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Nederlandse Gemeentewapens


The arms of the Kingdom of The Netherlands, often called Holland (which is only two provinces in the western part of the country) is the same as the Royal Arms.

The description is as follows:
Azure, billity or, a lion rampant of the same, armed and langued gules, crowned with a coronet of two pearls between three leaves, a sword argent with hilt or, thrusted upwards, in its right hand claw seven arrows argent with heads or, tied in a garb with ribbon or, in its left hand claw. The Royal Netherlands crown resting on the ledge of the shield, supported by two lions rampant or, armed and langued gules, placed above a ribbon azure, with the motto JE MAINTIENDRAI in gold lettering. The whole placed above a royal mantling purple trimmed or, lined ermine, tied back at the corners with gold tassled cords and issuing from a domed canopy of the same, surmounted by the Royal Netherlands crown.

These arms are a combination of the arms of the Royal Family, Orange-Nassau, and the arrows and sword from the Dutch Republic in the 17th century.


The Dutch royal family has its origins in the county of Nassau, in present Germany. The oldest arms from a count of Nassau date from the 13th century and show the same lion as in the Royal arms, without sword and arrows. Later members of the family all used the lion in their arms, with different quarterings (see also the arms of William III, king of England). The family had already considerable interests in the Netherlands in the Middle Ages and became one of the most influential noble families in the low countries. In the end of the 16th century, William of Nassau-Dillenburg inherited the Principality of Orange, in the South of France.

The arms of Nassau.

In The Netherlands the lion of Nassau is not very common in Civic Heraldry, only in the arms of the village of Dodewaard. In Germany the arms of Nassau are much more common, for example in the arms of the city of Nassau, see the many references there.

Ever since the family name bears the name Orange-Nassau. William was one of the main noblemen who fought against Philips II of Spain, overlord of The Netherlands. During the Dutch war of Independence, 1568-1648, William and his descendants were commanding the Dutch armies against the Spanish. After the Dutch independence in 1648 they did not, however, become the royal family. The Netherlands became a republic instead, the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands, see below. The family of Orange-Nassau, however, was still quite influential. Only after the French occupation, in 1813, the country officially became a kingdom. First king was William I of Orange-Nassau. His descendants still rule the Kingdom, the present being Queen Beatrix.
King William combined the ancient arms of Nassau with the republican arms to form the present Royal Arms. Since 1813 the arms haven't changed much. Only the supporters and crowns changed several times.

Republican Arms.

During the Spanish occupation, the provinces of the Netherlands (which then included present Belgium) formed a parliament, the Staten-Generaal. A total of 17 provinces was represented. As many of the provinces had a lion in their arms, the symbol of the Staten-Generaal became a lion. A sword was added as a symbol of power and 17 arrows as a symbol of unity.

In 1579 the northern provinces united in the Union of Utrecht and formed their own Republic of the Seven United Netherlands. At the same time a similar union was formed in the South, basically dividing the Netherlands and Belgium. The Republic, which became officially independent in 1648, but was practically independent since 1579, took the arms of the 17 provinces, but changed the number of arrows to 7. As colours, the colours of Holland, the most important of the newly united provinces, were taken. The arms of Holland are or, a lion rampant gules, tongue and nails azure. These arms, sometimes with modifications, were used until the French occupation in 1795.


The Dutch national flag, tiercy per fess, red, white and blue, is also derived from the banner of the Princes of Orange-Nassau. The original colours were orange, white and blue, but later changed to red, white and blue. During the Republic this flag was most commonly used, but was not the official flag. The official flag was yellow, with the red lion, including arrow and sword, from the Arms. However, even in the 17th century the latter flag was used only for the Staten-Generaal itself. Seventeenth century paintings always show the red-white-blue banner. Even during the French occupation the red-white-blue flag was used, with only the Arms of the Bataafsche Republiek (as The Netherlands were called during the first years of French occupation) in a corner. As Luxembourg is an independent Grand-Duchy and the Grand Dukes were formerly also from a branch of the house of Nassau, the Luxemburgian flag is also derived from the Dutch flag.

The Netherlands are divided in 12 provinces, most of which were independent states, counties, duchies or bishoprics since the 10-11th centuries. The newest province, Flevoland, however was formed in 1986 from reclaimed land in the former Zuiderzee (a part of the North Sea).

Literatuur : De Vries, 1995

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