📽️ History of French-Speaking Switzerland

Foreword


Introduction


This article retraces the history of French-speaking Switzerland with, in parallel, the major dates and events of Switzerland since its creation in 1291, in order to better understand the current situation.

The chapters of the article


This article is divided into 6 parts:

  1. Foreword.
  2. 1291 – 1476: From the creation of Switzerland to the Burgundian Wars.
  3. 1476 – 1798: From the wars of Burgundy to Napoleon.
  4. 1798 – 1848: From Napoleon to the Sonderbund.
  5. 1848 – Today: Modern Switzerland.
  6. Conclusion.

Each part is itself segmented into 5 sections which are:

  1. Entries into the confederations.
  2. Military operations within the confederation.
  3. Treaties and pacts of the confederation.
  4. Situation in French-speaking Switzerland.
  5. Maps.

French-Speaking Switzerland


French-speaking Switzerland is defined by the area in Switzerland where French is considered as the official language. It includes the following cantons and districts: (As a reminder, Swiss territory is divided into cantons, which are in turn divided into districts and then communes. Due to the narrowness of its territory, the canton of Geneva does not have a district).

Cantons where French is spoken throughout the territory.

  • Geneva
  • Vaud
  • Neuchatel
  • Jura (except the German-speaking municipality of Ederswiler)

Cantons where French is spoken mainly:

  • Fribourg: Districts of Veveyse, Glâne, Sarine, Broye and Gruyère. The districts of Sarine and Lac are bilingual.
  • Valais: Districts of Monthey, St-Maurice, Martigny, Entremont, Sion, Conthey, Hérens and Sierre.

Canton where French is spoken in a minority:

  • Berne: Districts of Courtelary and Neuveville

The current map of the Swiss cantons.
  The current map of the Swiss cantons.

A language map of Switzerland. (JU=Jura, NE=Neuchâtel, FR=Fribourg, GE=Geneva)
A language map of Switzerland.

Languages in Switzerland


The boundary between the French and German-speaking parts has changed very little since the 7th century when it marked the border between the Burgundians and the Alamans. French was spoken gradually from the end of the 15th century and intensified at the beginning of the 19th century at the expense of many Franco-Provençal dialects. Today the French language is one of the 4 languages spoken in Switzerland with 20% of the Swiss population and about 1.8 million inhabitants. The German language is clearly the majority and remained the only official language of the Confederation until the beginning of the 19th century.

Western Switzerland before 1291


Here is a summary of the peoples who have occupied the territory of French-speaking Switzerland for 2,000 years.

  • Helvetians: before 50 BC.
  • Roman Empire: 50 BC → 4th century AD.
  • Western Roman Empire: 4th → 5th century AD.
  • Kingdom of the Burgundians: 5th → 6th century AD.
  • Kingdom of Burgundy: 6th → 9th century AD.
  • Kingdom of Burgundy-Transjurane (Upper Burgundy): 9th → 11th century AD.
  • Second Kingdom of Burgundy: 11th → 13th century AD.

The Kingdom of Burgundy (in blue) in the 13th century. It includes French-speaking Switzerland and is itself part of the Holy Roman Germanic Empire (in colour).
map europe 13th century

The situation at the end of the 13th century in French-speaking Switzerland is as follows:

  • Geneva: Under the control of the Bishop of Geneva.
  • Vaud: Under the control of the House of Savoy and the Bishop of Lausanne.
  • Neuchâtel: House of Neuchâtel.
  • Freiburg: House of Kiburg succeeding the House of Zaehringen.
  • Valais: Under the control of the house of Savoy (Bas-Valais) and the Bishop of Sion.

The territory of both French-speaking Switzerland and Switzerland is part of the Holy Roman Empire, an administrative entity composed of a large number of political entities that are sometimes at war with each other.

The flag of the Holy Roman Empire with its two-headed eagle.
The flag of the Holy Roman Empire with its two-headed eagle.

The municipalities of Aigle, Châtel-Saint-Denis and Neuchâtel in French-speaking Switzerland have adopted the eagle of the Holy Roman Empire on their flags.

logo city aigle logo city chatel saint denis logo city neuchatel

From foundation of Switzerland to Burgundy Wars # 1291-1476


Switzerland was created by the Federal Pact in 1291 with the cantons of Uri, Schwyz and Unterwld forming the Switzerland of the III Cantons. Over the next 50 years, a few cantons located in the current central Switzerland became part of the confederation leading to the Switzerland of the VIII Cantons.

