Capital of the Netherlands
The capital of the Netherlands is Amsterdam
Amsterdam is the largest city and the capital of the Netherlands. The current position of Amsterdam as capital city of the Kingdom of the Netherlands is governed by the constitution of August 24, 1815 and its successors. Amsterdam has a population of 783,364 within city limits, an urban population...

, even though the States-General
States-General of the Netherlands
The States-General of the Netherlands is the bicameral legislature of the Netherlands, consisting of the Senate and the House of Representatives. The parliament meets in at the Binnenhof in The Hague. The archaic Dutch word "staten" originally related to the feudal classes in which medieval...

 and the government have been both situated in The Hague
The Hague
The Hague is the capital city of the province of South Holland in the Netherlands. With a population of 500,000 inhabitants , it is the third largest city of the Netherlands, after Amsterdam and Rotterdam...

 since 1588. The current position of Amsterdam as capital city of the Kingdom of the Netherlands
Kingdom of the Netherlands
The Kingdom of the Netherlands is a sovereign state and constitutional monarchy with territory in Western Europe and in the Caribbean. The four parts of the Kingdom—Aruba, Curaçao, the Netherlands, and Sint Maarten—are referred to as "countries", and participate on a basis of equality...

 is governed by the constitution
Constitution of the Netherlands
The Constitution of the Netherlands is the fundamental law of the European territory of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The present constitution is generally seen as directly derived from the one issued in 1815, constituting a constitutional monarchy. A revision in 1848 instituted a system of...

 of 24 August 1815 and its successors.

Only once during its history was Amsterdam both capital and seat of government. Between 1808 and 1810, during the Kingdom of Holland
Kingdom of Holland
The Kingdom of Holland 1806–1810 was set up by Napoleon Bonaparte as a puppet kingdom for his third brother, Louis Bonaparte, in order to better control the Netherlands. The name of the leading province, Holland, was now taken for the whole country...

, King Louis Napoleon
Louis Bonaparte
Louis Napoléon Bonaparte, Prince Français, Comte de Saint-Leu , King of Holland , was the fifth surviving child and the fourth surviving son of Carlo Buonaparte and Letizia Ramolino...

 resided in Amsterdam and declared the city capital of his kingdom and seat of government. To accommodate the king, the grand seventeenth-century Town Hall of Amsterdam, prime example of the republican values that were prevalent for so long in the Netherlands, was converted into a Royal Palace
Royal Palace (Amsterdam)
The Royal Palace in Amsterdam is one of three palaces in the Netherlands which is at the disposal of Queen Beatrix by Act of Parliament. The palace was built as city hall during the Dutch Golden Age in the seventeenth century. The building became the royal palace of king Louis Napoleon and later...


In 1810 the Netherlands
The Netherlands is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, located mainly in North-West Europe and with several islands in the Caribbean. Mainland Netherlands borders the North Sea to the north and west, Belgium to the south, and Germany to the east, and shares maritime borders...

 were annexed by the French Empire
First French Empire
The First French Empire , also known as the Greater French Empire or Napoleonic Empire, was the empire of Napoleon I of France...

 and King Louis Napoleon was replaced by a French governor, who took up residence in the Royal Palace in Amsterdam. From 1810 to 1813 Amsterdam kept its position of capital city somewhat, as Emperor Napoleon
Napoleon I of France
Napoleon Bonaparte was a French military and political leader during the latter stages of the French Revolution.As Napoleon I, he was Emperor of the French from 1804 to 1815...

 declared the city to be the third city of the Empire (after Paris
Paris is the capital and largest city in France, situated on the river Seine, in northern France, at the heart of the Île-de-France region...

 and Rome
Rome is the capital of Italy and the country's largest and most populated city and comune, with over 2.7 million residents in . The city is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, on the Tiber River within the Lazio region of Italy.Rome's history spans two and a half...

