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Word of the day: koninkrijk (kingdom)

(a shorter version of yesterday’s posting LANDING)

The Netherlands was a Republic before it became a Monarchy. Most people don’t even know that it was a Republic (1588-1795) for a longer period than a Monarchy (1815-now). Strange too that most of this period the nation was more or less ruled by sovereigns of the House of Orange. Four centuries of members of the Orange family have been the frontpiece of the nation.

Saturday morning thousands of Dutchmen gathered at Scheveningen. Hague theatre director Aus Greidanus had trained hundreds of amateurs, soldiers and sailors to act the scene that had taken place on this spot two hundred years ago. The only professional actor was the staunch republican Huub Stapel (famous for his role as sleazer Johnnie in the 1986 film ‘Flodder’).

What happened in 1813? The French occupying forces had left the Netherlands. In the period that they’d reigned the Low Countries from 1795-1813 they had transformed the Republic into a Kingdom. Napoleon’s brother, Louis (Lodewijk) Napoléon Bonaparte (1778 – 1846) was the King of Holland from 1806 – 1810. The Dutch were quite fond of him and called him Lodewijk de Goede. In the last three years of the French period, emperor Napoléon annexed Holland to France because he needed soldiers for his battles.

When Napoléon fell in 1813, the last stadtholder had died and his son Willem-Frederik of Orange was in London. In November 1813, several leading Dutchmen requested his return to the Netherlands, not as the umpteenth stadtholder but as the country’s sovereign. November 30th he landed at Scheveningen beach where he was welcomed by a group of loyal Orangists. And that’s what Saturday’s celebration was about.

Two years later Willem Frederik took the title of king Willem I in Amsterdam. And so our monarchy started.