Prinsjesdag. A quick and easy guide to what is going on this Tuesday, how to be part of it, or how to avoid it altogether.
The Netherlands is a constitutional monarchy. Only on about 2 out of 365 days of the year, the Dutchies actually care about the royal family. Kings Day is one of them. It’s fun: everyone dresses in orange, belts out to Dutch palingsound-music, and parties on the street until the morning hours. Consider Prinsjesdag, which roughly translates to ‘little Prince’s Day’, the more sensible and more annoying older cousin. He’d be the one telling you at family gatherings that “it’s time to put down your Heineken and discuss some more serious matters”. This basically happens every third Tuesday of September. We celebrate it on the 19th of September this year to be exact. So what is it? Why is everyone wearing ridiculous hats? Is the royal carriage really made of gold?
The Kings’ Speech
Prinsjesdag itself is for many not that exciting. Basically, signalling the start of the parliamentary year, King Willem Alexander (who was formerly an enthusiastic member of Leiden-based fraternity Minerva) adresses the first and second chamber about the fiscal budget and other important matters for this year. This so-called King’s Speech takes about 45 minutes and causes even the most ambitious of our politicians to drift off. The whole ceremony that is coordinated around it, however, is what gets all fans of the throne on the edge of their seats.
King Willem and wifey Queen Maxima will be departing from their Noordeinde Palace at 13.00. They’ll follow the parade in their carriage. Normally, the royal family heads to the Ridderzaal (Knights’ Hall) in their golden carriage, but due to restoration they will now call shotgun in their glass counterpart. Regardless, thousands of enthousiasts make it to the center of The Hague to catch a glimpse of his and her Majesty.
During the ceremony, many women choose to wear flamboyant and colourful hats. This tradition started in 1977, when a member of parliament decided to stand out in the grey mass of the conservative dress code. Nowadays the ladies know how to take their fashion game to the next level. Sometimes. Through wearing this rather extravagant hat, designed by National Theatre Institute, this MP protested the large culture spending cuts.
Some people are so excited to see the Royal Family that they make it their mission to stand out. Don’t be alarmed when you see heaps of old women rocking orange hair or any other item of their choice, they’re just doing their thing to express their love for the House of Orange. For you internationals: I recommend you go see the parade, if only just once in your life. You will see a very rare phenomenon: the down-to-earth Dutch people losing their shit. If that’s not really your thing, I recommend staying out of the city center Tuesday afternoon.