January 31, 2023
The Binnenhof

Binnenhof, Den Haag, photo by Tom Roeleveld

The Binnenhof (Inner Court) is a square in the centre of The Hague. The Ridderzaal (Hall of Knights) is in the middle of the yard. It is lined with government and parliament buildings. It is the heartbeat of the Dutch government. It is the place where the Senate and the House of Representatives meet. The Prime Minister also works here. There are weekly consultations between the Ministers and the Ministers. In a Joint Session of States General, once a year, both the Senate and House of Representatives meet at the Ridderzaal. This session is held on the third Tuesday in September. It’s the day that the Dutch head of government presents the government’s plans and goals for the next year in the “King’s Speech”.

A brief history of the Dutch central government

Counts of Holland

Floris IV, the Count of Holland 1222-1234, purchased a piece of land close to a pond in the woods. This was at the border of the polder and the dunes. This area likely belonged to a farmstead. He held court in’s-Gravenzande, Leiden, but he desired to build a hunting lodge between the two towns on his property. He directed the construction of earth, wood and stone walls around the grounds. Floris IV was soon killed in France in 1234, so Floris IV didn’t have much time to enjoy the new property.

William II, his son, succeeded him as Countess of Holland. He ordered the construction of two new living quarters. They were not joined until much later (1511). William II’s reign saw the construction of the square Haagtoren tower and the rooms for the Countess.

The Dutch Count was made King of the German Empire in 1248 as a token of his gratitude for the military assistance he provided to the Pope. William II was king and had to build a large reception hall. However, he died in 1256, so he didn’t have the chance to use it. It was built during the reign of his son, Count Floris V. Later, it became the Grote Zaal (Great Hall) and the Ridderzaal (“Hall of Knights”).

It was an impressive building at the time it was built. Although the living quarters of the Count have been removed, the entire building has retained the appearance of a castle. Other buildings were built around the castle, including sheds, workshops, and even kitchens. Binnenhof is named after the medieval inner court of the Castle of the Counts in Holland.

Floris V gradually but surely increased his power and wealth. He also improved the administration of his country. He stayed in Die Haghe more often than his predecessors. This is also where The Hague’s official title’sGravenhage (the Count’s Wood), comes from. Floris V likely built the Hofkapel (Court Chapel), a small church located north of Ridderzaal. It was destroyed in the nineteenth century.

The Binnenhof was enclosed by a moat, a wall with many gateways, and a wall. They were surrounded by several estates of the Count. The so-called Buitenhof was located on the west side of the castle. This was where the cattle were found and the future location of the stables. To the east of the castle were the kitchen gardens, orchards, and Toernooiveld, today’s streets named Korte Poten (an area that also covers today’s Plein). A wall and a moat were built to protect the Buitenhof and the kitchen gardens.

From the Binnenhof and Buitenhof, a path ran from the Gevangenpoort (Prison Gate) to the Gevangenpoort. A little road ran between the Keukenpoort, or Kitchen Gate, on the southern side of the Ridderzaal (Spui Gate). The outlines of this road have been marked on Hofplaats.

The three outermost entrances of the castle were formed by the Gevangenpoort, Spuipoort, and a gateway at the northeastern corner (located roughly at the Historical Museum of The Hague). Only the Gevangenpoort, whose name is a result of its history as a prison between the fifteenth and the nineteenth centuries, remains out of the three entrances. It has yet to be discovered when the Hofvijver was built.