The Hague isn't just the seat of the Dutch parliament, the city also plays host to the popular Prinsjesdag or Little Prince's Day, an event that takes place every third Tuesday in September of every year. It is the perfect time and place to see King Willem-Alexander, Queen Maxima and many other royals in real life.
Prinsjesdag is one of the country's most popular public holidays and was originally a day when the Dutch celebrated the birthday of Prince William V on the 8th of March. The popular event will be taking place on Tuesday, September 18 this year and is also a day when the Dutch government reveals all their plans for the coming year. The ruling King (or Queen) reads a speech from the throne (Troonrede) and in the speech, they talk about the state the country is in and what plans the government has for the coming financial year. The Finance Minister also submits the national budget (Miljoenennota) for the next year. Since 1947, the budget has always been carried in a special briefcase in imitation of the British Budget Day tradition. Prinsjesdag is a very important day for Dutch politics and economy.
The name Prinsjesdag dates backs to the time of Stadholder Prince William V (1751-1795). His birthday, the 8th of March was celebrated as Prince's Day. The name was kept even after his reign and has evolved into one of the most important national holidays in the Netherlands. The Golden Coach thats has become a symbol of Prinsjesdag only came into use in 1903 and the throne speech (Troonrede) was read for the first time on May 2, 1814 in the Hall of Knights (Ridderzaal). The character of the ceremony has also changed with the course of time.
Prinsjesdag is accompanied by a lot of pomp and colour. Lots of ladies and gentlemen who attend the throne speech in the Hall of Knights (Ridderzaal) wear striking hats and costumes, which are usually discussed in the media or in tabloid newspapers and celebrity gossip magazines. Between the years 1815 and 1904, the throne speech was read in the assembly room of the House of Representatives, but was later moved to the Hall of Knights after an extensive restoration of the building at the start of the 20th century.
Prinsjesdag derives much of its splendor from the role of the King and the House of Orange. This is also one of the reasons why there are lots of people dressed in orange on that day.
The Golden Coach
There is definitely no Prinsjesdag without the Golden Coach. At midnight the king, accompanied by some members of the Royal House departs Noordeinde Palace in the Golden Coach. He is also escorted by a military escort of honour and some court dignitaries.
Along the way, the procession passes the Queen Wilhemina monument, the Kneuterdijk Palace, Hotel des Indes, the Lange Voorhout Palace, the King's Cabinet at the Korte Vijverberg and the Mauritshuis. The procession enters the Binnenhof through the Grenadier gate and here, the king and his followers step out at the Hall of Knights (Ridderzaal). The Golden Coach remains an integral part of this event and is basically one of the reasons why lots of onlookers come out on the streets to take be amazed by its beauty. The coach was donated to Queen Wilhelmina in 1898 by the people of Amsterdam and was used for the first time in the Prinsjesdag of 1903.
The Golden Coach is built of Javanese teak and partly covered with golden leaves. The coat of arms of the 11 provinces of the Netherlands are depicted on the cornice of the coach. In addition, the coat of arms of the city of Amsterdam can also be seen as well. The coach is drawn by eight horses only when the Head of State uses it. At Willem-Alexander and Máxima's wedding, the coach was drawn by six horses.
Can I attend Prinsjesdag?
Lots of people stand outside the Golden Coach route to watch the royal procession on Prinsjesdag. The roads are blocked with barricades and extra traffic measures are taken on that day.
Being Present in the Hall of Knights (Ridderzaal) on Prinsjesdag
Every year, a small number of people who aren't government officials or members of the royal house are allowed to be present in the Hall of Knights as the King reads or gives the Throne Speech. To attend this speech, you must submit a written request to the Secretary-General of the Senate (Secretaris-Generaal van de Tweede Kamer). It is very important to understand that there is a waiting list of a couple years so make sure you submit your request on time.
On Prinsjesdag, going around the The Hague city centre by car isn't possible. There is a parking ban in some parts of the city. The best mode of transport would be by bike or just walking.
Interesting Fact About Prince's Day
It has happened a number of times that the Throne Speech was not read by the monarch ruling at a certain time. This happened in 1889 and 1890 when King William III was too ill to read the speech and also in 1908 when Queen Wilhelmina could not attend because she was pregnant. Three years later (1911), the Prime Minister also had to read the speech himself. The queen was absent because of her dissatisfaction with the Chairman of the House of Representatives.
In recent years, the last time the ruling monarch didn't read the Throne Speech in 1947. Queen Wilhelmina was absent at the time due to illness. Prime Minister Louis Beel read the speech that year.
There was a sober Prinsjesdag in 2001. This was out of respect for the victims of 9/11 in the United States.
On Prinsjesdag 2010, a man threw a tea light holder towards the Golden Coach, which suffered minor scratches to the paintwork as a result. The man was later found to be mentally ill.