History of King’s Day
King’s Day began in 1885 as Princess’s Day.
The forerunner of today’s public holiday was celebrated as Princess’s Day for the first time on 31 August 1885, Princess Wilhelmina’s fifth birthday. It was an initiative of non-confessional liberal politicians, who wanted to emphasise national unity. After the death of King Willem III on 23 November 1890, Wilhelmina became queen under the regency of her mother, Queen Emma. The first real Queen’s Day was held on 31 August 1891. Queen Wilhelmina and her family did not take part in the festivities. Since it was also the last day of the school summer holidays, it soon became a popular day of celebration for children. On 31 August 1902, Queen’s Day turned into a genuine national festival, as the Dutch people celebrated Queen Wilhelmina’s recovery from a serious illness.
Wilhelmina was succeeded by her daughter Queen Juliana in September 1948. She too celebrated Queen’s day on her own birthday – 30 April. The first time was in 1949, with the Queen and her family receiving floral tributes on the steps of Soestdijk Palace. Crowds queued in their hundreds to present flowers and other gifts. From the mid-1950s, the event was also televised. Under Queen Juliana, it gradually became the custom for everyone to have a day off on 30 April, which ultimately became an official public holiday signifying national unity.
When Queen Beatrix came to the throne, she decided to continue to celebrate Queen’s Day on 30 April in honour of her mother, rather than on her own birthday in January. Another reason for this decision was the greater likelihood of good weather for all the open-air activities connected with Queen’s Day. However, instead of having people come to her, she preferred to go to them. Every year, accompanied by members of the Royal Family, she visited one or two towns or villages in the Netherlands to celebrate Queen’s Day there.