🕺 Entries into the confederations # 1st wave


It should be noted that today, Obwalden and Nidwalden are grouped under the canton of Unterwalden and each form a half-canton but are not the result of a separation like Appenzell or Basel.

Uri 1291 and Schwytz 1291
 canton of Uri Flag Drapeau Suisse du canton de Schwitz

Nidwald 1291 and Obwald 1291
 Drapeau Suisse du canton de Nidwald Drapeau Suisse du canton d'Obwald

Luzern 1332
Drapeau du Canton de Lucerne

Zürich 1351 and Glaris 1352
 Drapeau Suisse du canton de Zurich Drapeau Suisse du canton de Glaris

Zoug 1352 and Berne 1353
 Drapeau Suisse du canton de Zug Drapeau Suisse du canton de Berne

⚔️ Military operations


Three major battles victorious by the Swiss take place against the Habsburgs:

  • Morgarten near Zürich in 1315
  • Sempach near Lucerne in 1386
  • Näfels in the canton of Glarus in 1388

The House of Habsburg was the mythical enemy of the early days of the Swiss Confederation, and it was against this enemy that the legendary Swiss hero William Tell fought. The House of Habsburg possessed territories in the north of present-day Switzerland and in Alsace at that time. Over the centuries, the House of Habsburg expanded through alliances and weddings into vast territories in Eastern Europe as well as Spain and the Netherlands.

The painting of the battle of Morgarten (Source: Wikimedi Commons)
The painting of the battle of Morgarten

The painting of the battle of Sempach displayed at Fort Cindey.
The painting of the battle of Sempach

It can be seen on the board of the Battle of Näfels that the Confederates fought together but each under its own cantonal banner. (Source: Wikimedi Commons)
It can be seen on the board of the Battle of Näfels that the Confederates fought together but each under its own cantonal banner

From 1474 to 1477 the Burgundy Wars took place, which had a particularly important influence on French-speaking Switzerland. The Duchy of Burgundy was located between France and Switzerland with an elongated territorial area from North of Lyon to the Netherlands. War broke out between the Duke of Burgundy, Charles the Bold and the Swiss. Savoy, which occupies the Pays de Vaud, and Geneva are allied to the Duke of Burgundy.

Map of the belligerents of the Burgundy Wars.
Map of the belligerents of the Burgundy Wars.

Five battles took place, the first and last in the current France, and the three others in the current Switzerland:

  1. 1474: Héricourt. (France)
  2. 1475: La Planta. (Sion)
  3. 1476: Grandson. (Vaud)
  4. 1476: Morat. (Fribourg)
  5. 1477: Nancy. (France)

These five battles ended in a victory for the Swiss or their allies in the battles of Héricourt and Nancy. The Swiss were able to count on the precious financial help of the King of France, who wanted to limit the Duke of Burgundy’s power. See full details about the Burgundy Wars.

A painting of the Battle of Murten displayed at Fort Cindey to support the troop.
A painting of the Battle of Murten displayed at Fort Cindey to support the troop.

📃 Treaties and pacts


  • 1291 – Federal Pact. Military alliance between Uri, Schwyz and Unterwalden.
  • 1315 – Brunner’s Pact, just after the Battle of Morgarten. Signed between the founding members of Switzerland and strengthens the federal pact.

⛳️ French-speaking Switzerland


From 1291 to 1476, Switzerland had no territories in present-day French-speaking Switzerland.

Situation in 1476: (before the Burgundy Wars)

  • Territory of the canton of Vaud: Mainly under the domination of the House of Savoy as well as the Bishop of Lausanne for certain territories such asLausanne, Lavaux, Avenches, Lucens and Bulle.
  • Territory of the Canton of Geneva: Under the control of the Maison de Savoie and the Bishop of Geneva.
  • Territory of the canton of Fribourg: Fribourg was founded in 1157 by the House of Zaehringen and its possessions are limited to the surroundings of the city.
  • Territory of the canton of Jura: Belongs to the bishopric of Basel.
  • Territory of the canton of Valais: Upper Valais from Sion: Controlled by Prince Bishop of Sion and Patriots. Lower Valais under the control of the Maison de Savoie.
  • Territory of the canton of Neuchâtel: Independent, Maison de Neuchâtel (13th and 14th century). House of Fribourg and House of Hochberg (15th century)

