On April 27th the Dutch celebrate King’s Day (‘Koningsdag’). It celebrates the king’s birthday and all things Dutch. Usually the streets are decked out in orange bunting, with street markets and entertainment, but this year, due to social distancing measures, we have to celebrate Kings Day from home. And how better to do it than a national sing-along!
At 10am on April 27th, many Dutch nationals will be celebrating Kings Day by singing the Dutch national anthem, the Wilhelmus, out of their window, on their balconies, and in their front yards.
The Dutch national anthem is quite interesting for several reasons. Firstly, it is the oldest national anthem in the world! It was written in 1568 and became the official Dutch national anthem in 1932. Secondly, the lyrics didn’t seem to fit. When I heard the lyrics for the first time I was a little confused and will explain why below.
The Lyrics for Wilhelmus
The full national anthem is comprised of 15 stanzas and if sung as a whole, it would last around 15 minutes. Because of this, it is common for only the 1st, or 1st and 6th stanzas to be sung.
Here are the lyrics in Dutch, a literal English translation and the official translation into English.
Official Lyrics in Dutch
Wilhelmus van Nassouwe
ben ik, van Duitsen bloed,
den vaderland getrouwe
blijf ik tot in den dood.
Een Prinse van Oranje
ben ik, vrij onverveerd,
den Koning van Hispanje
heb ik altijd geëerd.
Mijn schild ende betrouwen
zijt Gij, o God mijn Heer,
op U zo wil ik bouwen,
verlaat mij nimmermeer.
Dat ik doch vroom mag blijven,
uw dienaar t’aller stond,
de tirannie verdrijven
die mij mijn hart doorwondt.
Literal translation into English
Wilhelmus van Nassouwe I am, from German blood, faithful to the fatherland I remain into death. A Prinse of Orange I am, quite unsprung, the King of Hispain I have always honored.
My shield and trust art thou, O God my Lord, I want to build on you, never ever leave me. That I may remain pious, your servant stood there, banish tyranny that hurts me through my heart.
Official translation into English
William of Nassau, scion Of a Dutch and ancient line, I dedicate undying Faith to this land of mine. A prince I am, undaunted, Of Orange, ever free, To the king of Spain I’ve granted A lifelong loyalty.
A shield and my reliance, O God, Thou ever wert. I’ll trust unto Thy guidance. O leave me not ungirt. That I may stay a pious Servant of Thine for aye And drive the plagues that try us And tyranny away
As you read in the literal translation, the German blood and Spanish loyalty were not things I expected to hear in the Dutch national anthem, even though they are a big part of the Dutch history.
You can read more about the history and the full lyrics on Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wilhelmus