DACH will be widening its focus in the next few months to take in the Low Countries and Scandinavia – the other parts of the BL's Germanic Studies department. Look out for a more formal "re-branding" in the near future, but we start taking a broader view today with this post from our Curator of Dutch Collections, Marja Kingma, on a day of national celebration in the Netherlands. [SR]
It's the third Tuesday in September today! "Nothing special", one would say, and that would be true for the UK, but in the Netherlands it is a special day: Prince's Day, or the official opening of the new parliament in the Netherlands.
The Netherlands is not a country known for its pomp and circumstance – we prefer to keep things "normal, because that's crazy enough as it is". However, on Prince's Day tradition and ritual abound, together with pageantry and glamour.
Events begin around 1pm, when the Queen travels from her office, the Palace of Noordeinde, to the Ridderzaal or Knight's Hall, a distance of about half a mile, by Golden Carriage. The route is lined by representatives of the Dutch army, navy and air force and thousands of spectators.
Gathered in the Ridderzaal are her government, the States-General (1st and 2nd chamber of Parliament), members of the Council of State, and other guests. Seated on the throne, the Queen reads out the speech in which the government lays out its plans and proposals for the next parliamentary year, hence the name "Speech from the Throne".
The Queen then returns to the Palace and appears on the balcony, surrounded by other members of the royal family. Queen Beatrix decided at the beginning of her reign (1980) that she would have a Palace/Office, in the heart of The Hague, the seat of the Dutch government, separate from her residence, Huis ten Bosch. This is quite unique for a royal.
Noordeinde Palace, The Hague (By Wikifrits (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)
Nobody really knows how the term "Prinsjesdag" became connected to the opening of parliament. Originally the term referred to the birthday of the last Dutch Stadholder, William V, who ruled from 1748 to 1806. It was the most popular holiday in the Netherlands, especially under French occupation. It is only since 1930 that the opening of the parliamentary year is known as Prinsjesdag.
Another tradition is that of the presentation of the Budget for the coming year by the Minister of Finance (the Dutch use the terms "Minister" and "Secretary of State" in precisely the reverse meaning from the UK). As of 1947, following the example of the British Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Minister of Finance carries with him a briefcase which holds the Budget. My theory is that this may have to do with the exile of the Dutch government (including the Queen) in London during the Second World War. Legend has it that in 1957 a "no-nonsense" Minister of Finance stuck the Budget in his own briefcase, but was met by a group of angry students who offered him a "proper" briefcase, so the following year the traditional version was reinstated and has been used ever since. The current one is now 48 years old.
Prinsjesdag is the only day in the year when Dutch female guests in the Ridderzaal wear extravagant hats, a bit like Ascot. Spectators lining the route don traditional costumes, of which there are a wide variety in the Netherlands, or dress up in their finest.
Prinsjesdag is a day of celebrations; we celebrate our democracy as well as our monarchy and our sense of being one nation!