🌍 Maps


Switzerland before the Burgundy Wars. 1474. (source: Wikimedia. Marco Zanoli)
Switzerland before the Burgundy Wars. 1474
Translation of the map into English:
Souverane Kantone (VIII Orte): Sovereign Canton (Switzerland of the 8 Cantons)
Zugewandte Orte: Allied Territories

Grafschaft Neuenburg: County of Neuchâtel
Furstbistum Basel: Diocese of Basel
Grafschaft Greyerz: Gruyère County
Herzogtum Savoyen: Duchy of Savoy
Republik der Sieben Zenden Des Wallis: Republic of the Seven Tens of Valais.
Freigrafschat Burgund: Free County of Burgundy

From Burgundy Wars to Napoléon # 1476-1798


It was after the Burgundian Wars that the Swiss implemented themselves in French-speaking Switzerland by annexing territories mainly at the expense of Savoy and the Confederation became the Switzerland of the XIII Cantons after an integration phase of 5 cantons over 30 years.

🕺 Entries into the confederations # 2nd wave


It should be noted that the cantons of Appenzell and Basel each split into two half-cantons in 1597 and 1833 respectively.

Soleure 1481 and Fribourg 1481
canton of Soleure Flag canton of fribourg Flag

Bâle-Ville 1501 and Bâle-Camp 1501
canton of Basel City Flag canton of Basel Campain Flag

Schaffhouse 1501
canton of Shaffouse Flag

Appenzell RI 1513 and Appenzell RE 1513
canton of Appenzell RI Flag canton of Appenzell RE Flag

⚔️ Military operations


The Battle of Giornico in the Canton of Ticino took place in 1478 and resulted in the Confederates’ victory over the Duke of Milan. In 1499, the Swabian War broke out between Switzerland and the Habsburg house with a defeat for the latter at the Battle of Dornach near Basel. After Giornico, Switzerland settled permanently south of the Alps and the Swabian war clearly pushed back the Habsburgs. Since its creation 200 years earlier, Switzerland has been accustomed to victories even in numerical inferiority, such as the heroic defence in Murten during the Burgundy Wars, and has acquired a reputation for invincibility.

The painting of the Battle of Giornico displayed at Fort Cindey to support the troop.
The painting of the Battle of Giornico displayed at Fort Cindey to support the troop.

Marignan’s defeat near Milan in Italy in 1515 marked the end of Swiss military expansions after a resounding defeat against Francis I, King of France. It should be noted that the 13 cantons of the Confederation have divergent opinions on the conduct of military operations in Italy at the beginning of the 16th century to such an extent that the troops of Berne, Fribourg, Solothurn and the Valais allied to the Swiss withdraw from operations and do not participate in the battle of Marignan.

In 1536, Bern invaded the Pays de Vaud, which was no longer defended by Savoy. At the same time, Freiburg considerably expanded its territory by annexing territories of the current Glâne and Veveyse.

Surprisingly, throughout its history, wars have taken place between cantons of the Confederations and in particular over religion following the reform between Catholic and Protestant cantons:

  • 1529 and 1531: First and second Kappel war in the canton of Solothurn.
  • 1656 and 1712: First and second Villmergen war in the canton of Aargau.

It was with the Sonderbund in 1848 that armed religious conflicts in Switzerland came to an end.

📃 Treaties and pacts


After the Burgundian Wars:

  • Congress of Fribourg July 1476: restitution of the Pays de Vaud to Savoie for a sum of money.
  • Congress of Zurich 1478: Occupation by the Confederates of the cities of Echallens, Orbe and Grandson in the form of bailliages and Aigle by Berne.

After the Swabian War:

  • Treaty of Basel of 1499: recognition of the Swiss Confederation by the Holy Roman Empire of which it is still an official part.

After the conquest of the Pays de Vaud in 1536::

  • Treaty of Lausanne of 1564. Savoy definitively renounced suzerainty over the Pays de Vaud with the profile of Berne.

After the Thirty Years’ War: (War involving most European countries except Switzerland)

  • End of the Thirty Years’ War in 1648: definitive recognition of Switzerland and liberation of the subjects from the Holy Roman Empire.

