The history of The Hague began in the 13th century when the ‘village van der Haghe’ (hedge) was chosen as the site for a hunting lodge by the Counts of Holland. Noblemen built grand houses near this settlement and a village for traders and craftsmen slowly developed.
In 1248, William II, a German king who was soon to be crowned emperor, began the construction of a castle on the Binnenhof. Instead of building the imperial castle in one of the existing Dutch towns, he chose for political reasons, to build it in the forest. Before he was crowned emperor he died in a battle against the Westfrisians. William's son, Floris V, added the massive Knights' Hall (Ridderzaal), expanding a complex that is, today, the heart of the country's administrative government.
Around 1300 Holland became part of the county 'Zeeland, Henegouwen en Holland'. As a result The Hague lost some of its importance as a government centre. Nevertheless, the 'Stadhouders', the successors of the Counts, continued to live in The Hague. Riviervismarkt, Groenmarkt, Halstraatje, Papestraat and Nobelstraat are some of the streets from this period which still exist today.
During the 20th century the shape of the city changed a lot, mainly due to destruction in the war and construction developments over the subsequent decades. The Dutch were neutral in World War I and escaped the devastation seen in many other countries. They hoped to stay neutral in World War II, but the country was attacked by Nazi-Germany and easily captured. The Germans destroyed a lot of the 19th century part of The Hague near Scheveningen. Sadly, allied forces mistakenly bombed the Bezuidenhout and parts of the 17th century town. Many great buildings were destroyed and never rebuilt.
Today, The Hague is the seat of the Dutch government, home of the royal family and capital of the Province Suid Holland. It is a city with international character, demonstrated by the presence of around 80 embassies and consulates. It is also the host of the International Court of Justice.