0834-Prince’s Day 2020

On Tuesday September 15, 2020 it is Prince’s Day, the festive opening of the new working year of the States General (the Upper and Lower Houses). On this day the King drives to the Binnenhof in The Hague in the Golden Coach and reads the speech from the throne in the Ridderzaal. The speech from the throne contains the most important plans of the government for the coming year.
Later that day, the Minister of Finance hands over the Budget Memorandum and the national budget to the President of the House of Representatives. He does this on behalf of the government. In the Budget Memorandum and the national budget, the government indicates how much money is available for the various plans and where the money for the implementation of the plans comes from.
Prince’s Day is an important day for Dutch politics. It takes place every year on the third Tuesday in September. Article 65 of the Constitution provides that on the third Tuesday of September (…) an explanation of government policy is given by or on behalf of the King in a unified meeting of the States General. Article 105 paragraph 2 of the same Constitution adds that this coincides with the submission of the budget. This is followed by general considerations in the House of Representatives, after which the National Budget is also discussed. (Budget note).

Prince’s Day is accompanied by the necessary rituals. The king makes a tour with the Golden Carriage through The Hague, and the Minister of Finance walks around with a mysterious suitcase that bears the inscription “Third Tuesday In September”. This briefcase contains the “Memorandum of the billions” (Miljoenennota). The content of this is officially kept secret until Prince’s Day, although parts of it usually leak out. All ladies attending the delivery of the throne speech are wearing striking hats, which are later discussed in the media. Traditionally, the Constitution stipulated the day on which Prince’s Day falls. In the first half of the nineteenth century, the session of the States General was initially opened on the first Monday in November, and later on the third Monday in October. When a one-year budget was introduced in 1848, the House wanted more time to deal with this budget. Therefore, Parliament’s parliamentary year was extended by bringing the opening date forward another month, to September. Monday was not an ideal day. It was difficult for a large number of MPs from remote parts of the country to be in The Hague on Monday. To prevent them from having to travel on Sunday (Sunday rest), the constitutional amendment of 1887 replaced Monday by Tuesday. The annual session of the parliament was extended not only by opening it earlier, but also by closing it later. On Monday, the day before Prince’s Day, the Minister of the Interior drove to the Ridderzaal in a court carriage to close the session. Minister De Gaay Fortman just went in his official car, but his successor Hans Wiegel restored the carriage and even put on a nineteenth century uniform, complete with stitch. The constitutional reform in 1983 changed the term of office of the States General from one year to four years. After that, this day was maintained in the Constitution as the day on which the Speech from the Throne is delivered. The name Prinsjesdag for the opening of the session of the States General became fashionable around 1930. Prince’s Day was originally the festively celebrated birthday of the Stadtholder Prince Willem V (8 March). In patriotic time, Prince’s Day was used to hold demonstrations of Orange spirit. On the basis of this, it was probably decided later to call the day of the solemn opening of the States General also Prince’s Day.

Prince’s Day derives much of its splendor from the role of the King and his House. But that role has never been undisputed. As early as 1872, Abraham De Kuyper criticized De Koning’s reading of the Speech from the Throne in De Standaard. In view of the ministerial responsibility introduced in 1848, he believed that one of the ministers should perform this task. But in his reigns he kept the tradition alive. One hundred years after Kuyper, President of the Chamber Vondeling made a proposal to change the scenario: the King would henceforth not be surrounded by the members of his House when he delivered the Speech from the Throne, but by the members of his government. Along the way, the procession successively passes the monument to Queen Wilhemina, the Kneuterdijk Palace, the Hotel des Indes, the Lange Voorhout Palace, the King’s Cabinet on the Korte Vijverberg and the Mauritshuis. The procession enters the Binnenhof through the Grenadierspoort. Here the king and his entourage get out at the Ridderzaal. The Golden Coach was donated to Queen Wilhelmina in 1898 by the people of Amsterdam. In 1903 it was used for the first time with Budget Day.

The Golden Coach is built of Javanese teak and partly covered with gold leaf. The national national coat of arms has been incorporated on both sides of the trestle. The four wheels of the carriage symbolize suns. The cornice of the carriage shows the arms of the then 11 provinces of the Netherlands. In addition, the coat of arms of the city of Amsterdam can also be seen.
The carriage is a sedan on eight springs, pulled by eight horses. Only when the head of state uses the carriage is it drawn by eight horses. At the wedding of Willem-Alexander and Máxima, the carriage was drawn by six horses.

Due to the coron crisis, the royal driving tour and the balcony scene will not take place this year on Prince’s Day. King Willem-Alexander will read the Speech from the Throne (in the Grote Kerk and not in the too small Ridderzaal), but he will not be in the Glass Carriage. There is limited military ceremonial at the Grote Kerk and Noordeinde Palace. There is no public welcome in The Hague on this day.

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