The Hague, Netherlands
The Hague is situated in the south of the Netherlands, 6 km from the North Sea. Although Amsterdam is the nominal capital, The Hague is the country’s administrative centre and the royal court and government offices are all located here.
The city began life in 1248 as a castle settlement built by Count William II in a woodland area known as Haghe or “hedge”. Several buildings were gradually erected around the castle, amongst them the Knights’ Hall in 1280. The Binnenhof (“Inner Courtyard”) in The Hague’s old quarter is now composed of these medieval constructions. In the mid fourteenth century the Hofvijver, an artificial lake, was dug just north of this central cluster, and it remains a popular feature of the modern city.
Over the course of the next two centuries The Hague developed its commercial power, and in 1559 William of Orange, stadtholder of the Netherlands, named the city as his capital. It was to become a major centre for opposition to imperial Spanish rule, and in 1585 the States General, the political opponents of Philip II, established themselves as the de facto government of the Dutch Republic, basing themselves in the Binnenhof.
During the seventeenth century The Hague was increasingly used as a base for diplomatic negotiation since the Dutch Republic had emerged as a powerful force in European affairs. When the French occupied the country at the end of the eighteenth century it became the capital once again, and following liberation in 1815 it alternated with Brussels as the place of congregation for the States General. The nineteenth century witnessed a considerable growth in the city’s prosperity, mainly because of the mercantile success of the Dutch East India Company.
Following The Hague Peace Conferences held in 1899 and 1907 the city became a centre for international law, a pre-eminent position that it still holds today. Dutch central government returned to The Hague not long afterwards in 1913.
The Hague today lacks the industrial clout of Amsterdam, there is little heavy industry to speak of, although ceramics, furniture, glass, and luxury items are produced here, and printing and publishing are prominent industries. The city’s major role is as an administrative base for government and commerce.
Places of Interest
The area around the Binnenhof, which architecturally dates back to the fifteenth and eighteenth centuries, contains a number of significant landmarks including the Great Church of St Jacobs and the royal palace which is known locally as the Huis ten Bosch. The Binnenhof Courtyard itself is a popular destination for visitors, and near the historically important Knights’ Hall lies the palatial Mauritshuis, the Royal Picture Gallery, which displays works by Rembrandt, Rubens, Vermeer, Van Dyck and other national artists. The Kröller-Müller Museum houses works by another Dutch favourite—Van Gogh.