Koningsdag or King’s Day is a national holiday in the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Celebrated on 27 April, the date marks the birth of King Willem-Alexander.
Up until 2013, when Queen Beatrix abdicated and was succeeded by her son Willem-Alexander, the holiday was known as Koninginnedag or Queen’s Day and was celebrated on 30 April.
The holiday was initially observed on 31 August 1885 as Prinsessedag or Princess’s Day, the fifth birthday of Princess Wilhelmina, heir to the Dutch throne. On her accession in November 1890 the holiday acquired the name Koninginnedag, first celebrated on 31 August 1891. In September 1948, Wilhelmina’s daughter Juliana ascended to the throne and the holiday was moved to Queen Juliana’s birthday, 30 April. The holiday was celebrated on this date from 1949.
The festivities on Koningsdag are often organised by Orange Committees, local associations that seek sponsorship and donations for their activities.
Koningsdag now sees large-scale celebrations, with many concerts and special events in public spaces, particularly in Amsterdam. An outdoor concert is held on Amsterdam’s Museumplein, where as many as 800,000 people may gather. To aid visitors in returning home by train after the festivities outdoor events must end by 20:00, and the Museumplein show by 21:00. The city centre is closed to cars, and no trams ride in the heart of the city; people are urged to avoid Amsterdam Centraal railway station and use other stations if possible from their direction. International trains that normally begin or terminate at Amsterdam Centraal are instead directed to a suburban stop.
In recent years parties and concerts have been held the evening before Koningsdag. Until 2013, nightclubs across the Netherlands organised special events for what became known as Koninginnenacht (Queen’s Night). Many young people celebrate in the streets and squares (and in Amsterdam, the canals as well) throughout the night, and after all-night partying join the crowds at the vrijmarkt.
While King’s Day celebrations take place throughout the Netherlands, Amsterdam is a popular destination for many revelers. Often the city’s 750.000 residents are joined by up to 1 million visitors. In recent years Amsterdam authorities have taken some measures to try and stem the flow of visitors as the city became too full.
About the Dutch king Willem-Alexander
On 30 April 2013, King Willem-Alexander succeeded his mother as monarch. The King is married to Queen Máxima. The royal couple have three daughters, Princess Catharina-Amalia (the Princess of Orange), Princess Alexia and Princess Ariane.
Willem-Alexander Claus George Ferdinand was born in the University Hospital, Utrecht, on 27 April 1967, the first child of Princess Beatrix and Prince Claus.
At birth, King Willem-Alexander received the titles of Prince of the Netherlands and Prince of Orange-Nassau, Jonkheer van Amsberg. He was baptised in The Hague on 2 September 1967. His godparents were Prince Bernhard, Queen Margrethe of Denmark, Ferdinand von Bismarck, former Prime Minister Jelle Zijlstra and Ms Renée Smith-Roëll.
King Willem-Alexander spent his early childhood at Drakensteyn Castle in Lage Vuursche. He has two brothers, Prince Friso (1968-2013), and Prince Constantijn (1969). In 1981 the family moved from Drakensteyn Castle to Huis ten Bosch Palace in The Hague.
Marriage and family
On 30 March 2001 Princess (then Queen) Beatrix and Prince Claus announced the engagement of the Prince of Orange and Máxima Zorreguieta.
On 3 July 2001 the two houses of parliament passed a bill submitted by the government consenting to the marriage. The Mayor of Amsterdam, Job Cohen, conducted the civil marriage ceremony in the Beurs van Berlage on 2 February 2002. The church ceremony took place immediately afterwards at the Nieuwe Kerk, Amsterdam. The Reverend Carel ter Linden and Father Rafael Braun officiated.
Their first child, Princess Catharina-Amalia, the current Princess of Orange, was born on 7 December 2003. Their second child, Princess Alexia, was born on 26 June 2005, and their third child, Princess Ariane, on 10 April 2007. All three were born at Bronovo Hospital in The Hague.
Position and role as head of state
Under the Constitution, the King, together with the ministers, makes up the government. The King represents the Kingdom of the Netherlands at home and abroad. Besides his formal duties, King Willem-Alexander works in the interests of the inhabitants of the Netherlands. As head of state, it is the King’s task to unify, represent and encourage the people.
The ministers, and not the monarch, are responsible for the acts of the government, and the ministers are accountable to Parliament for what he says and does. The ministers, who together make up the cabinet, are responsible for decision-making.
The King has weekly meetings with the prime minister, speaks regularly with ministers and state secretaries, signs all new Acts of Parliament and royal decrees and ratifies (as part of the government) international treaties. At the State Opening of Parliament on the third Tuesday in September, he delivers the Speech from the Throne, in which the government announces its plans for the coming parliamentary year. The Constitution requires that the monarch appoint, dismiss and swear in all government ministers and state secretaries. In view of this constitutional role, and at the request of the House, the King can be kept apprised of all developments in the formation process.
Preparing for the role of monarch
Before he succeeded his mother on 30 April 2013, King Willem-Alexander occupied a number of specific posts in a range of areas, reflecting his commitment to Dutch society.
These helped to prepare him for his role as King. He has always been especially interested in certain areas, including water management, infrastructure and ICT, sport and defence.
As Prince of Orange, the King became a member of the Council of State on his 18th birthday. He attended its weekly meetings as often as his diary permitted. On the Queen’s abdication on 30 April 2013, the King automatically became the president of the Council of State.
In the years preceding his investiture, the King was also a member of various boards. He was a member of the supervisory boards of De Nederlandsche Bank (the Dutch central bank) from 1998 to 2010 and of the Kröller-Müller Museum from 1999 to 2010. As Prince, the King chaired the House of Orange-Nassau Historic Collections Trust from 2002 to 2013 and in the same period represented the Royal Family on the management board of the Royal Domains.
King Willem-Alexander and Queen Máxima have for many years held regular informal dinners at Eikenhorst, where they discuss significant subjects with guests from various walks of life in order to broaden and deepen their engagement with society at large. They will continue to do so. They also regularly host lunches for ‘high flyers’ at Noordeinde Palace at which they entertain Dutch people who have distinguished themselves, and have received an award or decoration for their achievement.
In preparing for his role as monarch, the King has also held numerous patronages and honorary posts in various sections of society.
Happy King’s Day!