Why do the Dutch wear orange
With the 2010 World Cup under way, one country sure to stand out through both orange-vested players on the field, and multitudes of orange-clad followers in the stadiums is the Netherlands. Perhaps no greater association between country and colour exists. But what is the origin of the association between the colour orange and Dutch national pride?
To answer this question we must cast back the years to the turbulent days of 16th century Europe. The old established orders of continental Europe were being challenged, neighbourly disputes between individual nations were common and the rise of England as an overseas contender under the tutelage of the Tudor dynasty all contributed to the flux of chaos on the European continent. To add to the mix, religious reform, and in particular the rise of protestantism was being aggressively persecuted by Catholics who ruled much of Europe. Many in the Netherlands believed the positions of power should be transferred from foreign, mostly Spanish, Catholics to Dutch nobility and that the increasing persecution of Protestants had to be arrested.
By 1566, Protestant groups mounted a backlash against Catholic persecution, destroying statues and holy figures, and eventually leading the then governor, Margaret of Parma, to agree nominally to the petitions of the unhappy parties.
One such party was a large confederacy of lesser noblemen, the so-called Confederacy of Noblemen. Many of these were devout Catholics who also harboured a deep commitment to religious freedom for all peoples. Among the many noblemen of the confederacy were German-born William Prince of Orange (also known as William the Silent) and his brother Louis.
The Governor’s promises to the confederacy were never fulfilled and as a result of much further violence, many Protestants, particularly Calvinists, fled the country. After supporting the works of the confederacy financially for many years, William and many noblemen found it necessary to flee.
The ruling classes then summoned a council, the Council of Blood, whose judgement was to declare William of Orange and other noblemen as outlaws.
In exile, William raised an army and after a series of alliances and subsequent battles, collectively named the Eighty Years War, managed to successfully overthrow Spanish rule and establish an independent Dutch state.
William’s eminent place in Dutch history was sealed, as was the place of his dynasty, the House of Oranje-Nassau, also called simply the House of Orange; so much so that the people of the Netherlands adopted orange as their colour, and their nation’s colour, associating it with Dutch national pride for ever more. On important dates in the royal calendar, such as birthdays, the red, white and blue of the Dutch flag is accompanied by an orange pennant. On Queen’s Day (Koninginnedag), which occurs on April 30th) each year, much of the country, but especially the capital Amsterdam, turns completely orange as the Dutch celebrate a day of national unity to honour the queen. The Dutch national football team are nicknamed the Oranje.
Members of the House of Oranje continue to play a major role in the nation’s modern democratic government.