Den Hague

Sightseeing in the city of Den Hague.

The Hague is the actual seat of government, but, somewhat anomalously, not the official capital of the Netherlands, a role set aside by the Dutch constitution for Amsterdam. The Hague is the home of the Eerste Kamer (first chamber) and the Tweede Kamer (second chamber), respectively the upper and lower houses forming the "Staten Generaal" (literally the "Estates-General"). Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands lives and works in The Hague. All foreign embassies and government ministries are located in the city, as well as the Hoge Raad der Nederlanden (The Supreme Court), the Raad van State (Council of State) and many lobbying organisations, including the Association of Netherlands Municipalities.

The Hague was founded in 1248 by William II, Count of Holland and Rex Romanorum, who was supposed to become Holy Roman Emperor. He started the construction of a castle in a forest near the sea in Holland, where he intended to live after his coronation. He died in battle before he could be crowned. His castle was not finished, but parts of it remain and are now called the Ridderzaal (Knights' Hall). It is still in use for political events, such as the annual speech from the throne by the monarch.

Later, the counts of Holland used The Hague as their administrative centre. 'Des Graven Hage' literally means "the count's hedge" or "the count's private enclosure". The powerful cities of Holland, like Leiden, Delft, and Dordrecht, struck a compromise to choose the then small and unimportant village of The Hague as their administrative centre. This policy was never changed, and The Hague is to this day the center of government but not the official capital.

To keep The Hague small, it was not allowed city rights or allowed to build city walls. When city walls were finally allowed in the 1500s, the population decided to use the money to build a city hall instead of city walls. This proved disastrous during the Eighty Years' War, as it allowed Spanish troops easily to occupy the town.

The Hague was finally named a city by the French occupation force in 1806, centuries after other Dutch cities had received similar rights. All this has led to the urban legend that The Hague is not a city but a village.

The Binnenhof (Dutch, lit. "inner court"), is a collection of buildings in The Hague. It has been the location of meetings of the Staten-Generaal (the Dutch parliament) since 1446, and has been the centre of Dutch politics for centuries.

The grounds on which the Binnenhof now stands was purchased by Count Floris IV of Holland in 1229, where he built his mansion. More buildings were constructed around the court, several of which are well known in their own right, such as the Ridderzaal (great hall; literally Knight's Hall), where the queen holds her annual speech. One of the towers, simply known as het Torentje has been the working space of the Prime minister of the Netherlands since 1982. The Binnenhof was also the site where statesman Johan van Oldenbarnevelt was executed in 1619.

The Peace Palace ("Vredespaleis" in Dutch), situated in The Hague, Netherlands, is often called the seat of international law because it houses the International Court of Justice (which is the principal judicial body of the United Nations), the Permanent Court of Arbitration, the Hague Academy of International Law, and the extensive Peace Palace Library. In addition to hosting these judicial functions, the Palace is also a regular venue for special events in international policy and law.

Noordeinde Palace is one of the four official palaces of the Dutch royal family. Located in The Hague in the province of South Holland, it has been used as the "working palace" for Queen Beatrix since 1984. The palace originally started as a medieval farmhouse, which was converted into a spacious residence by the steward of the States of Holland, Willem van de Goudt in 1533. The original farmhouse's cellars can still be seen in the palace basement.

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