) and an imperial residence. In December 1813, after the fall of Napoleon and the accession of Prince William VI of Orange
William I of the Netherlands
William I Frederick, born Willem Frederik Prins van Oranje-Nassau , was a Prince of Orange and the first King of the Netherlands and Grand Duke of Luxembourg....

 as Sovereign of the Netherlands, The Hague was restored as the seat of government.


Amsterdam was first referred to as capital in the constitution
Constitution of the Netherlands
The Constitution of the Netherlands is the fundamental law of the European territory of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The present constitution is generally seen as directly derived from the one issued in 1815, constituting a constitutional monarchy. A revision in 1848 instituted a system of...

 of 1814. Article 30 of this constitution mentioned that the Sovereign Ruler should be sworn in in the city of Amsterdam, as capital.

In 1815, when the Southern Netherlands
Southern Netherlands
Southern Netherlands were a part of the Low Countries controlled by Spain , Austria and annexed by France...

 (present Belgium
Belgium , officially the Kingdom of Belgium, is a federal state in Western Europe. It is a founding member of the European Union and hosts the EU's headquarters, and those of several other major international organisations such as NATO.Belgium is also a member of, or affiliated to, many...

) were added to the kingdom, this text disappeared from the constitution. Article 52 now simply mentioned that in times of peace the king should be sworn in Amsterdam or alternatively in a city of the southern provinces, at the choice of the king.

From that point onwards, the status of Amsterdam as capital city remained somewhat unclear, and constitutionally the issue was not deemed important enough to regulate properly, not even in the major constitutional reforms of 1848 and 1917.

It was not until the new constitution of 1983 was passed that Amsterdam unequivocally regained its status as capital city. In the 1983 constitution the phrase the city of Amsterdam was changed into the capital city Amsterdam (article 32).
The intention of this change was to make it explicitly clear that Amsterdam is indeed the capital of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. This means it is the "head" city and ceremonial font of sovereignty and site of the official coronation, even if the government does not conduct its business there.

Historical background

Although the proper legal status of Amsterdam as capital of the Netherlands is of recent date, the city has been uniformly recognised as capital ever since 1814. This is partly because it is a Royal City, used not only for the inauguration of kings, but also for royal weddings (note though that royal burials take place in Delft
Delft is a city and municipality in the province of South Holland , the Netherlands. It is located between Rotterdam and The Hague....

), and also because of its dominant position in Dutch history. From the end of the 16th century the city grew rapidly to become the largest and most powerful city in the Netherlands and the main centre of trade, economics, finance and culture.

The origins of the split between Amsterdam as capital city and The Hague as seat of government lay in the peculiar Dutch constitutional history. From the middle-ages to the sixteenth century, The Hague had been the seat of government of the County of Holland
County of Holland
The County of Holland was a county in the Holy Roman Empire and from 1482 part of the Habsburg Netherlands in what is now the Netherlands. It covered an area roughly corresponding to the current Dutch provinces of North-Holland and South-Holland, as well as the islands of Terschelling, Vlieland,...

 and residence of the Counts of Holland. Amsterdam in the mean time was growing to be a more important city. After the establishment of the Republic of the United Netherlands
Dutch Republic
The Dutch Republic — officially known as the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands , the Republic of the United Netherlands, or the Republic of the Seven United Provinces — was a republic in Europe existing from 1581 to 1795, preceding the Batavian Republic and ultimately...

 in 1572 /1581, Dordrecht
Dordrecht , colloquially Dordt, historically in English named Dort, is a city and municipality in the western Netherlands, located in the province of South Holland. It is the fourth largest city of the province, having a population of 118,601 in 2009...

 briefly became the seat of government of the United Provinces, residence of the States General, the Council of State
Dutch Council of State
In the Netherlands, the Council of State is a constitutionally established advisory body to the government which consists of members of the royal family and Crown-appointed members generally having political, commercial, diplomatic, or military experience...

 and the Prince of Orange as Prince Stadtholder
A Stadtholder A Stadtholder A Stadtholder (Dutch: stadhouder [], "steward" or "lieutenant", literally place holder, holding someones place, possibly a calque of German Statthalter, French lieutenant, or Middle Latin locum tenens...

