The Dutch and their monarchy; a two-sided coin

Ah, the Dutch and their monarchy. Let’s just say they have a bit of a love/hate relationship — like siblings who’ve never quite gotten along but will sit next to each other at formal events. 

You’re probably wondering; what do the Dutch even think of the monarchy? What’s their opinion of the king and queen? When did the Kingdom of the Netherlands even begin?

Well, you’re in geluck because we’ve compiled the unholy cacophony that is the history of the Dutch Royal Family and how Dutch people really feel about their monarchs. 

Spoiler: there’s a lot of tea — so pinkies up, queens. ☕

 🏰 A brief history of monarchy in the Netherlands

Where did this interesting royal history begin? It all goes back to one man — surprise, surprise — the famous Prince of Orange (Willem I). 

The biggest castle in the Netherlands, the Castle de Haar was formerly owned by the Van Zuylen family, who are Dutch nobles. Image: Depositphotos

Prince Willem I followed a long line of victorious nobles, and his descendants would go on to be celebrated across the world for their victories in war — including that one time Prince William III became King of England.

READ MORE | That time the Dutch conquered Britain (ja, we’re serious)

The Royal Family in the Netherlands was established all the way back in 1814, after Prince Willem I won a historical battle against Napoleon. Since then, the Netherlands has been its own independent kingdom. 

However, in terms of long-reigning monarchies across the world, the Dutch Royal Family is actually quite young. 

The Dutch Monarchy passes by right of succession according to those who are the descendants of Prince Wilem I; this means that all the Dutch Royals are related to the historical Prince of Orange. 

Who are the current monarchs?

King Willem-Alexander is currently the reigning monarch in the Netherlands, having been responsible for the crown since 2013. 

The King and Queen and their three daughters. Image: Koninklijkhuis

King Willem-Alexander is married to Queen Maxima. They married back in February 2002, and have three daughters together; Crown Princess Catharina-Amalia, Princess Alexia, and Princess Ariane. 

🤴What is the role of the monarchy in the Netherlands? 

The first thing you should know about the royal family in the Netherlands is that the King can’t wake up one morning and decide to impose a ban on stroopwafels because he ate a particularly bad one the day before. 

This is because the monarchy in the Netherlands is of a constitutional function. The King is the Head of State, and with the other ministers, he makes up the government. 

READ MORE | What was the Eighty Years’ War? The Dutch War of Independence explained

However, under the constitution, King Willem-Alexander is the president of the Council of State, a historical role that is purely symbolic in nature. The Dutch King’s main duties are: 

  • Receiving heads of state
  • Paying state visits
  • Attending jubilee events of important social institutions
  • Visiting and supporting the victims of national disasters

Sure, these are very Kingly duties, but that doesn’t mean the King has much of a say when it comes to legislation and the introduction of laws — and y’know what? Goed

🙄 How do the Dutch feel about the Royal Family? 

Yes, we know, it’s the burning question; do Dutch people actually like their monarchy?

Like many countries with monarchical constitutions, the answer to this question is a bit complicated. It sort of opens up a can of worms.

READ MORE | Dutch Quirk #121: Hate on the King and all of his blunders

As of 2022, 58% of Dutch people stated that they wanted the Netherlands to remain a monarchy.

When you compare this figure to the 35% of young people who believed that Britain should remain a monarchy in 2020, it seems that the Dutch quite like their royal family. 

READ MORE | Public opinion of the Dutch king plummets

But, in 2021, it was revealed that less than half of Dutch people are satisfied with the king and his rule. That being said, 68% of survey respondents said they were happy with Queen Maxima’s performance in the royal family.

But the Dutch are obsessed with orange?

We know how it looks — the Dutch may not be 100% supportive of the monarchy, but they sure like to wear their orange hats, scarves and t-shirts. 

