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The Hall of Knights (Ridderzaal)

The Hall of Knights is an impressive landmark and the centrepiece of the Binnenhof square. As a matter of fact it is a cluster of three buildings, also known as the Counts' Halls (Grafelijke Zalen): the Roll Building and the Roll Room (Rolzaal), the Lairesse Wing with the room of the same name and the Hall of Knights. The original name of the Hall of Knights was "Great Hall" (Grote Zaal).

Around 1230, Floris IV, Count of Holland, had a hunting lodge built in this part of the Binnenhof. At right angles to this building he had a hall built for feasts and receptions. In the middle of the 13th century his son, Willem II, had this hall demolished and the Great Hall built instead, in gothic style. Floris V completed and embellished his father's castle around 1280.

In the past, this impressive hall was restored several times and it was used for various purposes. The Knights of the Order of the Golden Fleece gathered here, for instance. Charles the Bold, duke of Burgundy, administered justice in this hall and the States General regularly gathered here. In 1619, the Dutch statesman Johan van Oldenbarnevelt was beheaded right in front of the Hall of Knights, after he had been imprisoned and convicted of high treason following a coup d'état by Prince Maurits of Orange-Nassau. During the period of French domination, the Hall of Knights was used as a military school and also served as a lottery hall. In the 19th century the hall fell into disuse, but in 1904 the renovated Hall of Knights was brought into use again, when Queen Wilhelmina delivered the so-called Speech from the Throne here -- in which the Government sets out its plan for the next budget year -- before a joint sitting of the States General. Since then this ceremony has taken place every year on the third Tuesday of September: Prince's Day.

The Hall of Knights is property of the state and is used on special occasions, such as important international conferences. Five of the six conferences of the Parliamentary dimension of the Dutch EU presidency will be held in the Hall of Knights.