World Facts

What Do the Colors and Symbols of the Flag of the Netherlands Mean?

The flag of the Netherlands is a horizontal tricolor of red, white, and blue.

The Netherlands, also referred to as Holland, is a country in Western Europe, and its flag is a horizontal tricolor of red, white, and blue stripes. It closely resembles the flag of Luxembourg, the only difference being that the blue stripe on the flag of the Netherlands is slightly darker and the flag has different dimensions (shorter). The flag's design is a variant of the older “Princess flag” (Prinsenvlag), which was orange, white, and blue in color. It was first introduced in the 17th century as a naval flag of the state General of Dutch Republic (Statenvlag) or the “States Flag.” In 1937, the flag was officially adopted as the national flag of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

Description of the Flag of the Netherlands

The national flag of the Netherlands is a horizontal tricolor of red, blue, and white (from top to bottom) and its dimensions have a width-to-length ratio of 2:3. The fesses (stripes or bands) are equal in size, and use the following specific colors: the red stripe is officially bright vermillion; the white stripe is officially described as silver; and the blue stripe is described as cobalt blue.

History of the Flag of the Netherlands

In 1572, William Prince of Orange rose to lead the Dutch against Spain in the struggle for independence, and he used the following colors: orange, blue, and white. While at Leiden is 1574, the soldiers' uniforms bore these colors as well. At the time, the flag earned the name The Prince’s Flag, because it was made in his honor. William is known within the Netherlands as the Father of the Fatherland. However, the orange color was unstable because it eventually turned red, and therefore in the 17th century the orange color was officially replaced with red, which has remained to date, although the official decree to adopt the flag was not was made until 1937.

Other Countries in the United Kingdom of the Netherlands

Other countries that form the United Kingdom of the Netherlands include Aruba, Curaçao, and Sint Maarten. Each of these countries has a unique flag which is distinct from the flag of the Netherlands. Aruba adopted its flag in 1976, while Sint Maarten adopted in 1985. Other countries that were formerly part of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands, but are now independent nations, include Suriname and Netherlands Antilles, and both countries now have their own flags.

Influence of the Flag of the Netherlands

The flag of the Netherlands has had a profound influence on the design of flags in other countries around the world as a result of shared history or economic relations. For example, the flag of Russia is thought to have been influenced by the flag of Netherlands, and in turn influenced the Slavic countries such as Croatia, Serbia, Slovenia, Slovakia, and Yugoslavia. Other countries include the Republic of South Africa and several other colonies which now form part of South Africa. The flag of the Netherlands also influenced the flag of Albany, the capital of the US state of New York, as well as the flag of the mayor of New York. Other influences include the flags of the following counties in the state of New York: Duchess, Ulster, and Westchester.

Display and Use of the Flag

The flag of the Netherlands is flown on military bases and government buildings, but private use is relatively rare. During national holidays, like King’s Day (Koningsdag), private use of the flag is common. On special non-holiday celebration days for individuals like a student who just graduated, individuals can fly the national flag at their homes, which is often accompanied with the student’s school bag at the tip of the flag post. During days of national mourning, the flag is flown half-staff as a sign of respect. Some holidays during which the flag is raised include January 31 (Princess Beatrix's birthday), April 27 (King’s day), May 4 (Remembrance Day), and May 5 (Liberation Day). Other days include the August 15 (the end of World War II) and December 15 (Kingdom day), among others.

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