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.
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.