These days the Netherlands celebrates King’s Day but the traditional birthday celebrations for the monarch actually began (again) with Queen Wilhelmina, when she was just a Princess.
Princess Wilhelmina’s father King William III was not quite the popular monarch he perhaps hoped to be, but his adorable four-year-old daughter and future Queen was very popular. A certain newspaper offered the suggestion that perhaps the birthday celebrations the country had once done for its first King, should now be done for the Princess. It also helped that her birthday was in August, while her father’s birthday was in dreary February. They said it should be “a day where we put aside all grievances and feuds and to remember that we are countrymen and that a bond unites us all.”1
People liked the idea and so the first Princess’s day was celebrated on 31 August 1885 for Wilhelmina’s fifth birthday. Princess Wilhelmina was paraded through the city of Utrecht, and in the following years, other cities followed. When Princess Wilhelmina’s inherited the throne in 1890 at the age of 10, the day was renamed Queen’s Day.
The festivities continued to grow, but Queen Wilhelmina rarely attended after she became an adult. During the Second World War, celebrations of Queen’s Day were banned by the Germans. When Queen Wilhelmina abdicated in favour of her daughter Juliana, the Queen’s Day celebrations were moved to Juliana’s birthday on 30 April. The first celebration in April included a circus at the Amsterdam Olympic Stadium, but the family did not attend – preferring to stay at Soestdijk Palace where they received a floral tribute. When this tribute came to be televised in the 1950s, Queen’s Day increasingly became the national holiday we know today.