You’ll see lots and lots of orange-wearing Dutchies on King’s day. Image: Depositphotos

READ MORE | Why does the Netherlands love orange? The full explainer

Part of this comes down to national pride. While the colour orange brings us back to the Dutch monarchy, and their beloved Prince of Orange, this doesn’t necessarily mean every single person who wears orange on King’s Day is a monarchist.  🍊

READ MORE | Dutch Quirk #44: Wear way, way, way too much orange

And they celebrate King’s Day!

Speaking of K-day, another major aspect of Dutch culture is King’s day — celebrated annually on the king’s birthday, it is a day of festivity (and lots of drinking! 😉) across the Netherlands.

Taking place on 27 April, each year, the king visits a different city to take part in the festivities. 

The Dutch tend to enjoy a day of celebration, parades, and even street games on King’s Day. Perhaps comparable to St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland, the day is dominated by orange-wearing Dutchies celebrating their nation and history.

😨 Major controversies in the Dutch monarchy

However, just like every monarchy, even the Dutch Royals have been involved in their share of controversies over the years. Grab the towels! We’re about to spill some hot royal tea. 

Like many royal families, the Dutch monarchy is no stranger to controversy. Image: Depositphotos

Coronavirus doesn’t spread to royals, apparently

Perhaps we should start with the fact that, while they were away on holiday during the global pandemic — y’know, the one where the entire country was in lockdown — they were also caught disobeying social distancing rules

Nice for some, but while y’all were partying it up in Greece, we were locked away from our closest friends and family. 😒

Or, what about the party they threw for Princess Amalia’s birthday in December 2021 while coronavirus cases were surging? 

Prince Bernhard’s illegitimate children

After the death of Dutch Prince Bernhard, it was revealed that he had fathered two illegitimate children during his lifetime — one of which was living in France, and another from America.

The Dutch prince has become known for fathering two illegitimate children. Image: Harry Pot/WikimediaCommons/CC 1.0

This was revealed during an interview which was released posthumously. Although the Prince fathered two children outside his marriage with Queen Julianna, mother to Queen Beatrix, he wasn’t the world’s biggest time-waster. 

He served in World War II, and, upon his death, he said, “If the image is that I was a scoundrel now and again, I’ll give people that.” 🤷‍♀️

The infamous golden coach

The Golden Carriage was rolled out and paraded about on Prinsjesdag every year — however, it was always met with great debate and pushback. 

Why? Well, one of the panels depicts images of slaves. Not only that, but the panel is of a white woman sitting on a throne, surrounded by dark-skinned people kneeling and offering gifts. 

The Golden Carriage is a very physical reminder of the troubling past of the Dutch. Image: Minister-president Rutte/Wikimedia Commons/CC2.0

And guess where the gold came from; yep, Suriname

READ MORE | Where’d you get that?! Golden Carriage decorated with gold from Suriname

The Netherlands’ long and troublesome history of colonisation is very apparent in the carriage, making it a controversial item. 

Yet, the Dutch Royal Family is making moves to acknowledge their sometimes nasty past, and the carriage was retired in January 2022. 

👑 How has the Dutch monarchy adapted in the 21st century?

Although the Kingdom of the Netherlands was established a mere 200 years ago, we have changed a huge amount as a society since those times, and the monarchy has had to change along with us. 

Dutch monarchs can now be in a same-sex marriage 

The Netherlands was the first country in the world to legalise gay marriage, so the monarchy has had some time to adapt to this epic move towards equality. 

READ MORE | Totally oh-gay: the Netherlands can have a king or queen in a same-sex marriage

In 2021, the news came that if Princess Amalia wished to marry a member of the same sex, she would not have to give up her future role as Queen, something she would have had to do in the past. 

The Dutch monarchy said: gay queens welcome 💅 — and this is certainly a big achievement for any LBGTQ+ members of the royal family! 🏳‍🌈

👸 Princess Amalia; a conscious royal

Speaking of Princess Amalia, she may go down in history as perhaps one of the more socially-conscious royals. Upon their 18th birthday, most royals are given an allowance. 

