The official flag of the Kingdom of the Netherlands is a tri-color flag using three horizontal stripes. The top stripe is red, the middle stripe is white, the bottom stripe is blue. Variations of this tri-color flag have been in use in the Netherlands since 1572, with the current design becoming the official flag in 1937. This design is the oldest tri-color flag still in use by any specific nation.
There are two additional flags that are recognized by the Netherlands as being official flags for the country. The “Prinsengeus” is the Naval flag or Naval jack of the country. It is a variation of the red white and blue colors of the national flag. Instead of being horizontal stripes the three stripes spread out from the center in four directions, creating a starburst effect. This flag is only flown by naval vessels of the Netherlands.
The final flag of the Netherlands is the royal insignia. This flag consists of an orange background divided by a navy blue cross. In the four sections of the flag there is a bugle horn. This is the insignia of the Principality of Orange. In the middle of the flag, there is the crest of the Royal family. This flag is only flown on special occasions that directly involve the monarchy.
Prior to Queen Wilhelmina issuing a royal decree in 1937 establishing the current flag as the official flag of the Netherlands, there were several other flags that were flown over the Netherlands. Included in these are the Batavian Republic flag, from the period when France was occupying the Netherlands and the Prince’s Flag, a flag of the House of Orange. These flags are no longer considered relevant to the Netherlands.
Flying the flag is usually only done to commemorate a special event, such as a graduation from school or in honor of a royal birthday. Flying the flag at half-mast is done to honor someone who has passed away or a national event that shows the country is in mourning. In most cases, the flags are only flown in the government areas or around the royal residences.