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The national flag of the Netherlands is the red, white and blue horizontal tricolour.
When in 1568 the provinces of the Low Countries revolted against King Philip II of, led by the Prince of Orange, they fought under a tricolour of orange, white and blue: the colours of the Prince’s coat of arms. The flag was thus easily associated with the leader, and the association was expressed in the name: the Prince’s Flag.
After 1630, the orange stripe was gradually replaced by a red one, as paintings of that time indicate. The probable reason is that orange and sky blue are faint colours and more difficult to distinguish than red and dark blue, especially at sea. Since then, the national flag has remained red, white and blue and continued to bear the name ‘the Prince’s Flag’. The orange, white and blue flag, however, continued to be flown.
The revolution in the Netherlands at the end of the eighteenth century and the conquest by the French resulted in yet another flag. When the Netherlands was incorporated into the French Empire, its flag was replaced by the imperial emblems.
Allegiance to the House of Orange
In 1813, the Netherlands regained its independence, and the Prince of Orange returned from England. The tricolour also reappeared. In order to demonstrate attachment to the House of Orange, people flew the orange, white and blue and the red, white and blue flags side-by-side. The question of which of the two flags should be the national flag was left undecided. Until recently, both held equal status, although the red, white and blue was generally given precedence. The popular custom of flying an orange pennon together with the national flag as a sign of allegiance of the people to the House of Orange dates from the same period.
In 1937, a Royal Decree laid down the red, white and blue colours as the national flag (the heraldic colours are bright vermilion, white and cobalt blue).
Days on which the flag is flown on official buildings
31 January: H.R.H. Princess Beatrix
27 April: H.M. King Willem-Alexander’s birthday and official celebration of the King's birthday (King's Day)
4 May: Remembrance Day (half mast from 6 p.m. to 8.15 p.m.)
5 May: Liberation Day
17 May: H.M. Queen Máxima’s birthday
15 August: End of World War II in the Pacific
3rd Tuesday in September: Opening of Parliament (in The Hague only)
7 December: H.R.H. Princess Catharina-Amalia
15 December: Day honouring the Charter of the Kingdom of the Netherlands
Coat of Arms of the Kingdom of the Netherlands
The Dutch coat of arms is a combination of the arms of the Royal Family (Orange-Nassau) and the arrows and sword of the seventeenth-century Dutch Republic.
The Dutch royal family originates from the county of Nassau in Germany, and the lion on their royal arms is the same as the lion on the oldest arms of Nassau from the thirteenth century. The Nassau family exerted considerable political influence in the Low Countries during the rest of the Middle Ages. Their name changed to Orange-Nassau in the mid-sixteenth century, when William of Nassau-Dillenburg inherited the Principality of Orange in southern France.
During the Eighty Years’ War to overthrow Spanish rule (1568-1648), the 17 provinces of the Netherlands formed an assembly called the Staten-Generaal. Since most of their arms already contained a lion, this became the symbol of the Staten-Generaal, to which a sword was added as a symbol of power and 17 arrows showing the unity of the provinces.
In 1579, seven northern provinces formed their own Republic of the United Provinces in a move known as the Union of Utrecht. When the Republic became officially independent in 1648, it took the arms of the original 17 provinces, but reduced the number of arrows to seven..
The family of Orange-Nassau continued to play a major role in the political life of the Republic. When the Netherlands became a kingdom in 1813, Willem I of Orange-Nassau, the country’s first king, combined the ancient arms of Nassau with the arms of the Dutch Republic to make up the royal arms still borne by his descendants, the current royal family of the Netherlands.