The Kingdom of the Netherlands (Dutch: ; Papiamento: ), commonly known as the Netherlands, is a sovereign state and constitutional monarchy with territory in western Europe and in the Caribbean. The Kingdom is celebrating its 200 years in a series of festive occasions spanning from 2013 to 2015, the actual year of the anniversary.
The four parts of the Kingdom – Aruba, Curacao, Sint Maarten and the Netherlands – are separate countries (landen in Dutch) and participate on a basis of equality as partners in the Kingdom. In practice, however, most of the Kingdom affairs are administered by the Netherlands – which comprises roughly 98% of the Kingdoms land area and population – on behalf of the entire Kingdom. Consequently, the countries of Aruba, Curacao, and Sint Maarten are dependent on the Netherlands for matters like foreign policy and defence, although they are autonomous to a certain degree with their own parliaments.
The vast majority in land area of the constituent country of the Netherlands (as well as the Kingdom) is located in Europe, with the exception of its three special municipalities (Bonaire, Saba, and Sint Eustatius) that are located in the Caribbean. The constituent countries of Aruba, Curacao, and Sint Maarten are located in the Caribbean as well.
The Kingdom of the Netherlands finds its origin in the aftermath of Napoleon’s defeat in 1813. In that year, the Netherlands regained its freedom and the Sovereign Principality of the Netherlands was proclaimed with William Prince of Orange and Nassau as sovereign. Reunification with the Southern Netherlands, (roughly equivalent to what is now Belgium and Luxembourg) was decided in 1814. In March 1815, the Sovereign Prince adopted the style of "King of the Netherlands" and the Kingdom came into being. The King of the Netherlands was also Grand Duke of Luxembourg, a province of the Kingdom that was, at the same time, a Grand Duchy of the German Confederation.
In 1830, Belgium seceded from the Kingdom, a step that was recognised by the Netherlands only in 1839. At that point, Luxembourg became a fully independent country in a personal union with the Netherlands. Luxembourg also lost more than half of its territory to Belgium. To compensate the German Confederation for that loss, the remainder of the Dutch province of Limburg received the same status that Luxembourg had enjoyed before, as a Dutch province that at the same time formed a Duchy of the German Confederation. That status was reversed when the German Confederation ceased to be in 1867; and, at that point, Limburg reverted to its former status as an ordinary Dutch province.
The origin of the administrative reform of 1954 was the 1931 Westminster Statute and the 1941 Atlantic Charter (stating the right of all peoples to choose the form of government under which they will live, and the desire for a permanent system of general security), which was signed by the Netherlands on 1 January 1942. Changes were proposed in the 7 December 1942 radio speech by Queen Wilhelmina. In this speech, the Queen, on behalf of the Dutch government in exile in London, expressed a desire to review the relations between the Netherlands and its colonies after the end of the war. After liberation, the government would call a conference to agree on a settlement in which the overseas territories could participate in the administration of the Kingdom on the basis of equality. Initially, this speech had propaganda purposes; the Dutch government had the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia) in mind, and hoped to appease public opinion in the United States, which had become skeptical towards colonialism.
After Indonesia became independent, a federal construction was considered too heavy, as the economies of Suriname and the Netherlands Antilles were insignificant compared to that of the Netherlands. In the Charter for the Kingdom of the Netherlands, as enacted in 1954, Suriname and the Netherlands Antilles each got a Minister Plenipotentiary based in the Netherlands, who had the right to participate in Dutch cabinet meetings when it discussed affairs that applied to the Kingdom as a whole, when these affairs pertained directly to Suriname and/or the Netherlands Antilles. Delegates of Suriname and the Netherlands Antilles could participate in sessions of the First and Second Chamber of the States General. An overseas member could be added to the Council of State when appropriate. According to the Charter, Suriname and the Netherlands Antilles were also allowed to alter their "Basic Law"s (Staatsregeling). The right of the two autonomous countries to leave the Kingdom, unilaterally, was not recognised; yet it also stipulated that the Charter could be dissolved by mutual consultation.
Before the Charter for the Kingdom of the Netherlands was proclaimed in 1954, Suriname, Netherlands New Guinea, and the Netherlands Antilles, formerly "Colony of Curacao and subordinates" (Kolonie Curacao en Onderhorige Eilanden) were colonies of the Netherlands.
Suriname was a constituent country within the Kingdom from 1954 to 1975, while the Netherlands Antilles were a constituent country from 1954 until 2010. Suriname has since become an independent republic, and the Netherlands Antilles were dissolved into the constituent countries: Aruba (since 1986), Curacao and Sint Maarten (since 2010), and the special municipalities of the Netherlands proper, Bonaire, Sint Eustatius, and Saba. Netherlands New Guinea was a dependent territory of the Kingdom until 1962, but was not an autonomous country, and was not mentioned in the Charter.
In 1955, Queen Juliana and Prince Bernhard visited Suriname and the Netherlands Antilles. The visit was a great success. The royal couple were welcomed enthusiastically by the local population, and the trip was widely reported in the Dutch press. Several other royal visits were to follow.
In 1969, an unorganised strike on the Antillean island of Curacao resulted in serious disturbances and looting, during which a part of the historic city centre of Willemstad was destroyed by fire. Order was restored by Dutch marines. In the same year, Suriname saw serious political instability with the Surinamese prime minister, Jopie Pengel, threatening to request military support to break a teachers’ strike.
In 1973, a new Dutch cabinet under Labour leader Joop den Uyl assumed power. In the government policy statement, the cabinet declared a wish to determine a date for the independence of Suriname and the Netherlands Antilles with the government of those nations. The Antillean government was non-committal; the same held for the Surinamese Sedney cabinet (1969–1973). The Suriname 1973 elections brought the National Party Combination (Nationale Partij Kombinatie) to power, with Henck Arron as its prime minister. The new government declared on its instatement that Suriname would be independent before 1976. This was remarkable, as independence had not been an issue during the election campaign. The Den Uyl government in The Hague now had a willing partner in Paramaribo to realise its plans for Surinamese independence. Despite vehement and emotional resistance by the Surinamese opposition, Den Uyl and Arron reached an agreement, and on 25 November 1975, Suriname became independent.
In January 1986, Aruba seceded from the Netherlands Antilles; therefore Aruba became a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. In October 2010, the Netherlands Antilles was dissolved, leaving Curacao and Sint Maarten to become the newest constituent countries of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
The Kingdom of the Netherlands covers 42,519 km2 (16,417 sq mi). The Kingdom of the Netherlands has land borders with Belgium, Germany (both in the Netherlands), and France (on Saint Martin).
About one quarter of the Netherlands lies below sea level, as much land has been reclaimed from the sea. Dikes were erected to protect the land from flooding. Previously, the highest point of the Netherlands was the Vaalserberg in Limburg at only 322.7 m (1,059 ft), but with the constitutional reform of 10 October 2010 this changed as Saba became part of the Netherlands as a special municipality, and its Mount Scenery (887 m; 2,910 ft) took the place of the Vaalserberg.
The Caribbean parts of the Kingdom consist of two zones with different geographic origins. The Windward Islands (Saba, Sint Eustatius and Sint Maarten) are all of volcanic origin and hilly, leaving little ground suitable for agriculture. The Leeward Islands (Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao) have a mixed volcanic and coral origin.
The Caribbean islands have a tropical climate, with warm weather all year round. The Windward Islands are subject to hurricanes in the summer months. The European part of the Netherlands has a moderate maritime climate, with cool summers and mild winters.