Princess Amalia, however, declined the offer of a cool €1 million (!) a year, and has chosen not to take her royal allowance whilst she completes her studies. 

Princess Amalia is on her way to becoming a very admirable Queen.

The princess started her degree at University of Amsterdam in Politics, Psychology, Law and Economics this September, and opted to live in a shared student house, like thousands of other students, rather than in a private, rented residence. 

Helaas, in spite of her willingness to live normal student life, the princess has been forced to move back in with her parents due to outside threats. 

She is still considered normal in other ways, however. Like many other Dutch girls, at the age of 18, the princess was also sent a letter of conscription

But what does the monarchy really represent? 

The trouble with monarchies is that they are the result of a long history of war, and within that, there’s usually a fair bit of colonisation involved. 

READ MORE | What was the VOC? The Dutch East India Company explained

The Netherlands was no stranger to colonisation, and, with it, slavery. Though slavery was outlawed back in 1814, the effects of those years are still seen today — such as in the panels of the Golden Carriage. 

A dark past

Like many European countries, the Netherlands sought to expand its wealth and territory in the 17th century into other areas. The headquarters for the Dutch Slave Trade was located in Fort Elmina in Ghana, where a massive 600,000 slaves were brought to the Netherlands for forced labour. 

Elmina Castle in Ghana, where a huge amount of the slave trade occurred. Image: Depositphotos

The Dutch were responsible for half of all slave transports to the New World during the 17th century. 

The Dutch still suffer from some colonial hangovers. Celebrations such as Zwarte Piet, a Christmas tradition for many Dutchies, have certainly been shaped by their colonial history. 

What does this mean today?

Dutch people wait for the King and Queen on Prinsjesdag. Image: Depositphotos

Well, it means that the Dutch monarchy has to acknowledge its long history in order to move forward. 

Efforts such as retiring the Golden Carriage demonstrate a real desire to acknowledge the harm they have caused to the royal reputation

As we move further into this progressive century, we hope the monarchy can keep up, and keep making changes to adapt and represent the Dutch people! 

Though the Dutch monarchy is barely over 200 years old, the royal family still has quite an influence on Dutch culture. 

This makes any progressive steps the family takes have even more impact on Dutch people and will help launch the Netherlands into this new, open-minded, century. 

What do you think of the Dutch monarchy? Tell us your thoughts in a comment below! 

Feature Image:Koninklijkhuis
Heather Slevin
Heather Slevin
Heather is a Dublin native, addicted to catching the Luas, the Irish version of a tram, for one stop, and well used to the constant rain and shine. Seeking to swap one concrete city for another (with a few more canals and a friendlier attitude to cyclists) here she is with the Dutch Review! As a Creative Writing student, she can usually be found sweating over the complicated formatting of her latest poem or deep inside the pages of a book, and loves writing, writing, writing.

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What do you think?


  1. I am Senaka De Zoysa Siriwardena, from Sri Lanka. Our country was once ruled by VOC government some 300 years ago. We never had a particularly troubled period though from Dutch with compared to others. Therefore,
    I read this article with much interest. We can see Dutch Royal family is peace loving, noble and respectful as well as loved.

    I have something special for the Netherkands to offer which belonged to them in my thinking.

    I request this writer to take one message to HM King Willem Alexander that I have a very very special, priceless artifact with me that has long relationship to Dutch history in Sri Lanka. How can I offer it back to the Netherlands as a mark of respect and in appreciation of Dutch Royal Family for being a 21st century nobles that symbolizing human values and compassion?

    Thank you

    • Hi Senaka,

      I’m glad you enjoyed my article. We suggest you contact the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam if you have an artefact you would like to pass on. They are the national museum of the Netherlands and will be able to give you some more guidance.

      We wish you the best of luck.

      Kind regards,
      Heather from DutchReview.


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