From 1815 to 1903 the monarch delivered the Speech from the Throne in the assembly chamber of the House of Representatives. Since 1904 the venue has been the Ridderzaal in the Binnenhof in The Hague. The most recent restoration of the Ridderzaal was completed in 2006.
Construction of the Ridderzaal began under Count Willem II of Holland, who also held the title of King of the Romans. Work began in 1248 and was completed under his son, Count Floris V of Holland, around 1280. The Counts of Holland used the building for festive occasions. In 1432 and 1456, for example, Philip the Good of Burgundy received the chapter of the Order of the Golden Fleece here.
In 1581 it was here that the States General resolved that they would no longer acknowledge King Philip of Spain as the sovereign lord of the Netherlands. In 1651, at the beginning of the first Stadholderless period, the delegates from the States of all seven provinces met here. In the years thereafter, the building fell into decay. In the 17th and 18th centuries it was the office of the state lottery. During the French occupation, military cadets practised drills here.
By the middle of the 19th century, the building was a ruin. A drain had even been dug in the centre of the Ridderzaal. Restoration began in 1861. State architect Willem Nicolaas Rose covered the building with a cast iron roof supported by two rows of cast iron pillars. This divided the space into three aisles, and from 1878 onwards the records of the Ministry of the Interior were housed here.
The structures that had been built onto the Ridderzaal over the years were demolished. In 1904 the Ridderzaal was restored in neo-Gothic style, with a tasteful interior designed by the architect Pierre Cuypers, featuring Turkish carpets and wall hangings. These were removed in 1954 before a state visit by Emperor Haile Selassie; the walls were hung with the flags of the Dutch provinces and white paintwork replaced Cuypers’ sand-coloured walls.
Since the beginning of the 20th century the Ridderzaal has not only been used for the State Opening of Parliament, when the monarch delivers the Speech from the Throne to a joint session of the Senate and the House of Representatives. It has also been the venue for large-scale receptions and dinners and for conferences such as the Round Table Conference in 1949 that led to Dutch recognition of Indonesian independence. The government hosted a dinner here for Queen Beatrix on the occasion of her silver jubilee and also for Prince Willem-Alexander and Princess Máxima on the evening before their wedding.
At the beginning of the 21st century the upholstery of the throne which had stood in the Ridderzaal since 1904 was found to be worn. This prompted a review of the entire interior, and it was decided to refurbish the chamber. Renovation was completed in 2006, with the most prominent feature being the nineteen wall hangings bearing the arms of the twelve Dutch provinces and the overseas parts of the Kingdom. The words of article 1 of the 1848 Constitution are painted on the chimney on the north wall. Above them are the twelve stars of the European Union.
The Ridderzaal is managed by the Government Buildings Agency. Guided tours, which also include the chambers of the Senate and the House of Representatives, are organised by the visitors’ centre of the ProDemos Centre for Democracy and the Rule of Law.