. In 1588 these central governmental institutions were moved to The Hague, which, from that point onwards, kept the position of seat of government for the whole republic. Amsterdam remained loyal to the Spanish/Burgundian empire until relatively late in the eighty years war, which allowed the city a lot of trade opportunities, but made it unsuitable for the seat of government of the emerging 'rebel' state.

Before the institution of the Batavian Republic
Batavian Republic
The Batavian Republic was the successor of the Republic of the United Netherlands. It was proclaimed on January 19, 1795, and ended on June 5, 1806, with the accession of Louis Bonaparte to the throne of the Kingdom of Holland....

 of 1795 the Netherlands were not a unitary state
Unitary state
A unitary state is a state governed as one single unit in which the central government is supreme and any administrative divisions exercise only powers that their central government chooses to delegate...

, but more of a confederation
A confederation in modern political terms is a permanent union of political units for common action in relation to other units. Usually created by treaty but often later adopting a common constitution, confederations tend to be established for dealing with critical issues such as defense, foreign...

 in which the independent provinces and the larger cities and towns were very much politically autonomous. During the seventeenth century, the Prince Stadtholder as official of the States of Holland
States of Holland
The States of Holland and West Frisia were the representation of the two Estates to the court of the Count of Holland...

 clashed several times with the city government of Amsterdam about policy, up to the point that the city was beleaguered by the army. Up to 1795 there remained a strong animosity between the Orange faction and the republican faction in Dutch politics. The former supported the idea of hereditary political leadership vested in the princes of Orange as Stadtholders, and had its powerbase in The Hague and the rural areas. The latter supported civic independence and found its support mainly in the cities and towns of Holland, with Amsterdam as its progenitor and most outspoken representative.

When in 1814 the new kingdom was formed, the appointment of Amsterdam, still the most prominent city in the kingdom, as capital city was also very much a conciliatory gesture of the Orange faction towards the town, and a recognition of the strong civic and republican basis of the new kingdom.

Other capitals that are not the seat of government

Other countries in the world where capital and seat of government are currently separated include:
  • Benin
    Benin , officially the Republic of Benin, is a country in West Africa. It borders Togo to the west, Nigeria to the east and Burkina Faso and Niger to the north. Its small southern coastline on the Bight of Benin is where a majority of the population is located...

    : capital Porto Novo, seat of government Cotonou
    -Demographics:*1979: 320,348 *1992: 536,827 *2002: 665,100 *2005: 690,584 The main languages spoken in Cotonou include the Fon language, Aja language, Yoruba language and French.-Transport:...

  • Bolivia
    Bolivia officially known as Plurinational State of Bolivia , is a landlocked country in central South America. It is the poorest country in South America...

    : capital Sucre
    Sucre, also known historically as Charcas, La Plata and Chuquisaca is the constitutional capital of Bolivia and the capital of the department of Chuquisaca. Located in the south-central part of the country, Sucre lies at an elevation of 2750m...

    , seat of government La Paz
    La Paz
    Nuestra Señora de La Paz is the administrative capital of Bolivia, as well as the departmental capital of the La Paz Department, and the second largest city in the country after Santa Cruz de la Sierra...

  • Côte d'Ivoire
    Côte d'Ivoire
    The Republic of Côte d'Ivoire or Ivory Coast is a country in West Africa. It has an area of , and borders the countries Liberia, Guinea, Mali, Burkina Faso and Ghana; its southern boundary is along the Gulf of Guinea. The country's population was 15,366,672 in 1998 and was estimated to be...

    : capital Yamoussoukro
    The District of Yamoussoukro is the official political capital and administrative capital city of Côte d'Ivoire, while the economic capital of the country is Abidjan. As of 2010, it was estimated to have 242,744 inhabitants...

    , seat of government Abidjan
    Abidjan is the economic and former official capital of Côte d'Ivoire, while the current capital is Yamoussoukro. it was the largest city in the nation and the third-largest French-speaking city in the world, after Paris, and Kinshasa but before Montreal...

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