The rabbit king of Holland

When he was given the title of King of the Netherlands, after the conquest of the country in the nineteenth century, he immediately had a large balcony built on the palace on Dam Square. From there, he thought, he would be able to greet the Amsterdammers who would obviously cheer at their new ruler. That turned all turned out differently: although he studied the Dutch language extensively, the Frenchman kept a strong accent that made some words sound different than they were intended. One morning, proud as he was, dressed up in the finest clothes he could find, he stepped out onto his balcony. When he opened his mouth however to address the people on Dam Square, he sounded like he was saying that he was not a king (‘koning’) but a rabbit (‘konijn’). The people below roared with laughter, after which he quickly fled back inside not showing himself on the balcony ever again.

The gigantic building on Dam Square was not built as a palace, but as a city hall. Paid for by the rich merchants of the city, it was mainly intended to show the wealth and power of the citizens of Amsterdam. Builders took almost 17 years to complete the monument. With nearly 100 rooms, several impressive halls and two large courtyards, it was for a long time the largest building in the world. Today it is used as a reception area for important guests from abroad. The Dutch royal family, who became rulers after the French, nowadays appear on the balcony during major events. They mostly wave and say nothing, and I think I know why.

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