Why Is The National Color Of The Netherlands Orange?

When Dutch national teams participate in championships, they wear orange shirts, a peculiar color. You may wonder why Dutch national teams and their fans, like me, wear orange instead of a somewhat more common color….?

The color orange refers to the family name of the Dutch Royal Family, the House of Orange-Nassau. Their ancestor, William of Orange, is the founding father of the Netherlands. Orange symbolizes national unity, and the Dutch signify national pride by wearing orange.

It happens to be a fascinating story why the color orange has become so important in The Netherlands.

Who Was William Of Orange?

William of Orange was the leader of the rebellion against Spain and is considered the Founding Father of The Netherlands. He is probably the most important person who has ever lived in The Netherlands.

William of Orange was born William of Nassau-Dillenburg in 1533 in Germany. William inherited the principality of Orange, located in the south of France, and became the Prince of Orange in 1544.

In those days, the principality of Orange was still an independent county state in the Provence in the south of France. The title Prince of Orange made William a sovereign and, at least in his own eyes, equal to the king of Spain, who then ruled over the Netherlands.

Ironically, William never visited the principality of Orange during his life even though it was his most important possession and Prince of Orange his most important title.

William’s full name became William of Orange-Nassau, often abbreviated to William of Orange. The war of independence against Spain lasted for 80 years (1568-1648), and William of Orange was the commander of the Dutch army until he was murdered in Delft in 1584.

In those first 16 years of the war, William of Orange secured important victories in the early battles against Spain, laying a solid foundation for The Republic of the Seven Provinces, The Netherlands’ name in those days.

William of Orange was one of the few who embraced the idea of a common nation and was a great advocate of religious tolerance. He was thus far ahead of his time and an essential unifying factor in the early years of The Republic of the Seven Provinces. Only after his death did his son Maurice of Orange and Johan van Oldenbarneveld receive sufficient executive power to make the ideals of William of Orange a reality.

William of Orange was also the driving force behind the foundation of the University of Leiden, the first university in The Netherlands. That was the university where Rembrandt studied, and the first tulips in the Netherlands were cultivated.

Why Is The Dutch Flag Not Orange?

Given the importance of William of Orange to The Netherlands, you may wonder why the Dutch flag is not orange or at least partly orange.

Orange used to be part of the Dutch flag in the early years of existence of the Netherlands when the Dutch flag was orange, white, and blue. Red replacing orange in The Dutch flag was a sign of the political dissociation between the House of Orange and the new Dutch Republic.

The first use of orange as a symbol of The Netherlands dates back to 1572 when the Dutch rebels conquered the city of Den Briel in the war against Spain. The inspiration for these colors came from the uniforms of William’s of Orange army wearing uniforms with these colors.

However, orange did not remain part of the Dutch flag for long and was changed to red between 1630-1660.

Why Did The Dutch Flag Change From Orange To Red?

There are three explanations for why orange was replaced by red in the Dutch national flag between 1630 and 1660.

  1. Orange was less visible at sea
  2. Orange was too difficult to make
  3. The declining political influence of the House of Orange in The Netherlands

The first explanation for the change from orange to red in the Dutch flag is that the orange is less visible at sea. At that time, the Netherlands depended hugely on business overseas for its economic survival. This may have been a convincing argument in those days.

A second explanation for the change from orange to red in the Dutch flag is that orange was too difficult to make. The color red was easier and cheaper to produce. To make the color orange, you need rare raw materials. These scarce materials were so rare and expensive that red became a good alternative.

However, in the early part of the 17th century, a power struggle developed between Maurits of Orange and Amsterdam’s wealthy merchants. Maurits wanted to continue the war, while the merchants wanted a temporary truce because that would be better for trading.

The replacement of orange by red in the Dutch flag was caused by the declining political influence of the House of Orange in the new Dutch Republic. This political struggle was the driving force to replace orange by red in the Dutch flag.

For the next two centuries, the House of Orange had limited political influence in The Republic of the Seven Provinces. When the Kingdom of The Netherlands was formed in 1815, a descendant of William of Orange became the first King of The Netherlands. However, the role of the Dutch king was a symbolic role of uniting the nation rather than a political role with political influence.

On the birthdays of the House of Orange members, The Dutch still celebrate their Royal Family by flying an orange pennant above their national flag. That is an excellent example of a typical Dutch compromise to keep everybody happy on the politically sensitive issue of what color the top stripe of the Dutch national flag should be.

If you cannot decide if it should be red or orange, you choose both….!

