 districts that make up the electoral constituencies: Neuchâtel (35 seats), Boudry, (25) Val-de-Travers (8), Val-de-Ruz (10), Le Locle (10), La Chaux-de-Fonds (27). The State Council (cantonal government), 5 “ministers” who assume the annual presidency in turn and manage the departments of justice, health and safety; finance and social welfare; public economy; regional management; education and culture. The cantonal authorities, which have their seat in the castle (the Château de Neuchâtel), are elected every four years by universal suffrage.

The people also elect their representatives to the federal parliament every four years: five of the 200 members of the National Council (lower chamber) and 2 of the 46 members of the Council of States (upper chamber).

Political subdivisions


The Canton is divided into 6 districts:


There are 53 municipalities in the canton (As of 2009).[4]


The population is almost entirely French-speaking. The canton has historically been strongly Protestant, but in recent decades it has received an influx of Roman Catholic arrivals. In 2000, its population was closely split between Protestants (38%) and Roman Catholics (31%).[5]

The 174,554 inhabitants (as of 2012)[1] are fairly evenly distributed with many small towns and villages lining the shore of the Lake of Neuchâtel The average population density is 209 people per km2 (542 sq mi). Neuchâtel (2012 population: 33,474) is the canton's capital while La Chaux-de-Fonds (2012 population: 38,267) is the canton's largest settlement. Some 38,000 of the inhabitants, or a little less than a quarter of the population, are of foreign extraction.


The canton is well known for its wines, which are grown along the University of Neuchâtel.

Notes and references

External links

  • Official website
  • Official statistics
  • Neuchâtel and surroundings "Watch Valley"
  • Portal
  • Village of Valangin
  • International Watchmaking Museum

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