National day celebrations in the monarchies

Almost all the European monarchies have a national day. It is however not always a day the royal family of that country takes part in. I have thus far been to national days in the Netherlands, Belgium and Liechtenstein, but it would be interesting to be part of the other ones too. While some countries celebrate the birthday of the monarch on the national day, other countries celebrate other occasions like the constitution or saints. The ways these days are celebrated differs per country.

16 April – Denmark

Denmark doesn’t seem to have a really official national day. The closest there is since the 19th century is the Grundlovsdag (Constitution Day) on 5 June, on which day also Father’s Day is celebrated. It is a day off, but usually the royals are not involved. For royalty watchers the birthday of Queen Margrethe II, on 16 April, is much more of interest.

  • At noon the Queen and her family step out on the balconies of the Amalienborg Palace to greet the Danes on the square below.
  • The guard wears their red gala uniforms for the changing of the guard.

27 April – The Netherlands

The official birthday celebration of the birthday of the monarch of the Netherlands is really festive. Originally between 1885 and 1890 it was called Princess Day (Prinsessedag) and was celebrated on the birthday of Princess Wilhelmina, 31 August. Starting in 1891 that day became Queen’s Day (Koninginnedag). Under Queen Juliana the day was celebrated on her birthday, 30 April, which was a date also used by her daughter Queen Beatrix. Since 2013 King’s Day (Koningsdag) is celebrated on the birthday of King Willem-Alexander, 27 April. All over the country there is a lot to do: music, flea markets. If the day is a Sunday, the national day is being held on Saturday.

  • The royal family chooses a place in the country to visit for approximately two hours, which might easily become half an hour longer.

17 May – Norway

The Syttende mai was established as a national day in 1814, as on that day the Constitution of Norway was signed in Eindsvoll, making Norway an independent country. During the 1860s the day became more established as a festive day. There are children’s parades, music and flags everywhere, quite a few people wear traditional costumes and there is plenty of food.

  • The Crown Princely family starts early and greets the children’s parade in Asker from the steps of their home called Skaugum.
  • Later in the morning the royal family greets the children’s parade in Oslo from the balcony of the royal palace.

6 June – Sweden

On 6 June Sweden celebrates Gustav Vasa being elected as King of Sweden in 1523 and the adoption of a new constitution in 1809. The day was initiated by the founder of Skansen, Artur Hazelius, in 1893, but only more than 20 years later the tradition spread to the whole country when wholesaler Nils Ljunggren suggested holding a flag day in 1915. Only in 2005 the day became a real public holiday.

  • The King and Queen visit a few places in the countryside during the day.
  • In the morning a few royals opens the Royal Palace in Stockholm and invite the public (free entrance).
  • In the evening the whole royal family travels from the Royal Palace to Skansen for an open air concert.
  • A reception for politicians, the public sector and the diplomatic corps takes place in the Royal Palace afterwards.
  • A military tattoo at the Royal Palace.

June – United Kingdom

The United Kingdom doesn’t have an official national day. England (23 April), Wales (1 March), Scotland (30 November) and Northern Ireland (17 March) all have their own national day, but only in Scotland it is an official holiday. However Trooping of the Colour has marked the official birthday of the British Sovereign since 1748. It takes place on a Saturday in June.

  • A parade in London moving from Buckingham Palace and down The Mall to Horse Guard’s Parade. The members of the royal ramily are on horseback and in carriages. Afterwards they drive back to Buckingham Palace the same way.
  • RAF fly-past, watched by members of the royal ramily from the balcony of Buckingham Palace.

23 June – Luxembourg

Luxembourg celebrates the official birthday of the Grand Duke on 23 June, the National Day. The day has been celebrated since the late 18th century, even when the Dutch Kings were still reigning the country. In 1947 the day became a real national holiday. Grand Duchess Charlotte always celebrated in the winter, only in 1961 the date was officially changed into 23 June, which it remained until today.