⛳️ French-speaking Switzerland


After the Burgundian Wars and the defeat of Savoy allied to the Duke of Burgundy, Bern and Freiburg occupied the cities of Echallens, Orbe, Murten, Cerlier and Grandson in the form of joint bailliages, while Aigle was annexed by Bern, which formed the Government of Aigle. These are the first territories of present-day French-speaking Switzerland to be integrated into the Confederation. The Valais, allied to the Swiss, extends as far as St-Maurice. In 1481, Freiburg became part of the Confederation and the first French-speaking canton in Switzerland, although at the time its language was German and its territory was limited to the surroundings of the city of Freiburg. In 1501, Basel joined the Confederation and owned territories in French-speaking Switzerland in the Canton of Jura and Bernese Jura.

The invasion of the Pays de Vaud in 1536 by the Bernese, who imposed reform and Protestantism instead of Catholicism, allowed Fribourg to annex territories at the level of the Glâne and Veveyse districts, which remained Catholic. During the Napoleonic invasion of 1798, Bern had to withdraw completely from its possessions in the Vaud region, which became the canton of Vaud, while Fribourg kept its annexed territories.

The bankruptcy of the county of Gruyères in 1555 allowed its two creditors Fribourg and Berne to recover its territories. Thus, the territory corresponding to the current Gruyère district was absorbed by Fribourg while Berne took over the Pays d’en Haut.

The magnificent castle of Gruyères, headquarters of the Counts of Gruyères.
The magnificent castle of Gruyères, headquarters of the Counts of Gruyères.

Concerning Geneva, after the Burgundian wars in which it participated alongside the Duke of Burgundy and Savoy, Geneva had to pay a “fine” to the Swiss following the defeat or risk being invaded. Shortly afterwards, at the end of the 15th century, Geneva began its history with Switzerland by creating alliances with the cantons, in particular Fribourg and Berne, with whom it signed an “eternal alliance” in 1584.

The reform led to the departure of the Bishop of Geneva in 1525 and in 1541, the Republic of Geneva was founded. At that time, Jean Calvin, a reformer from France, “elevated” Geneva to the rank of “Protestant Rome” by spreading the ideas of the Reformation throughout Europe and since 1540, Geneva has served as a refuge for the persecuted of Protestantism and in particular those from France. In 1602, the Duke of Savoy, who wanted to take the city, made an abortive attempt to invade it, known as the Escalade invasion. This event, which has become legendary, is celebrated every year in December with the destruction of a chocolate pot and the famous Escalade race, Switzerland’s most popular running event.

In addition to Geneva and the Pays de Vaud, the reform will be introduced at the same time in the Principality of Neuchâtel. The cantons of Fribourg and Valais will remain Catholic.

Guillaume Farel, the main actor of the reform in the canton of Neuchâtel in 1530. The statue stands in front of the collegiate church in the city of Neuchâtel.
Guillaume Farel, the main actor of the reform in the canton of Neuchâtel in 1530. The statue stands in front of the collegiate church in the city of Neuchâtel.

The models of the cathedrals of Lausanne . Both of them become Protestant after the 16th century reform.
The model of the cathedral of LausanneThe model of the cathedral of Geneva in cardboard to assemble yourself sold inside the building.
The model of the cathedral of Geneva

Situation in 1798:

  • Territory of the canton of Vaud: Invaded by the Bernese in 1536.
  • Territory of the Canton of Geneva: Republic of Geneva independent since 1541.
  • Territory of the canton of Fribourg: Integrated into the confederation in 1481, annexation of Glâne, Bulle and Veveyse in 1536, purchase of the Gruyère in 1555.
  • Territory of the canton of Jura: Belongs to the bishopric of Basel.
  • Territory of the canton of Valais: Valais patriots invade the Lower Valais as far as Massongex (1476) and then Lake Geneva (1569).
  • Territory of the canton of Neuchâtel: Indépendant. French family Orléans-Longeville (16th and 17th century). House of Prussia (Hohenzollern) since 1707. Practically owns its current borders from the end of the 16th century.

🌍 Maps


After the Burgundy Wars. 1477. (Source: Wikimedia: Augusta89)

Carte de la Susse après les guerres de Bourgogne en 1477 - Histoire de la Suisse Romande

After the conquest of the Pays de Vaud by Bern. 1536. (Source: Wikimedia: Marco Zanoli)

Carte de la Suisse après l'invasion du Pays de Vaud par Berne en 1536 - Histoire de la Suisse Romande

From Napoléon to Sonderbund # 1798-1848


In 1798, Napoleon invaded Switzerland, unable to resist. The Helvetic Republic was created in 1798, with the end of the common bailliages, external territories administered by the Swiss. This republic ended in 1803 with the Mediation Act and the return to a confederation, the Confederation of XIX cantons after the creation of 6 new cantons which were under the control of the Confederates. However, Switzerland remains in reality a satellite of France. Following Napoleon’s defeat in 1815, 3 new cantons that did not wish to remain isolated were attached to form the Confederations of the XXII Cantons. It should be noted that when counting the number of cantons, Nidwalden and Obwalden, Appenzell Innerrhoden and Ausserrhoden, Basel City and Countryside count as half a canton.