How To Translate Orange To Dutch?

Orange in Dutch is Oranje, and William of Orange is Willem van Oranje in Dutch.

William of OrangeWillem van Oranje

There have been many Williams of Orange among his progeny, but this particular William of Orange is also known as William the Taciturn. He was called taciturn because he was extremely vague about his political ambitions while still at the court of the Spanish king.

What Do The Colors On The Dutch Flag Mean?

The colors on the Dutch national flag symbolize the following:

  • Red symbolizes strength, bravery, and valor.
  • White symbolizes honesty and peace.
  • Blue symbolizes truth, loyalty, perseverance, and justice.

When Did The Colors Of The Dutch Flag Became Official?

Surprisingly, it took until the 20th century before the colors of the Dutch flag became official.

It took until 1937 before red, white, and blue became our national flag’s official colors. The reason for that was that a Dutch political party NSB, sympathizing with the Nazi party of Adolf Hitler in Germany, wanted to reintroduce the orange back into the flag instead of the red. In their opinion, the color red referred too much to socialism, which they hated, and they felt that orange would unite the country much better.

The Dutch government did not want any resurgence of the political influence of the House of Orange-Nassau. Therefore, the Dutch government quickly acted to block this intention and implemented a law in 1937 that officially announced our national flag’s colors: red, white, and blue. That was the correct decision because we are a proud democracy and should stay a proud democracy forever.

At present, the value of the House of Orange is only symbolic and important as a symbol of our nation’s unity.

Why Do The Dutch Wear Orange?

The Dutch are not particularly nationalistic but make an exception for Kingsday and sports events. All Dutch national sports teams and many of their supporters wear orange.

The Dutch wear orange to signify national pride and as a symbol of their national unity

For example, look at the Dutch supporters of Max Verstappen just before a Formula 1 race in 2018 and enjoy the enthusiasm of the Orange Army.

Why Do The Dutch Wear Orange On King’s Day?

King’s Day is a national holiday in The Netherlands when everybody is dressed in orange to symbolize our national unity.

King’s Day is celebrated on April 27th, the birthday of the present King of The Netherlands, King Willem-Alexander. On this day, the Dutch celebrate their national unity by wearing orange.

Flea markets are organized all over the country. If you are not interested in flea markets, there will also be plenty of concerts and festivals that you may want to attend as long as you wear your orange shirt.

Why Do Dutch Football Supporters Wear Orange?

When the Dutch national football team plays a European or World Cup tournament, entire streets are decorated with our national and orange flags. Moreover, many supporters wear orange shirts on match days, and the whole country is mesmerized and united behind the national team.

The “Orange Fever” can reach great heights, and I still have fond memories of the Dutch national football teams in 2010 and 2014 that reached the final (2010) and semi-final (2014) of those football World Championships.

When Not To Wear Orange In The Netherlands?

On May 4th, it is a tradition to honor those who gave their lives while fighting for The Netherlands. Therefore, on May 4th, we fly our national flag at half-mast. However, the following day on May 5th, the national flags will fly at full mast again since we celebrate the end of the Second World War on that day in 1945.

It is not considered appropriate to wear orange on May 4th and 5th.

Is The Dutch National Anthem Inspired By William Of Orange?

The Dutch national anthem, the Wilhelmus, is the oldest in the world. The name Wilhelmus refers to William of Orange.

The Dutch national anthem was composed in honor of William of Orange by Marnix van Sint Aldegonde in 1570.

The mere fact that our national anthem is named after William of Orange shows the enormous influence that William of Orange has had on The Netherlands.

What Are The Color Codes Of Dutch Orange?

If you want to wear orange yourself like the Dutch, make sure that you wear the right kind of orange, or you will immediately stand out as a wannabe.

The hexadecimal color code of Dutch orange is #FF9B00.

The RGB values of Dutch orange are R:255, G:155, B:0 

The CMYK values of Dutch orange are C:0, M:0.39, Y:1, K:0.

The decimal value of Dutch orange is 16751360.

You will sometimes see orange shirts with a different kind of orange but try to stay as close as possible to the original Dutch orange.

Final Thoughts

The color orange is still very much a symbol of the Dutch Nation, and it has a long history. Therefore, it is imperative to keep the color orange as our national symbol.

If you want to feel united with the Dutch, don’t forget to bring your Dutch orange shirt for those special days and experience the “Orange Fever” yourself……..!


Bas is as Dutch as he can be with his 23 years and very convinced that he wants to live nowhere else for the rest of his life.