Simplon (department)

Simplon ([sɛ̃.plɔ̃]) was a department of the French First Empire. It was named after the Simplon Pass (Italian: Passo del Sempione). It was formed in 1810, when the Rhodanic Republic was annexed by the French Republic. Its territory corresponded with that of the present-day Swiss canton of Valais.

Department of Simplon

Département du Simplon
Simplon and other annexed departments
StatusDepartment of the French First Empire
46°11′N 7°41′E
Official languagesFrench
Historical eraFrench Revolutionary Wars
 Annexation of the Rhodanic Republic
13 December 1810
 Occupied by Austrian forces
29 December 1813
5,000[1] km2 (1,900 sq mi)
 1812 census
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Rhodanic Republic
Restoration and Regeneration in Switzerland
Today part of  Switzerland

The chef-lieu of the department was Sion. The department was subdivided into the following three arrondissements and cantons:[1]

After the final defeat of Napoleon Bonaparte in 1815, the department was admitted to the Swiss Confederation and became the canton of Valais.


The department was created by Article 2 of the decree of 12 November 1810, reuniting the Valais to the French Empire. This decree is written as follows:

Considering that the Simplon Road, which unites the Empire to our Kingdom of Italy, is useful to more than sixty million men; that it cost our treasures in France and Italy more than eighteen millions, an expense which would become useless if commerce could find there no convenience and perfect security;
That the Valais did not fulfill any of the engagements it had contracted when we had the work begun to open this great communication;
Wanting moreover to put an end to the anarchy which afflicts this country, and to cut short the abusive pretensions of sovereignty of a part of the population on the other,
We have decreed and ordered, decree and order the following:
FIRST ARTICLE. - The Valais is reunited to the Empire.
ART. 2. - This territory will form a department under the name of Department of Simplon.
ART. 3. - This department will be part of the seventh military division.
ART. 4. - It will be taken possession, without delay, on our behalf, and a general commissioner will be in charge of administering it throughout the rest of this year.
ART. 5. - All our ministers will be charged with the execution of this decree.
Signed: Napoleon
By the Emperor: The Minister Secretary of State,
Signed: Hugues-Bernard Maret, Duke of Bassano

This decree was confirmed by the organic senatus-consulte of 13 December 1810. This senatus-consulte is written as follows:

FIRST ARTICLE. - The Valais is reunited to the territory of the French Empire.
ART. 2. - It will form a department under the name of Depatment of Simplon.
ART. 3. - The department of Simplon will have a deputy in the Legislative Body. - This deputy will be appointed in 1811: he will be renewed in the year of the fourth series, to which the Department of Simplon will belong.
ART. 4. - The Department of Simplon will be the jurisdiction of the imperial court of Lyon.



The prefect was the highest state representative in the department. The holder of the office was also subprefect of Sion.

Term start Term end Office holder
11 January 1811[2]13 November 1811Claude Joseph Parfait Derville-Maléchard
13 November 1811[3]29 December 1813Claude-Philibert Barthelot de Rambuteau


The secretary-general was the deputy to the prefect.

Term start Term end Office holder
11 January 181129 December 1813Ruillier

Subprefect of Brigue

Term start Term end Office holder
8 February 181129 December 1813de Sepibus

Subprefect of Saint-Maurice

Term start Term end Office holder
8 February 181129 December 1813Dufour de Monthey


  1. Almanach Impérial an bissextil MDCCCXII, p. 469-470, accessed in Gallica 31 July 2013 (in French)
  2. Archives Nationales. "DERVILLE-MALÉCHARD, Claude Joseph Parfait". Retrieved 23 June 2019.
  3. Archives Nationales. "BARTHELOT DE RAMBUTEAU, Claude Philibert". Retrieved 23 June 2019.

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