A massive structure erected in 1915 on the Place de la Planta in Sion to mark the centenary of the entry of the Valais into the Confederation.
A massive structure erected in 1915 on the Place de la Planta in Sion to mark the centenary of the entry of the Valais into the Confederation.

Two interesting points can be noted since Napoleon in 1798 regarding language and currency. Only German was considered as an official language until the Helvetic Republic of 1798. From that date, the French and Italian languages also became so. The history of the Swiss franc began in 1798 with its adoption throughout the country. Before that date, each canton managed its own currency. After the Mediation Act in 1803, each canton again had its own currency. The restoration of a Swiss franc common to the territory occurred in 1848 after the Sonderbund.

🕺 Entries into the confederations # 3rd wave


Vaud 1803 and Tessin 1803
Canton of Vaud Flag Canton of Ticino Flag

Argovie 1803 and Saint-Gall 1803
Canton of Argau Flag Canton of Sank-Gallen Flag

Thurgovie 1803 and Grisons 1803
Canton of thurgau Flag Canton of Grisons Flag

Valais 1815 and Geneva 1815
Canton of valais Flag Canton of geneva Flag

Neuchâtel 1815
Canton of neuchâtel Flag

📃 Treaties and pacts


1798: Invasion of the Pays de Vaud and then Switzerland by French troops.
1798: Creation of the Helvetic Republic
1803: Act of mediation following the unrest resulting from the creation of the Helvetic Republic.
1815: Congress of Vienna after Napoleon’s defeat. Includes the protagonists of the Napoleonic wars, including France. Switzerland is recognized as neutral. The Canton of Vaud, created in 1803, was confirmed and the Jura was given to Berne as compensation. France returns to its 1791 borders.

The flag of the Helvetic Republic. Its 3 horizontal colours recall the French tricolour flag. Green is the colour of the revolutionaries, while yellow and red are the colours of the founding cantons Schwitz, Unterwald and Uri.
The flag of the Helvetic Republic. Its 3 horizontal colours recall the French tricolour flag. Green is the colour of the revolutionaries, while yellow and red are the colours of the founding cantons Schwitz, Unterwald and Uri.

⚔️ Military operations


In 1798, Napoleon militarily invaded Switzerland. He annexed the independent territories of:

  • Geneva in 1798, integrated into the department of Lake Geneva.
  • Valais in 1810, it became part of the department of Simplon.

The flag of Neuchâtel from 1350 to 1806.
The flag of Neuchâtel from 1350 to 1806.

En 1848 a lieu la guerre du Sonderbund, conflit entre cantons catholiques séparatistes et protestants qui se solde par une victoire rapide des protestants avec quelques dizaines de morts de chaque coté seulement. Les cantons de la Suisse centrale avec le Valais et Fribourg sont opposés aux autres dont Genève et Vaud, Neuchâtel étant neutre.

A video on the Sonderbund Civil War and the role of Swiss General Guillaume-Henri Dufour.

General Dufour, winner of the Sonderbund conflict, is a key figure in the founding of modern Switzerland. He gave his name to many buildings and streets in Switzerland. A mountain bears his name, the Dufour Peak in the Monte Rosa massif between Switzerland and Italy. The peak was renamed in 1863 in honour of Dufour’s military command and the creation by him of the first detailed map of Switzerland. Dufour Peak is the highest alpine peak in Switzerland at 4634 metres above sea level.

The equestrian statue of General Dufour at the Place Neuve in Geneva. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)
The equestrian statue of General Dufour at the Place Neuve in Geneva. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Originally from Geneva and born in Constance in southern Germany, Dufour had a full life. Before serving in the army of the Swiss Confederation, he fought in the ranks of the Grande Armée at the time of Napoleon and specialised in the art of military fortifications. He even received a military decoration in 1814. In 1863, he was part of a group of Geneva citizens who were to create the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Magnificent view of the Dufour Peak from the Gornergrat observation post in Zermatt.
Magnificent view of the Dufour Peak from the Gornergrat observation post in Zermatt.

