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Located on a coastal plain slightly inland from the North Sea, the Hague is the seat of government, but not the capital, of the Netherlands.

Written history of The Hague only goes back to the 13th century. In 1229, Floris IV, one of the last counts of Holland, bought land in a heavily forested area in what was to become The Hague. He bought it in order to build a hunting lodge. Floris died in a tournament in 1234. His son and heir, William II, was elected King of the Romans in 1248 and decided to enlarge the hunting residence to a royal palace. Several other buildings were built around the palace. In 1358, these buildings comprised the primary residence of the Counts of Holland. These buildings were called the Binnenhof, or inner courtyard and are located in what is now called the old quarter of The Hague. A commercial area and then a town grew up around the Binnenhof.

By the end of the 14th century, The Hague was a moderate sized town, but it did not have a fortified wall or moat around it as was the custom of the day. In 1433, the House of Burgundy inherited the County of Holland as well as the County of Zeeland. In 1559, William I, the stadtholder of the Netherlands, decreed that The Hague was his capital, and it became a center of government. Until the Eighty Years' War in 1568, when The Hague was pillaged after Spanish troops occupied the town, burning much of it down, and The Hague became poverty-stricken.

The war began as a rebellion of the Led by William I, Prince of Orange, who was also called William the Silent, northern Netherlands rebelled against Spain and Philip II, Spain's sovereign over the Habsburg Netherlands. As a response to the rebellion, Philip deployed his armies, and William the Silent was exiled to his native Nassau, though he continued to lead them in a solid resistance against Philip and the Habsburgs.

Seventeen Provinces, the imperial states of the Habsburg-controlled Netherlands. These provinces covered what is now the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Belgium, and much of the French departments of Nord a well as a few fiefdoms. In 1588, the Republic of the United Netherlands, which was also known as the Dutch Republic, was established, and The Hague became the seat of Dutch power again.

The Hague began its rise, becoming the residence as well as the place of work for the stadtholders who helped to rule the Netherlands from the 15th to the 18th century. The city became popular with both the wealthy and the working class, and the population soared. Numerous mansions were constructed, the districts were expanded and new ones added, and the harbors buzzed with activity.

In 1806, Louis Bonaparte granted The Hague city rights, and after the Napoleonic Wars, the United Kingdom of the Netherlands was formed with the union of the Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg. The capital of the new country alternated every two years between Amsterdam and Brussels, with The Hague remaining the seat of government. In 1830, Belgium revolted and left the union, and Amsterdam became the only capital, while the Hague remained the seat of government.

During World War II, the Germans invaded the Netherlands, despite the fact that it was a neutral country and without a formal declaration of war, on May 10, 1940. The Dutch military was ill-prepared for such an invasion, with badly outdated weaponry and aircraft, most of which were left over from World War I. They had a total of 160 aircraft, and 65 of them were destroyed the first day of the invasion. They captured The Hague on the first day, thus seizing the government. Dutch troops launched a counter attack and defeated the Germans in many of the battles, but on May 14, the Dutch surrendered. The royal family escaped to London, and the Netherlands were occupied by the Germans until the Germans surrendered to the Allies in May of 1945. The majority of the country's Jews were shipped out to concentration camps.

Today, The Hague is home to numerous international judicial bodies, including the International Court of Justice, NATO Communications and Information Agency, International Criminal Court, and the Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.



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