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The Dutch Flag: A Brief History Of A Timeless Tricolor

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The Netherlands’ flag is a simple, horizontal striped tricolor consisting of red, white, and blue from top to bottom. The flag’s current design has evolved since the late 16th century ranging from the orange-white-blue of the Prinsenvlag (Prince’s Flag) to the red-white-blue flag, the Statenvlag (States Flag) in the early 17th century. The flag is also heavily inspired by the naval flag of the State-General of the Dutch Republic, which held the same red-white-blue colors. This timeline makes the Dutch tricolor an example of the oldest tricolor in continuous use. In turn, inspiring flags of several European countries such as Russia and France. 
The Dutch flag is often confused with the French flag because they both have the same colors in the same order. But the French have their colors in a vertical hierarchy. Luxembourg’s flag is also often confused with the Dutch flag. This is because it varies only in dimensions and the use of a very light shade of blue. The Dutch flag, on the other hand, uses a darker hue of blue.  
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The Dutch flag together with the French flag.

History

The history of the Netherlands’ flag is fascinating when you study its evolution with the changing times. The first recorded color description of the flag happened in 1575, with the use colors orange-white-blue being first recorded in 1574. This was when Dutch officers marched into the city of Leiden wearing brassards of the same color. This color combination of orange-white-blue is also referred to by many as the Prince’s Flag. This flag is named after Prince William of Orange and is considered the first Dutch flag. The flag became the basis of the former South African flag, New York City flag, and the flag of Albany, New York.   

The red-white-blue variation of the flag became pretty standard by 1630, mainly because the flag’s orange dye tended to fade to red over time. Before 1664, this variation of the flag was called the Flag of Holland due to Holland being one of the provinces revolting against the crown. In 1664, the Province Zeeland complained about the same, leading to a resolution being passed by the States-General for the flag being called the State’s flag. 

The Navy used both the State’s flag and the Prince’s flag from 1630 through 1662. The Prince’s flag was outlawed in the late 18th century, with the Batavian Revolution tormenting the land, followed by the French’s eventual conquest. 

The Prince of Orange returned to the Netherlands from his exile in 1813, as the country regained its independence from the French. The Prince’s return was celebrated with the red-white-blue flag being flown decorated with an orange pennant to show solidarity and alliance with the House Orange. The Prince’s flag returned in the public conscience during the economic turmoil just before the second world war, mainly popularised by the National Socialist Movement in the Netherlands, which prompted the Queen to declare the shortest royal decree in history on 19th February 1937. The royal decree read: “De kleuren van de vlag van het Koninkrijk der Nederlanden zijn rood, wit en blauw“; The colors of the flag of the Kingdom of the Netherlands are red, white, and blue. 

Modern times

The Royal Navy has since defined the flag’s official color parameters as bright vermillion (red), white, and cobalt blue. The flag is flown and hoisted customarily in Dutch public offices and buildings across the country and globe, but private use is pretty uncommon. There are several special holidays and occasions where the Dutch people show their love for their land apart from the official days. These include big football (soccer) games during World Cups and European Championships. The flag is hoisted outside the students’ houses on their graduation day, accompanied by their school bag hanging from the pole’s tip. 

The history and the cultural significance of the Dutch tricolor are fascinating and give us a look at the legacy and influence of a great nation through its ups and downs. The colors of the Dutch flag have no official meaning. Still, the tricolor stands for freedom and unity of the Kingdom of Netherlands and the pride the Oranje people have in their homeland. 

Pranjal Kumar

Pranjal Kumar

I am Pranjal, 20, from India, and I am currently studying Civil Engineering at an international university here. I love meeting people from diverse backgrounds, learning about different cultures and languages, and most of all, I love reading and writing. I speak Hindi and English fluently and am currently learning Spanish as a beginner. Football and running are sports I really enjoy, with the Dutch team in the 2010 World Cup being my introduction to the Oranje nation. Music and cinema both are a big part of my who I am as a person and have shaped my worldview massively. I believe writing for The Netherlands.com is a great opportunity for me to grow as a writer and a global citizen.
Pranjal Kumar

Pranjal Kumar

I am Pranjal, 20, from India, and I am currently studying Civil Engineering at an international university here. I love meeting people from diverse backgrounds, learning about different cultures and languages, and most of all, I love reading and writing. I speak Hindi and English fluently and am currently learning Spanish as a beginner. Football and running are sports I really enjoy, with the Dutch team in the 2010 World Cup being my introduction to the Oranje nation. Music and cinema both are a big part of my who I am as a person and have shaped my worldview massively. I believe writing for The Netherlands.com is a great opportunity for me to grow as a writer and a global citizen.
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