  • On 22 June there is a solemn changing of the guard at the Grand-Ducal palace around 4pm. The Grand Duke and Grand Duchess visit a town in Luxembourg, as does the Hereditary Grand-Ducal couple. At 9pm there is a torchlight procession in Luxembourg-City, followed by fireworks.
  • In the morning of 23 June at 10am there is an official ceremony at the Philharmonie with the royals where honours are being presented.
  • In the late morning there is a military parade. Military troops parade in front of the Grand Duke. Also the Hereditary Grand Duke, the Grand Duchess and Hereditary Grand Duchess are present.
  • In the late afternoon the Te Deum service takes place at the Notre Dame Cathedral in presence of the Grand-Ducal family.
  • In the evening the family goes full gala for a reception for politicians, the public sector and the diplomatic corps.

21 July – Belgium

In Belgium the National Day on 21 July commemorates the day in 1831 King Leopold I swore allegiance to the new Belgian constitution and became Belgium’s first monarch. The day is celebrated since 1890, however mainly in Brussels, while elsewhere there are only much smaller events. Outside the cathedral is definitely the best way to see the royals. You can also order tickets for the public grandstand in front of the palace for the military parade.

  • The King and Queen and often other family members attend a concert in BOZAR in Brussels in the evening of 20 July.
  • The King and Queen and their children go to mass in the morning of 21 July at the Cathedral of Saint Michael and Saint Gudula, while other family members attend Te Deums in other cities.
  • In the late afternoon there is a military parade in front of the Royal Palace, usually attended by several royals.
  • Often the King and Queen and sometimes also other family members afterwards go to the Feast in the Park at the Warandepark in Brussels
  • In the late evening there are fireworks near the Royal Palace.

15 August – Liechtenstein

In Liechtenstein the national day (Staatsfeiertag) is celebrated on 15 August, the date of The Assumption of Mary. The first time it took place was in 1940. The reigning prince at the time was Franz Joseph, II, who had his birthday on 16 August, so people could celebrate his birthday on this feastday. Only in 1990 the 15th of August was declared the official national day. In the centre of Vaduz there are many celebrations throughout the day.

  • The act of state on the lawn of Vaduz Castle with speeches of Hereditary Prince Alois of Liechtenstein and the President of the Parliament.
  • Aperitif in the Rose Garden of Vaduz Castle. Recently this part has only become accessible for people from Liechtenstein applying for a ticket.
  • Mountain-top fires and a torch-lit procession in the evening, with fireworks.

12 October – Spain

In Spain the Fiesta Nacional de España (national day), until 1987 the Día de la Hispanidad (Hispanic Day), is being held on 12 October and commemorates the anniversary of Christopher Columbus’s first arrival n the Americas in 1492, as well as the unification of the realms of Castille and Aragón in that same year. The day is celebrated in Spain since 1935 and became a national day in 1981. Celebrations take part in Madrid, but also in other partsn of Spain.

  • Since 2000 a military parade takes place in Madrid, attended by the King and Queen and their daughters.
  • A reception in the Royal Palace.

19 November – Monaco

The date of the national day in Monaco is determined by the reigning prince and the tradition started during the reign of Prince Charles III in 1857, when the day was being held on 4 November. Prince Rainier III chose 11 April, and later switched to 19 November, as that is the day of St. Rainier. Also Prince Albert II decided to keep the celebration on this day, which also marks his official ascension to the throne. There are fireworks over the harbour the evening before. A few other activities are being celebrated like a fun fair. If the day is a Sunday, the public holiday will be observed on the following Monday.

  • Presentation of medals and honours at a ceremony at the Cour d’Honneur of the Prince’s Palace.
  • Te Deum in the Cathedral Notre-Dame-Immaculée in Monaco in presence of the princely family.
  • Military Parade on the Palace Square.
  • The family appears at the balcony of the Prince’s Palace.
  • A gala reception, for which one has to be invited.

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