green & yellow – official colours of The Hague since 1920
History of The Hague
The Hague - Europe's largest village
The Hague was originally a hamlet close to the count's castle built in the 13th century. The village was first recorded in a document dated 1370, but has never been granted a Charter. Charters entitled medieval villages to erect defence walls and dig moats to protect their citizens. It also gave villages certain privileges, including the right to administer justice. Attempts by The Hague to obtain a Charter were continuously thwarted, although noblemen in the Large Hall of the Count’s Castle administered justice. In 1811 The Hague was granted a 48-hour Charter by Napoleon, when he proclaimed The Hague "Bonne Ville de l'Empire". Passing through on his journey from Amsterdam to Paris he refused to stay in a village.
Even today, The Hague has no Charter. From 1851, local legislation no longer distinguishes between city and countryside. The Netherlands now only has municipalities, with the exception of Amsterdam, which is a city under the Dutch Constitution. 's-Gravenhage - which is the official name for The Hague and literally means "the Count's hedge" - was never awarded city rights. Although The Hague gives an outward appearance of being a full-fledged city, it is still today known as "the largest village of Europe". Even though voices whispered "The Hague is the third largest city of the Netherlands with a population of 475,904, it was still not granted its Charter when it celebrated its 750 anniversary in 1998.
Coat of Arms
Although still without a Charter, The Hague boasts its own Town Arms. The Town Arms was officially laid down by order of the Dutch College of Arms on 24 July 1861 and is described as follows:
"In gold a striding stork of a natural colour, holding in its beak a sable-coloured eel. The shield is covered by an antique count's crown and held by two golden lions looking round".
It is likely that the illustration on the Town Arms is based on the medieval storks that used to build their nests on the little island in the Hofvijver pond. This was seen by The Hague population as a sign of fortune as the storks would finish off all the fish remains after the fish market that could otherwise rot and cause infectious diseases. The stork is depicted on all municipal institutions and on the tower of the Church of St. Jacob.
The Hague, "widow of Indonesia"
The Hague is also known as the "widow of Indonesia". Before its independence in 1945, Indonesia was a Dutch colony. People working there took regular leave to go home to the Netherlands. Once here, they would stay in The Hague, which also housed the Ministry of Colonies. Hotel des Indes on the Lange Voorhout used to accommodate many of these travellers on leave. There was a second Hotel des Indes in Indonesia's capital city of Batavia, now called Djakarta, but this has since closed down. Between 1850 and 1900 the Archipel residential area was built in The Hague. Here many former colonials took up residence in houses along streets that were named after the islands, which make up the Indonesian Archipelago.
Following Indonesia's independence, thousands of Dutch and Indonesian people who chose to adopt Dutch nationality came to the Netherlands. Many of them found a job at the Ministries. Although the Ministry of Colonies has since closed, due to its past links with Indonesia, The Hague still offers more Indonesian restaurants and tokos (Indonesian shops) than any other town in The Netherlands.