Koningsdag/Koninginnedag (King’s Day/Queen’s Day) History



Koningsdag or King’s Day is a national holiday in the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Celebrated on 27 April (the 26th if the 27th falls on a Sunday), the date marks the birth of King Willem-Alexander.

From 1890 to 2013, the day was known as Koninginnedag or Queen’s Day. The holiday was first observed on 31 August 1885 as Prinsessedag or Princess’s Day, the fifth birthday anniversary of Princess Wilhelmina, heiress to the Dutch throne. On her accession, the holiday acquired the name, Koninginnedag. When held on 31 August the holiday was the final day of school summer vacation, leading to its popularity among children. Following the accession of Wilhelmina’s daughter Juliana in 1948, the holiday was moved to Queen Juliana’s birthday on 30 April. Her daughter, Beatrix retained the celebration on 30 April after she ascended the throne in 1980, despite her actual birthday occuring on 31 January. Beatrix altered her mother’s custom of receiving a floral parade near a Royal palace, instead choosing to visit different Dutch towns each year and join in on the festivities along with her sons. In 2009, the Queen was carrying out this custom in the City of Apeldoorn when Karst Tates attempted to attack her by trying to ram the Royal family’s vehicle with his car; instead he drove into a crowd of people who were watching the parade and fatally crashed into the monument. Seven people in the crowd were killed, and the car’s driver also died soon afterwards.

Koningsdag is known for its nationwide vrijmarkt (free market), at which many Dutch sell their second-hand items. It is also an oppourtinity for “orange madness” or oranjegekte for the national colour, when the normally strait-laced Dutch let down their hair, often dyed orange for the occasion.



Wilhelmina (presided as princess 1885-1890, as queen 1890-1948)

Faced with an unpopular monarchy, in the 1880s the liberals in the Dutch government sought a means of promoting national unity. King William III was disliked, but his four-year-old daughter Princess Wilhelmina was not. A holiday honouring King William had been intermittently held on his birthday, and J.W.R. Gerlach, editor of the newspaper Utrechts Provinciaal en Stedelijk Dagblad, proposed that the princess’s birthday be observed as an opportunity for patriotic celebration and national reconcilation. Prinsessedag or Princess’s Day was first celebrated in the Netherlands on 31 August 1885, Wilhelmina’s fifth birthday. The young princess was paraded through the streets, waving to the crowds. The first observance occurred only in Utrecht, but other municipalities quickly began to observe it, organizing activities for children. Further processions were held in the following years, and when Wilhelmina inherited the throne in 1890, Prinsessedag was renamed Koninginnedag, or Queen’s Day. By then almost every Dutch town and city was marking the holiday.

Juliana (1948-1980)

Another summertime birthday celebration in the Netherlands was that of Wilhelmina’s mother, Queen-Regent Emma, who after Wilhelmina attained adulthood generally spent her own birthday, 2 Agustus, at Soestdijk Palace in Baarn. Untill her death in 1934, Emma received an annual floral tribute from the townsfolk on her birthday. In 1937 Wilhelmina’s daughter and heiress, Princess Juliana, took up residence at Soestdijk Palace following her marriage and the townsfolk made their floral presentation to her, moving the date to Juliana’s birthday, 30 April. In September 1948 Juliana ascended to the Dutch throne and from 1949 onwards Koninginnedag was on her birthday. The change in date attracted immediate approval from Dutch children, who gained an extra day of holiday. The first observance of the holiday on the new date included a huge circus at the Amsterdam Olympic Stadium – one not attended by the royal family, who remained at Soestdijk Palace. Queen Juliana retained the floral tribute, staying each year on Koninginnedag at Soestdijk Palace to receive it. The parade became televised in the 1950s, and Koninginnedag increaslingly became a national holiday, with workers given the day off. Juliana had a reputation as a “queen of the people”, and according to Peek “it felt as if she invited her subjects to the royal home”.

Beatrix (1980-2013)

When Queen Beatrix succeeded her mother Juliana on the latter’s abdication on 30 April 1980, the new queen decided to keep the holiday on 30 April as a tribute to her mother. The reason was practical as well – Beatrix’s actual birthday on 31 January is less conducive to the traditional outdoor activities. The birthday of the Queen’s son and heir, Willem-Alexanders, Prince of Orange is a 27 April. Rather than remaining at the palace and letting the Dutch people come to her, Beatrix instead usually visits two towns each year for Koninginnedag celebrations. Local crafts and customs are demonstrated for the royal family, who have the opportunity to join in.

Koninginnedag celebrations have sometimes been affected or disrupted. In 1988 three British servicemen stationed in Germany who were in the Netherlands for Koninginnedag were killed in Irish Republican Army attacks. In 1996 the celebrations in Rotterdam were dampened by an alcohol ban, put in place following riots earlier in the week after local football club Feyenoord won the Dutch League Championship. The Queen’s scheduled 2001 visits to Hoogeveen and Meppel were postponed for one year owning to an outbreak of foot-and-mouth-disease.

On 28 January 2013 Queen Beatrix announced her abdication on 30 April 2013 in favour of her son, Willem Alexander.


Willem-Alexander (2013-present)

On 30 April 2013, on Queen’s Day, Prince Willem-Alexander succeeded his mother Beatrix and Became King of the Netherlands. Consequently, from 2014 onwards the name is to be changed from Queen’s Day into King’s Day. Also the date would change from 30 April to 27 April, which is the birthday of Willem-Alexander. On the first King’s Day, which is scheduled for 26 April 2014 because 27 April is a Sunday, the king is scheduled to visit Amstelveen and De Rijp.