⛳️ French-speaking Switzerland


Initially, in 1798, after its liberation from the Bernese with the help of France, the territory of the canton of Vaud became part of the Helvetic Republic under the name of Canton du Léman and was then called Canton de Vaud upon its integration into the Confederation in 1803. It is the first fully French-speaking Swiss canton.

A plate commemorating the integration of the Canton of Leman into the Helvetic Republic in 1798 in Lausanne Cathedral.
A plate commemorating the integration of the Canton of Leman into the Helvetic Republic in 1798 in Lausanne Cathedral.

The Congress of Vienna and the defeat of Napoleon in 1815 profoundly marked the territory of French-speaking Switzerland.

Regarding Vaud, the role of La Harpe must be underlined. La Harpe was a native of Vaud who facilitated the liberation of the Pays de Vaud as well as the preservation of its independence in 1815 when the Bernese claimed their former possessions at the Congress of Vienna. La Harpe used its very good relations with the Emperor of Russia, Alexander I, to tip the balance in favour of the Canton of Vaud, which had been in the Helvetic Republic since 1803.

The island of La Harpe located next to the castle of Rolle.
The island of La Harpe located next to the castle of Rolle.

The Cantons of Neuchâtel, Valais and Geneva did not wish to remain isolated and joined the Confederation in 1815 after Napoleon’s defeat.

From 1806 to 1815, Neuchâtel became a personal possession of the French Marshal Berthier. From 1815 to 1848, Neuchâtel had the astonishing peculiarity of remaining under the sovereignty of Prussia even though it was part of the Confederation. In 1848, the canton freed itself from the szerainity of Prussia.

In Valais, the arrival of Napoleonic troops in 1798 and 1799 marked the end of the domination of the Upper Valais (known as the Upper Dozens) over the Lower Valais.

Concerning Geneva, the Swiss require territorial continuity in order to be able to integrate it into the Confederation. In 1815, Geneva did not have a border with the canton of Vaud and its territory was also divided into 5 discontinuous parts (Geneva, Satigny, Jussy, Genthod and Céligny). Thus Versoix, Meyrin, Collex-Bossy, Prégny, Grand-Sacconnex and Vernier, then in the French Pays de Gex, became Swiss in 1816 under the Treaty of Paris. In 1815, the Swiss soldiers from Solothurn and Fribourg symbolically landed in Geneva near Port Noir. On the other hand, about ten other municipalities of Savoy which belonged to the Kingdom of Sardinia (Former Savoy with Sardinia) will also join Geneva after the Treaty of Turin in 1816 as Carouge for example thus allowing the connection of Satigny and Jussy to the rest of the canton of Geneva.

The map of the canton of Geneva with possessions before 1815 in yellow. The territories acquired after the Congress of Vienna to the profile of France are colored in blue and those to the profile of the Kingdom of Sardinia in red. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)
The map of the canton of Geneva with possessions before 1815 in yellow. The territories acquired after the Congress of Vienna to the profile of France are colored in blue and those to the profile of the Kingdom of Sardinia in red.

A column at Port Noir on the left bank of Geneva harbour to remember the Swiss landing in 1815.
A column at Port Noir on the left bank of Geneva harbour to remember the Swiss landing in 1815.

Situation in 1848:

  • Territory of the canton of Vaud: Liberated from the Bernese in 1798. First called “Canton du Léman” under the Helvetic Republic and then integrated into the Confederation in 1803.
  • Territory of the Canton of Geneva: annexed by Napoleonic France in 1798 (Department of Lake Geneva) then integrated into the Confederation in 1815.
  • Territory of the canton of Fribourg: Morat integrated into the canton of Fribourg in 1803.
  • Territory of the Canton of Jura: Donated to the Canton of Berne in 1815 following the Treaty of Vienna to compensate for the losses of Vaud and Aargau.
  • Territory of the canton of Valais: annexed by Napoleonic France in 1810 (Republic of Simplon) then integrated into the Confederation in 1815.
  • Territory of the canton of Neuchâtel: Belonged to Prussia until 1806. 1806-1815: Possession of Marshal Berthier. Joined the Confederation in 1815 and returned to the suzerainty of Prussia. 1848: Proclamation of the Republic of Neuchâtel, liberation of the suzerainty of Prussia.

