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 August, at Soestdijk Palace in Baarn.
Until 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 increasingly 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”.
In early 1966 Juliana’s eldest daughter, Princess Beatrix, married Klaus-Georg von Amsberg. The marriage was controversial because the new Prince Claus (as he was dubbed) was a German, and Claus himself had served in the German Army during the war.
Anti-German riots in Amsterdam marred the wedding day and the following observances of Koninginnedag. Fearing further demonstrations on the holiday, government officials decided to open Amsterdam city centre to the vrijmarkt (“free market”) that had long been held on Koninginnedag in the outskirts of town, principally for children. The vrijmarkt occupied the space where demonstrations might have been held, and began a new custom.
Between 1588 and 1795, the area currently representing the Netherlands was the Republic of Seven United Netherlands. The republic was conquered by French troops in 1795 and became the Batavian Republic. Napoleon appointed his brother Louis as king in 1806, turning the country into a kingdom.
The Netherlands remained a kingdom after Napoleon’s defeat. At that time, the area called “Holland” made the biggest contribution to the entire nation’s economy and wealth. As such it became the commonly used name to indicate the entire country.
Tradition and innovation intertwine here: artistic masterpieces, centuries-old windmills, tulip fields and romantic candlelit cafés coexist with visionary architecture, cutting-edge design and phenomenal nightlife.
Faced with an unpopular monarchy, in the 1880s the liberals in 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 reconciliation.
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.
The celebration proved popular, and when the Queen came of age in 1898, her inauguration was postponed a week to 6 September so as not to interfere with Koninginnedag.The annual holiday fell on the final day of school summer vacation, which made it popular among schoolchildren. It is uncertain how much Wilhelmina enjoyed the festivities; although writer Mike Peek, in a 2011 magazine article about Koninginnedag, suggests she was enthusiastic, there is a story of Wilhelmina, after a tired return from one of these birthday processions, making her doll bow until the toy’s hair was dishevelled, and telling it, “Now you shall sit in a carriage and bow until your back aches, and see how much you like being a Queen!”
Koninginnedag 1902 not only honoured the Queen’s birthday, but was celebrated with increased enthusiasm as it marked her recovery from serious illness.
Wilhelmina rarely attended Koninginnedag festivities after reaching adulthood. She attended ceremonies for her silver jubilee in 1923, which included massive festivities in Amsterdam and The Hague, despite the Queen’s request that large sums not be spent because economic conditions at the time were difficult. To ensure that even the poorer parts of the city were included, bands played simultaneously at 28 locations across The Hague.
Wilhelmina made further exceptions for such events as her fiftieth birthday in 1930. During the German occupation of the Netherlands during World War II, Koninginnedag celebrations were banned, and members of the Orange Committees, which organize the holiday events, destroyed their records for fear of German reprisals.