Canton of Neuchâtel

Coordinates: 46°59′N 6°47′E / 46.983°N 6.783°E / 46.983; 6.783
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Republic and Canton of Neuchâtel
République et canton de Neuchâtel (French)
Kanton Neuenburg (German)
Flag of Republic and Canton of Neuchâtel
Coat of arms of Republic and Canton of Neuchâtel
Anthem: Hymne Neuchâtelois
("The Neuchâtelois anthem")
Location in Switzerland
Map of Neuchâtel

Coordinates: 46°59′N 6°47′E / 46.983°N 6.783°E / 46.983; 6.783
Largest cityLa Chaux-de-Fonds
Subdivisions31 municipalities
 • ExecutiveConseil d'État (5)
 • LegislativeGrand Council (115)
 • Total802.24 km2 (309.75 sq mi)
 (December 2020)[2]
 • Total175,894
 • Density220/km2 (570/sq mi)
ISO 3166 codeCH-NE
Highest point1,552 m (5,092 ft): Chasseral Ouest
Lowest point429 m (1,407 ft): Lake Biel

The Republic and Canton of Neuchâtel (French: République et Canton de Neuchâtel, German: Kanton Neuenburg; Romansh: Chantun Neuchâtel; Italian: Cantone di Neuchâtel) is a mostly French-speaking canton in western Switzerland. In 2007, its population was 169,782, of whom 39,654 (or 23.4%) were foreigners.[3] The capital is Neuchâtel.


County of Neuchâtel[edit]

County (Principality) of Neuchâtel
  • Grafschaft (Fürstentum) Neuenburg (German)
  • Comté (Principauté) de Neuchâtel (French)
Flag of Neuchatel
Coat of arms of Neuchatel
Coat of arms
Historical eraMiddle Ages
• City founded
• County founded
from 1406
• Inherited by Orléans-Longueville
• Elected to Prussia
• French occupation
• Joined Swiss Confed. as canton, and later quit monarchy
1815 1848
• Neuchâteloise revolution
1 March 1848
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Duchy of Burgundy
Neuchâtel's Village
Canton of Neuchâtel
Today part ofSwitzerland

The only part of present-day Switzerland to enter the Confederation as a principality (on May 19, 1815), Neuchâtel has a unique history. Its first recorded ruler, Rudolph III of Burgundy, mentioned Neuchâtel in his will in 1032. The dynasty of Ulrich count of Fenis (Hasenburg) 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 had passed to the Zähringen lords of Freiburg in the late 14th century as inheritance from the childless Elisabeth, Countess of Neuchâtel, to her nephews, and then in 1458 to margraves of Sausenburg who belonged to the House of Baden.

Their heiress, Johanna of Hachberg-Sausenberg (Jehanne de Hochberg), and her husband, Louis I d'Orléans, duc de Longueville, inherited it in 1504, after which the French house of Orléans-Longueville (Valois-Dunois). Neuchâtel's Swiss allies then occupied it from 1512 to 1529 before returning it to its widowed countess.

The French preacher Guillaume Farel brought the teachings of the Protestant Reformation to the area in 1530. Therefore, when the house of Orléans-Longueville became extinct with Marie d'Orléans-Longueville's death in 1707, Neuchâtel was Protestant, and looked to avoid passing to a Catholic ruler. The rightful heiress in primogeniture from Jeanne de Rothelin was Paule de Gondi, Duchess of Retz, who was Catholic. The people of Neuchâtel chose Princess Marie's successor from among fifteen claimants.[n 1] They wanted their new prince first and foremost to be a Protestant, and also to be strong enough to protect their territory but based far enough away to leave them to their own devices. King Louis XIV of France actively promoted the many French pretenders to the title, but the Neuchâtelois people in the final decision in 1708 passed them over in favour of the Protestant King Frederick I of Prussia, who claimed his entitlement in a rather complicated fashion through the House of Orange and Nassau, who were not even descended from Jeanne de Rothelin.

Frederick I and his successors ruled the Principality of Neuchâtel (German: Fürstentum Neuenburg) in personal union with Prussia from 1708 until 1806 and again from 1814 until 1857. Napoleon Bonaparte deposed King Frederick William III of Prussia as prince of Neuchâtel and appointed instead his chief of staff Louis Alexandre Berthier. Starting in 1807, the principality provided Napoleon's Grande Armée with a battalion of rangers. The rangers were nicknamed Canaris (i.e. canaries) because of their yellow uniforms.