🌍 Maps


Territorial evolution of Switzerland from 1291 to 1797. (Source: Wikimedia: Marco Zanoli)

Carte de l'Evolution territoriale de la Suisse de 1291 à 1797 - Histoire de la Suisse Romande

The Helvetic Republic. 1798-1799. (Source: Wikimedia: Augusta89)

Carte de La République Hélvétique. 1798-1799 - Histoire de la Suisse Romande

The Helvetic Confederation from 1803 to 1814. (Source: Wikimedia: Augusta89)

Carte de La Confédération Hélvétique de 1803 à 1814

Switzerland in 1814 after the Treaty of Vienna. (Source: Wikimedia: Marco Zanoli)

Carte de La Suisse en 1814 après le traité de Vienne

Modern Switzerland # Since 1848


In 1848, following the Sonderbund war, the federal state was established, the basis of Modern Switzerland with an army and a common currency. It is also at this time that the Swiss flag was created by Dufour.

The Swiss flag with a white cross on a red background (Pantone colour 485C) is relatively recent, having been created in 1840 and finally adopted in 1848. It is the only one in the world to be square with the flag of the Vatican. In the Middle Ages, the Swiss fought together but under the banner of their respective cantons.
The Swiss flag with a white cross on a red background

🕺 Entries into the confederations


In 1979, the last canton was created by the separation of a French-speaking part of the Bernese jura from the canton of Berne.

Jura 1979
canton of jura flag

A video from the TSR archives on the Jura question in 1962 in which supporters and opponents of the independence of the canton of Jura give their opinions.

The famous Unsprunnen Stone is being launched in 2017 at the Unsprunnen Festival, an event that takes place in Interlaken in the Canton of Berne every 8 to 12 years. The 83.5 kg stone was stolen in 1984 by the “Bélier” group, which demanded complete independence for the canton of Jura in exchange for its surrender. Indeed, in 1979, only 4 of the 7 Jura districts integrate the new canton of Jura, the 3 others remain within the canton of Bern. The stone is returned in 2000 but engraved with the European stars and the symbol of the Bélier group and thus lightened by 2 kg. Another stone is now used for the famous throw. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.
The famous Unsprunnen Stone is being launched in 2017 at the Unsprunnen Festival

⚔️ Military operations within the confederation.


None, Switzerland became neutral after the Vienna Congress of 1814.

📃 Treaties and pacts


Nothing special.

⛳️ French-speaking Switzerland


Since 1814 and the Congress of Vienna up to the present day, there have been no changes in relation to the territory of Switzerland. Some minor exchanges of territory took place in the 19th and 20th centuries, such as the extension of the runway at Geneva Cointrin International Airport or the construction of the Emosson dam near Martigny.

Within Switzerland, the canton of Jura separated from Bern in 1979 and, in 1856, Neuchâtel, which had already been a Swiss canton since 1814, relinquished its special status by freeing itself from the sovereignty of Prussia.

🌍 Maps


The Swiss cantons in the 21st century. (Source: Wikimedia: Poulpy)
The Swiss cantons in the 21st century.

Conclusion


It can be observed that the history of French-speaking Switzerland within Switzerland is relatively recent and dates mainly from 200 years ago. It was the arrival of Napoleon and his fall that shaped present-day Switzerland and precipitated the cantons of Vaud, Valais, Neuchâtel and Geneva into the Helvetic Confederation. Fribourg had already joined the Confederation at the end of the 15th century after the Burgundy Wars, during which the populations of French-speaking Switzerland, particularly those commanded by Jacques de Romont, fought against the Swiss. The canton of Jura, on the other hand, was formed by the break-up of a French-speaking part of the canton of Bern.

Before the arrival of Napoleon, the territories in French-speaking Switzerland were strongly marked by the county and then duchy of Savoy from the 12th to the 15th century. The canton of Bern occupied the future canton of Vaud from the 16th to the end of the 18th century. During this same period, the cantons of Geneva, Valais and Neuchâtel remained independent.

