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It was at Lake Lucerne, around the turn of the 14th century, in a small lakeside meadow framed by the Alps, that the Old Swiss Confederacy - the infant Switzerland - was born. A loose alliance of three rural german-speaking communities (cantons) that shared the Lake Lucerne shoreline, the Confederacy soon grew to eight cantons, and by 1513 the eight had become thirteen. An Alemannic Parentage Until the beginning of the 5th century, this land was part of the Roman empire, whose fortifed border lay far to the north, along the lines of the Danub...
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The Alemanni take advantage of the crumbling Western Roman Empire and cross the Rhine frontier west and south, occupying Alsace and the north Swiss plateau.
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Having been granted 'Reichsfrei' status (governed directly by the King/Emperor, without any feudal overlord) by the Hohenstaufen kings, the independence of the three Swabian regions of Uri, Schwyz, and Unterwalden (on the shores of Lake Lucerne in modern day Switzerland) is threatened by the rise of the Habsburgs. The three cantons take the opportunity presented by the death of the Habsburg King Rudolph I of Germany earlier in 1291 to sign the Federal Charter on August 1st, forming an alliance for mutual defence against a common enemy. Since 1...
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On the Rütli, a meadow (centre bottom in the image) on the shore of Lake Lucerne below Seelisberg, the three allied Swiss cantons of Uri, Schwyz, and Unterwalden re-affirm their alliance with an oath - the 'Rütlischwur'. First sworn on 8th November 1307, the oath is today re-enacted in the same meadow annually on August 1st, anniversary of the signing of the Federal Charter in 1291, as part of the Swiss National Day celebrations.
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On 9th December 1315, having defeated an Habsburg army in the Battle of Morgarten the previous month, the three allied Swiss cantons of Uri, Schwyz, and Unterwalden sign the Pact of Brunnen, at the town of Brunnen (pictured) on the north east shore of Lake Lucerne, turning their alliance into a formal confederacy. Known to history as the Old Swiss Confederacy, in less than 40 years the three become eight as the cities of Lucerne (in 1332), Zurich (1351), and Bern (1353), and the cantons of Glarus and Zug (1352) join the confederacy.
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In the Battle of Sempach, fought on 9th July 1386 2km (1.25 miles) outside the town of Sempach (battlefield pictured), Habsburg forces opposing the expansion of Lucerne interests are routed by troops of the Old Swiss Confederacy. The defeat decimates the ranks of Swabian nobility who fell in the Habsburg cause. For the Swiss, the victory establishes the confederacy as a significant political and military force and heralds the growth of the eight cantons of the Old Swiss Confederacy into thirteen. Little more than a century later, after the Be...
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Following rising tensions between the Habsburgs and the Swiss Three Leaugues (an associate of the Old Swiss Confederacy that eventually became the east Swiss canton of Graubünden), on 20th January 1499 Habsburg troops occupied the Val Müstair and plundered the Benedictine Convent of Saint John. Although the Habsburgs were driven back by the Swiss, and an armistice signed on 2nd February, the Swiss had already called on the Old Swiss Confederacy for help, and when troops from Uri encountered some Habsburg troops returning home, they did not tak...
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The Protestant Reformation of 1517 heralds a long period of religious tension between the Catholic establishment of the Holy Roman Empire on one side, and the newly converted Protestant states on the other. A significant political undercurrent is the challenge the Protestant states present to the authority of the ruling Catholic Habsburg dynasty. In 1531 in Switzerland (nominally part of the Holy Roman Empire but effectively autonomous and free from Empire influence following victory in the Swabian War of 1499), the Second Battle of Kappel is ...
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The northern Swiss Plateau was settled by the Alemanni when they moved into the void left by a crumbling Western Roman Empire in 406A.D. By the end of the 1st millennium, the Alemanni had become part of the Frankish empire, under which the Duchy of Alamannia, later becoming the Duchy of Swabia, extended its influence across a large part of what was to become Switzerland - the cities of Freiburg in Germany and Bern in Switzerland both owe their foundation to the Swabian Zähringen family. It was the Swabian Holy Roman Emperors - the Hohenstaufen...
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