Livius.Org Germania Inferior Culture of the Netherlands Photos of the Netherlands History of the Netherlands


Cycling in Amsterdam. Photo Jona Lendering. These people are going to a festival called Koninginnedag, which literally means "the day of the queen", and is a celebration of the Dutch monarchy. It is a strange festival, because kings and queens are an anomaly in Dutch history. Somewhere in the eleventh century, the counts and dukes became more or less independent. (The Battle of Vlaardingen in 1018, in which count Dirk III of Holland defeated an imperial army is often mentioned in this context.) Later, the Low Countries were integrated in the realms of the dukes of Burgundy, and in the sixteenth century, Charles V (emperor of Germany and king of Spain) was called "lord of the Netherlands", but the Dutch preferred independence and "left the king", as they expressed it, in 1581.
Koninginnedag in Amsterdam. Photo Jona Lendering. The Netherlands became an independent Republic, which was recognized in 1585 in the Treaty of Nonsuch. The red-white-and-blue flag dates back to that time. After 1780, this republic, taking inspiration from the United States, became more democratic, but not much later, Prussia intervened with an army. The democrats fled to France and returned in 1795, supported by French revolutionary troops, and gave the Netherlands a constitution in 1798, according to the principle "one man, one vote".
Koninginnedag in Amsterdam. Photo Jona Lendering. However, in 1806, Napoleon made his brother Louis king, and during the years after the fall of Napoleon, the great powers (Britain, Austria, Prussia, and Russia) created a new kingdom that was made up from the Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg. A Dutch prince named Willem van Oranje, who had lived in England, was crowned king. During his reign, many achievements of the British Industrial Revolution were imported, but in 1830, the strange patchwork of Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg exploded. When Willem died in 1840, he had not accepted the loss of Belgium. One of the results of the Belgian crisis, however, was that the Dutch, who supported their king's attempt to recover Belgium, resigned themselves to the monarchy.
Koninginnedag in Amsterdam. Photo Jona Lendering. During the reign of Willem II and Willem III, the birthday of the king was celebrated as an official, nationalistic festival. The population had a holiday, people came to the house of the mayor and sang the national anthem, there was a speech or two, and often there was a fair. During the reigns of queen Emma, the formidable Wilhelmina, and the popular Juliana (1948-1980), this remained unchanged. In the meantime, the monarchs lost their power. Between 1848 and 1919, the Netherlands became a democracy.
Koninginnedag in Amsterdam. Photo Jona Lendering. Things changed when Beatrix became our queen. Her birthday is 31 January, which is not exactly the time of the year for celebrations in the open air. During her inauguration in 1980, she announced that her mother's birthday (30 April), was to remain queen's day. This was an illegal act, because our king or queen have no powers. Not everybody likes Beatrix' tendency towards autocracy.
Koninginnedag in Amsterdam. Photo Jona Lendering. During her reign, we have seen the return of republicanism, which is shown in this graffiti. However, the Dutch republicans are divided, and are probably the best enemy the monarchy can have.
Koninginnedag in Amsterdam. Photo Jona Lendering. During the reign of Beatrix, the city of Amsterdam has allowed its citizens to organize a "free market", which means that they can buy and sell everything they like. This usually means that people drag out of their houses all the old things they don't need anymore, put them somewhere along the street and sell them, as if the entire town is occupied with one big garage sale. Especially for the children, this is nice, because they can buy toys for prices even they can afford. Other people sell their cookies and drinks. Because this is a free market, there are no regulations, but sometimes, when temperatures are high, inspectors of the Food Inspection Department join the crowds and sometimes intervene.
Koninginnedag in Amsterdam. Photo Jona Lendering. You can always listen to people making music (or try to, because it is usually noisy), hairdressers have their chairs on the street, there are fortune tellers, you will see acrobats, and you can always spot children who pretend that they are sleeping, with a big sign "Who helps us make money without effort?" This boy has as sign that if you pay him 20 eurocent, he will tell you joke. As you can see, he also sells the miniature cars for which he now is too old. Many children indicate the sites where they want to sit well in advance. In the last week of April, you can see the word "occupied" chalked down on the sidewalks. Elderly people sometimes complain about it. "Occupied," they grumble, "we were occupied by the Germans in 1940-1945."
Koninginnedag in Amsterdam. Photo Jona Lendering. You must by now have noticed that many people wear something orange. That's because the queen's ancestors had the title "Prince of Orange", after the city in southern France. Only the title, though: in 1680, prince Willem III (who is not to be confused with king Willem III), became king of England, and lost control of the principality to France during the War of Spanish Succession. When peace was signed in 1713, and because Willem III had no legitimate children, the principality became French and the title was awarded to two relatives of Willem III. It is now used by the Dutch heir apparent, currently prince Willem-Alexander, who will one day be our king Willem IV. As you can see, this lady has even painted her face in the dynastic colors.

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Jona Lendering for
Livius.Org, 2006
Revision: 29 April 2007
Livius.Org Germania Inferior Culture of the Netherlands Photos of the Netherlands History of the Netherlands