Rulers of Neuchâtel 1034–1848
Name Reign
Ulrich I de Fenis 1034–1070
Mangold I 1070–1097
Mangold II ?–1144
Rudolph I ?–1148
Ulrich II 1148–1191
Rudolph II 1191–1196
Berthold I 1196–1259
Ulrich III 1191–1225
Berthold I 1159–1263
Rudolph III 1259–1263
Ulrich IV 1263-?
Henri ?-1283
Amadeus 1283–1288
Rudolph IV 1288–1343
Louis I 1343–1373
Elisabeth 1373–1395
Conrad IV of Freiburg 1395–1424
Jean de Fribourg 1424–1458
Rudolph IV of Hachberg-Sausenberg 1458–1487
Philip of Hachberg 1487–1503
Johanna of Hachberg 1504–1512
Swiss Confederacy 1512–1529
Johanna of Hachberg 1529–1543
François d'Orléans-Longueville 1543–1548
Léonor d'Orléans-Longueville 1548–1573
Henri I 1573–1595
Henri II 1595–1663
Jean Louis Charles 1663–1668
Charles Paris 1668–1672
Jean Louis Charles 1672–1694
Marie de Nemours 1694–1707
Frederick I of Prussia 1707–1713
Frederick William I 1713–1740
Frederick II 1740–1786
Frederick William II 1786–1797
Frederick William III 1797–1806
Louis Alexandre Berthier 1806–1814
Frederick William III 1814–1840
Frederick William IV 1840–1848/57
Republic of Neuchâtel 1 March 1848

After the Liberation Wars the principality was restored to Frederick William III in 1814.[5] The Conseil d'État (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.[5] Frederick William III then established by his "most-supreme cabinet order" (Allerhöchste Cabinets-Ordre, A.C.O.), 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.[5] 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.

Le Locle, 1907

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 cede immediately, and several attempts at counter-revolution took place, culminating in the Neuchâtel Crisis of 1856–57. In 1857, Frederick William finally renounced the monarchy's claim on the area.


View of Lake Neuchâtel from the northern shore, port of Vaumarcus

The canton of Neuchâtel is located in Romandy, the French-speaking 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 (Bourgogne-Franche-Comté). 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 (2,300 ft). The highest region of the canton, however, is the Neuchâtelois Mountains at 900 m (2,950 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 Castle, now seat of the cantonal government

Neuchâtel was one of the first cantons in Switzerland to grant women the right to 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 five 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 six 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), five "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 two of the 46 members of the Council of States (upper chamber).


Federal election results[edit]

Percentage of the total vote per party in the canton in the National Council elections 1971–2015[6]
Party Ideology 1971 1975 1979 1983 1987 1991 1995 1999 2003 2007 2011 2015
FDP.The Liberalsa Classical liberalism 24.3 22.4 20.6 19.4 20.4 22.5 25.7 20.5 14.8 12.7 26.9 24.4
CVP/PDC/PPD/PCD Christian democracy * b * * * * * * * * 3.3 3.5 3.6
SP/PS Social democracy 30.6 38.9 37.4 33.1 30.8 29.8 28.2 28.0 29.2 25.9 24.7 23.7
SVP/UDC Swiss nationalism * * * * * * * * 22.5 23.2 21.4 20.4
LPS/PLS Swiss Liberal 16.0 22.1 26.4 30.9 30.0 27.1 25.2 24.0 14.4 13.2 c c
EVP/PEV Christian democracy * * * * * * * * * 1.2 * *
Ring of Independents Social liberalism * * 4.8 3.5 * * * * * * * *
GLP/PVL Green liberalism * * * * * * * * * * * 3.4
BDP/PBD Conservatism * * * * * * * * * * 1.5 1.0
PdA/PST-POP/PC/PSL Socialism 13.7 9.8 7.7 4.2 3.8 5.2 7.1 6.9 3.0 9.2 10.4 12.2
GPS/PES Green politics * * * 7.4 7.1 8.0 5.9 14.7 13.8 9.4 11.7 9.3
Solidarity Anti-capitalism * * * * * * * 2.7 2.2 * * *
SD/DS National conservatism * * * * 3.4 6.4 2.5 2.3 * * * *
Rep. Right-wing populism 10.1 * * * * * * * * * * *
EDU/UDF Christian right * * * * * * 2.3 * * * * *
Other 5.4 6.8 3.1 1.4 4.5 1.1 3.2 1.0 * 1.8 * 2.1
Turnout % 48.3 47.2 43.3 43.7 37.4 38.1 31.9 34.0 50.4 50.2 42.4 41.8
  • ^a FDP before 2009, FDP.The Liberals after 2009
  • ^b "*" indicates that the party was not on the ballot in this canton.
  • ^c Part of the FDP for this election

