Correction (7:05): Paleis Noordeinde is where the King works.
Transcript of the video lesson (scroll for more text):
Hi there, my name is Bart de Pau. Today we are going to talk about Prinsjesdag (Prince’s Day). For your “inburgering” (civil integration), you should know all about it. Prinsjesdag is the most important day in the Dutch constitutional monarchy and it is full of tradition. At the end of this lesson you will know how we say in Dutch: this… this… and this… And you will know all about the structure of our democracy and the fiunction of the king.
Welcome to this video lesson in the “Typical Dutch Vocabulary” series; in which we discuss Dutch traditions, food, habits, and culture; and the meaning of all related Dutch words. I post new video lessons every week, here on the learndutch.org youtube channel. Push the subscribe button if you don’t want to miss that!
Now let’s find out all about Prinsjesdag.
When is Prinsjesdag? Prinsjesdag is always on the third Tuesday of September. “De derde dinsdag in september”.
What is Prinsjesdag? It is the day when the government (de regering) reveals its plans for the coming year.
But why is it called Prinsjesdag then? (which means Day of the Princes)
Originally Prinsjesdag was the day when the birthday of the Princes of Orange was celebrated. I will tell you in another video lesson, about the link between Orange, the Royal Family and the Netherlands.
In the 19th century, Prinsjesdag was given the function that it has today: The head of state (het staatshoofd), reads out the governmental plans. The head of state in a constitutional monarchy is the king (de koning). At this moment our king is Willem Alexander. He reads the plans while sitting on a throne; therefore this speech is called: “de troonrede” (literally the Speech from the Throne). His wife Maxima; the queen (de koningin) is sitting next to him.
Where does this all happen? In The Hague (Den Haag). That’s the heart of the Dutch politics (de politiek). The entire complex of buildings is called “Het Binnenhof”. There you can find the Tweede Kamer. This is the parliament, het Parlement; de Eerste Kamer, this is the senate, “de senaat”, the Prime Minister’s office (which we call “het Torentje” = the little tower) and “de Ridderzaal” (literally the knight’s hall). That is the place of the “troonrede”.
“De koning leest de troonrede voor in de Ridderzaal.”
Each “troonrede” starts with the same phrase:
“Leden van de Staten Generaal.”
“Leden” is the plural noun of “lid”, which means member. “De Staten Generaal” is something you should know and it means “de Eerste Kamer” and “de Tweede Kamer” together. So, the members of the senate plus the members of the parliament.
Does the king write “de troonrede” himself? No, he doesn’t. The ministers write it. The function of the king in the Netherlands is mostly symbolic, except for some consultational activities (for example when the government is formed after elections and the weekly conversations that the king has with the prime minister). But, it’s not the king who rules. The Netherlands is a democracy. We vote for our ‘volksvertegenwoordigers’ (people’s representatives), who determine the country’s policies.
The speech from the throne is a summary of the “Prinsjesdagstukken” (“stukken” means: sets of documents). Most important “stukken” are “de rijksbegroting” (the national budget) and “de miljoenennota” – the budget memorandum.
Both are inside a suitcase carried by the minister of Finance on Prinsjesdag. It’s purely symbolic because the entire paper document would be too heavy to carry. Well, perhaps there is a USB-stick inside. Allthough it should be kept secret until “de troonrede”; it is usually leaked beforehand. There is a competition amongst Dutch journalists to reveal it first. Each year they are hunting for it by all means necessary, in the weeks before Prinsjesdag; trying to hack computers, finding a member of parliament willing to talk; or searching garbage bins. It’s a part of the tradition now.
Another tradition is the hats; de hoeden. Female politicians try to draw attention with their hats. They are usually large, and sometimes include a political statement. A detailed analysis of the hats is usually the main subject of many TV programs on that evening.
Back to “de troonrede”.
At the end, the chairman of the assembly shouts “Leve de Koning!”, which means “Long live the King!” And then all the politicians answer hurray three times, in Dutch: “Hoera, hoera, hoera!”. And that goes like this: …
Then the King and the Queen leave, back to their … golden carriage “de Gouden Koets”. Indeed, they didn’t come by car! De Gouden Koets is only used one time per year, on Prinsjesdag. Before and after de troonrede, the King and the Queen do a tour through the city in the carriage. And many lovers of the royal family travel to the Hague to see this, and are waiting there from early morning to be sure to get a place in the first row.
The tour back ends at the palace. The royal family has quite some palaces. Their palace in The Hague, where the King and Queen live, is called: Paleis Noordeinde. And there the Royal Family ends the day with “de balkonscene”, waving to the people from the balcony.
That’s the end of a day with a lot of tradition, but it is the start of the political year! In the week after Prinsjesdag, during the so called “Algemene Beschouwingen”, the members of the parliament start their debates and the government will have to defend their plans. And not only in the parliament, but also around the kitchen table, the Dutch talk a lot about politics. The reason is simple: the Dutch pay quite a bit of taxes, so people are concerned how they are spent.
That’s it. We’re at the end of the lesson, if you watch the Dutch news on Prinsjesdag, you will now understand what it is all about. A list of the words of this lesson you can find back on learndutch.org.
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See you soon! Tot ziens!