A well-known painting of Napoleon crossing the Great St. Bernard Pass. It is one of Napoleon’s most famous paintings, along with the painting of his coronation, both painted by Jean-Louis David. On the ground, a mention to Hannibal who is known today not to have crossed the Great Saint Bernard Pass.
A well-known painting of Napoleon crossing the Great St. Bernard Pass

Major dates of Switzerland:

  • 1291: Foundation ⇒ The mythical beginnings
  • 14th century: Wars against the Habsburgs ⇒ the first military victories
  • 1474-1477: Burgundy Wars ⇒ the first territories in French-speaking Switzerland
  • 1515: Defeat of Marignan ⇒ End of Swiss military expansion
  • 1798-1814: Napoleon ⇒ The beginnings of modern Switzerland
  • 1814: Congress of Vienna ⇒ Neutrality of Switzerland
  • 1848: Sonderbund ⇒ Modern Switzerland

Annex


The flags of the cantons of French-speaking Switzerland

  • Vaud

canton of Vaud flag

The green color comes from the initial color of the French revolutionaries. It is the only canton with the inscription of a slogan.

  • Geneva

canton of geneva flag

The key is an attribute of the apostle St. Peter and refers to the bishop while the black eagle symbolizes the Holy Roman Empire

  • Valais

canton of Valais flag

The stars symbolize the 13 districts of the canton.

  • Fribourg

canton of fribourg flag

Black and white come from the colours of the Zaehringen family, founder of Freiburg, who gave these colours to their cities.

  • Neuchâtel

canton of neuchatel flag

Chosen in 1848, the meaning of the flag is unclear and most importantly marks a break with the previous flag of the former regime of the King of Prussia. The flag looks like those of France and Italy, which were popular at that time.

  • Jura

canton of jura flag

The episcopal crosier refers to the bishopric of Basel and the red and white lines symbolize the 7 districts of the Jura region. At present, only 4 are included in the canton of Jura.

The history of Switzerland abroad


The Swiss Cantonal Tree. An amazing sculpture in the heart of London in Leicester Square in honour of the 700th anniversary of the birth of the Swiss Confederation in 1991.

An amazing sculpture in the heart of London in Leicester Square in honour of the 700th anniversary of the birth of the Swiss Confederation in 1991.

Interesting videos


A video about the canton of Vaud history

A video about the Swiss territorial evolution from 1291 to 1847

Les musées historiques en Suisse romande


Canton de Vaud


Cantonal museum of archaeology and history Lausanne

Lausanne Historical Museum

Montreux Historical Museum

Lausanne Roman Museum

Nyon Roman Museum

Avenches Roman Museum

Historic Museum and Porcelain Exhibition (Nyon)

Vevey History Museum

Museum of Yverdon and its region

Canton of Valais


Saxon Museum

Pierre Gianadda Foundation (Martigny)

Léman Museum (St-Gingolf)

Bagnes Museum (Le Châble)

Valais History Museum (Sion)

Canton of Neuchâtel


Neuchâtel Art and History Museum

La Chaux-de-Fonds History Museum

Canton of Fribourg


Museum of Estavayer-le-Lac and its frogs

Vallon Roman Museum

Canton of Geneva


Geneva's Museum of Art and History

Questions


Who founded Switzerland?

  • According to legend, the Grütli meadow above Lake Lucerne is the site of the so-called Grütli Pact signed by the cantons of Uri, Schwyz and Unterwalden.

How old is Switzerland?

  • Switzerland exists officially since 1291, so it is more than 720 years old.

What is the origin of the word Switzerland?

  • The word Switzerland comes from a translation of the German word Schweiz, which itself comes from the primitive canton of Schwyz.

Why is Switzerland CH?

  • The term CH means Confoederatio Helvetica in Latin is a long form of Switzerland.

What is the capital of Switzerland?

  • Bern is the capital of Switzerland since 1848.

It should be noted that officially Bern is called the “federal city” and not the capital. Switzerland therefore officially has no capital. This choice must be understood in the historical context. Indeed, in 1848, Switzerland emerged from the fratricidal Sonderbund war and no canton wanted to see a strong central power. The term “federal city” is therefore used to spare sensitivities, particularly that of Zurich, and to offer the federal parliament the theoretical possibility of sitting elsewhere than in Bern.

How many cantons are there in Switzerland?

  • There are 26 cantons in Switzerland, 6 of which are half cantons.

Which part of Switzerland speaks French?

  • French-speaking Switzerland in the western part of Switzerland is the region where French is spoken in majority.

How is the linguistic border between the German and French-speaking parts of Switzerland called?

  • The Röstigraben is the name used to designate the linguistic border between the French and German-speaking parts of Switzerland.

Who are the best known Swiss people in the world?

  • Apart from today’s sportsmen and women, the characters of William Tell and Heidi are the best known in the world.