Political subdivisions[edit]


Districts of Canton Neuchâtel

Until 2018 the Canton was divided into six districts. On 1 January 2018 the districts were dissolved and all municipalities were placed directly under the canton.[7]


There are 27 municipalities in the canton (as of 2021).[7]


La Chaux-de-Fonds, most populous city in the canton

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, notably from Portugal and Italy. In 2000, its population was closely split between Protestants (38%) and Roman Catholics (31%).[8]

The 175,894 inhabitants (as of 2020)[2] are fairly evenly distributed with many small towns and villages lining the shore of the Lake of Neuchâtel. The average population density is 209 inhabitants per square kilometre (540/sq mi). Neuchâtel (2020 population: 33,455) is the canton's capital while La Chaux-de-Fonds (2020 population: 36,915) 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 origin.

Historical population[edit]

The historical population is given in the following table:

Historic population[9]
Year Total population Swiss Non-Swiss Population share
of total country
1850 70,753 65,773 4 980 3.0%
1880 102,744 93,791 8,953 3.6%
1900 126,279 113,090 13,189 3.8%
1950 128,152 121,357 6,795 2.7%
1970 169,173 132,478 36,695 2.7%
2000 167,949 129,377 38,572 2.3%
2020 175,894 2.0%


The canton is well known for its wines, which are grown along the Lake Neuchâtel shore, and for its absinthe. The Val-de-Travers is famous as the birthplace of absinthe, which has now been re-legalized both in Switzerland and globally. There are dairy farming and cattle breeding in the valleys, but it is for the breeding of horses that Neuchâtel has a fine reputation. Watchmaking is well-established in the canton, with fine mechanics and microchip production being established more recently. Higher educational institutions include Haute école Arc (representing Bern, Jura and Neuchâtel) and the University of Neuchâtel.


  1. ^ The claimants were: 1. the King in Prussia; 2. the Duke of Württemberg-Montbéliard; 3. Jeanne de Mouchy, marquise de Mailly et de Nesle; 4. the marquis Yves d'Alègre; 5. Julianne Catherine d'Amont, dame de Sergis; 6. the Prince of Nassau-Siegen; 7. the Prince of Carignan; 8. Jacques de Matignon, comte de Torigny; 9. Paule-Françoise-Marguerite de Gondi, duchesse de Retz et de Lesdiguières; 10. Béat-Albert-Ignace, baron de Montjoie; 11. comte Trébonius-Ferdinand de Fürstemberg; 12. the Prince of Conti; 13. Angelique-Cunégonde de Montmorency-Luxembourg; 14. the Margrave of Baden-Durlach and 15. the Canton of Uri.[4]


  1. ^ Arealstatistik Land Cover - Kantone und Grossregionen nach 6 Hauptbereichen accessed 27 October 2017
  2. ^ a b "Ständige und nichtständige Wohnbevölkerung nach institutionellen Gliederungen, Geburtsort und Staatsangehörigkeit". (in German). Swiss Federal Statistical Office - STAT-TAB. 31 December 2020. Retrieved 21 September 2021.
  3. ^ Federal Department of Statistics (2008). "Ständige Wohnbevölkerung nach Staatsangehörigkeit, Geschlecht und Kantonen". Archived from the original (Microsoft Excel) on December 15, 2008. Retrieved November 5, 2008.
  4. ^ David Guillaume Huguenin, Les chateaux neuchâtelois: anciens et modernes (1843) pp. 253–256.
  5. ^ a b c Ilse Nicolas, "Militaria: Die Neffschandeller am Schlesischen Busch", in Kreuzberger Impressionen (1st ed. 1969), Berlin: Haude & Spener, 2nd ed. 1979 (Berlinische Reminiszenzen; vol. 26), pp. 111–114, here p. 111. ISBN 3-7759-0205-8.
  6. ^ Nationalratswahlen: Stärke der Parteien nach Kantonen (Schweiz = 100%) (Report). Swiss Federal Statistical Office. 2015. Archived from the original on 2 August 2016. Retrieved 5 August 2016.
  7. ^ a b "Amtliches Gemeindeverzeichnis der Schweiz" (in German) accessed 15 February 2018
  8. ^ Federal Department of Statistics (2004). "Wohnbevölkerung nach Religion". Archived from the original (Interactive Map) on 24 September 2016. Retrieved 15 January 2009.
  9. ^ "Wallis". Historisches Lexikon der Schweiz (in German). Retrieved 25 January 2022.

External links[edit]