The Dutch Monarchy and the Day the Netherlands Turn Orange

Posted by Anne Rhebergen • Tuesday, March 8. 2011 • Category: People and Places
Interaction with people from different cultures is next to the obvious change in landscapes the most striking thing while going abroad. You talk about cultural issues that are different like eating habits or local traditions. So of course it was also one of the things I talked about a lot while being abroad and it was at this time that I discovered how odd foreign people find Queen’s Day, which is maybe the biggest Dutch-specific public holiday. People find this odd because how are people partying everywhere and dressed up like crazy in orange be related to the Queen of the Netherlands?

By Tosca Weiler

Some people in the Netherlands complain and say that the royal family is not important anymore and is only costing a lot of tax money. I personally believe however that the royal family is important as a symbol for the Netherlands. A lot of Dutch people also want to know, how the royal family is doing. For example, when my mom visits her sister who is living in the United States, she always brings a magazine which is all about the royal family. I think that the most popular pictures in the magazine are the ones of the little princesses, the daughters of the crown prince.

Unlike what a lot of people think, the Dutch monarch and royal family are still doing a lot of useful and important work as well – besides being a public icon – for example, by visiting other countries. This is positive for both countries because one of the many things it can help with is to improve international relationships. That is not all though. Even nowadays the monarch is still playing a role in the formation of the Dutch government.

There are several other characteristics related to the position of the Dutch monarch. Since 1848 the Dutch monarch is inviolable. This means in short that the monarch is politically neutral and that the ministers of the government are the persons taking responsibility for the actions of the monarch. As the head of state, the monarch also has several other responsibilities. He/she co-signs new Acts of Parliament, contributes to the formation of new governments by assigning a person who investigates possible government formations and if a successful formation has been found the current Queen signs the Royal Decrees accepting the outgoing governments resignation and appointing the new team. If this is successful, then the Queen swears in the new ministers and state secretaries. Finally the Queen also gives the speech from the throne at the opening of the parliamentary session. So yes, in this modern age the monarch of the Netherlands still has a surprising amount of duties and influence.

By Pixel Addict
(http://www.flickr.com/photos/pixel_addict/1401218685/)

This may sound a bit alien altogether so I will give a short introduction to the Dutch royal family as well. The first three monarchs of the Netherlands were all kings. However, the 20th century was completely ruled by queens instead. This seems a bit odd, but when the monarch dies or abdicates, it is his or her eldest son or daughter who succeeds to the throne and there is no distinction between male or female. So that is the reason why the last three monarchs all have been queens. Today the first in line to succeed the throne is the Prince of Orange, Willem-Alexander, who will likely be the first king since 1890. The question currently raising a lot of attention is when he finally will succeed his mother, since the Queen is already 73 years old.

I already briefly mentioned the name of the royal family, Orange-Nassau, and if you have ever wondered why during important sport matches, for example at the Football or the Cricket World Cup, the players and the supporters of the Netherlands are wearing orange only? It is because of the name of the royal family, of course. Due to the big influence of the “House of Orange” in history, the first flag of the Netherlands was orange-white-blue and not red-white-blue. The orange was later changed to red although the reason is not perfectly clear. Some say it was because the dye used for the flag was not sustainable and the orange in the flag quickly turned into red, while others say it was because of resentments towards the “House of Orange” in the Netherlands.

By Michela Simoncini
(http://www.flickr.com/photos/comunicati/3510634869/)

So as you can see, the path of the royal family has not been without bumps along the way. Actually Queen’s Day the celebration I mentioned before, has derived from one of those bumps in the road. The eldest form of Queen’s Day had a slightly different name, Princess’ Day and was initiated by an idea of the liberal party in 1885 to increase the unification in the country. They found this necessary because the political situation in the country – involving the royal family – was quite unstable.

Over time, this occasion to unify the country changed its name and ended up as Queen’s Day. Originally Queen’s Day was celebrated on the birthday of the queen but Queen Beatrix changed this because her birthday is in January. Like she is saying, with an average temperature of 2 degrees Celsius in January the weather in the Netherlands is too cold and too wet to celebrate an open air public holiday.

By Radio Nederland Wereldomroep
(http://www.flickr.com/photos/rnw/3287737130/)

Although Queen’s Day has been an official public holiday for many years it is still getting bigger every year and together with many other Dutch people I would have to say it is my favourite Dutch holiday! I remember that when I was young I would get up early to go with my dad to the open air market to get the best deals. The end of the day would be finished with fireworks.

When you are small, it is amazing to see the old things people are selling. Toys, clothes, food and everything else you can imagine will be sold at this open air market. There are also games everywhere like koekhappen. The goal of this game is to completely eat a Dutch spiced cake hanging on a rope while being blindfolded. This is a game even the royal family plays as a recurring event every year because they like it so much. It is a day when you do things which are not normal. Everything is possible because it is Queen’s Day.

By Michela Simoncini
(http://www.flickr.com/photos/comunicati/3510514719/)

The main goal of Queen’s Day is to have a good time with your friends and family and to celebrate it in orange. However, young people celebrate Queen’s Day in a slightly different way than families. Families go to the markets and play games while the young people party a lot. I was once on a boat in Amsterdam on Queen’s Day and I would certainly recommend it as one of the best ways to experience it. Being on the water and sailing through the Amsterdam Canal district, which is the core of the city, ensures that you see all sides of the festivities. DJs are playing from balconies, music is coming from every corner and people are dancing everywhere. What I always find one of the most entertaining features of Queen’s Day, is how people dress up. It could be anything: dressed as a lion, dressed in traditional Dutch clothes or dressed in the soccer shirts of the national team.

As you can see, as a colour orange is indeed perfectly representing the Netherlands. Of course, people from outside the Netherlands are always welcome to join Queen’s Day. So if you ever happen to be in the Netherlands on the 30th of April, come to join us, but dress up in orange!

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4 Comments

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  1. Nice blog girl! Even though I am not a big fan of the monarchy, still fun to read
  2. Goede reclame voor Nederland en Amsterdam zal ik maar zeggen en leuk geschreven.
  3. Very interesting read!
  4. Wow very nice and beautiful images I love all the movement photos.
    Very cute smile and attractive pose. thank you for the nice and cute post.

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