Tollens Vaas BK-KOG-1594.jpg
Tollens Vaas BK-KOG-1594.jpg


After the defeat of Napoleon, the Dutch state transformed into a monarchy under King William I. To celebrate this event, a contest for a national anthem was organised by the Dutch admiral Jan Hendrik van Kinsbergen. Two songs were awarded the first prize on 2 April 1817, but only one of them became known as the Dutch anthem: Wien Neêrlandsch bloed in de ad’ren vloeit (whose Dutch blood is running though the veins), written by the well-known patriot poet Hendrik Tollens.

The song contains eight couplets of eight verses each, which celebrate the new Dutch king and the love of the Dutch people for their fatherland. The tone is very religious: God, the fatherland, and the House of Orange are presented as an unbreakable unit. The song represents the support and loyalty of the Dutch people to their new sovereign and their relief that the French occupation has finally come to an end.

Over the course of time, the second verse has caused much commotion: ‘van vreemde smetten vrij’ (free from foreign defilement) originally refers to the liberation from the French, but in later times the verse was considered racist. In 1891, the song was drastically shortened and modernised (four stanzas were deleted, including the infamous second verse), but its popularity faded. In 1932, the government decided to change the national anthem to Wilhelmus van Nassouwe. This sixteenth-century song about William of Orange and the Dutch revolt against Spain is still the Dutch anthem.