The Binnenhof ɦɔf]; English: Inner Court) is a complex of buildings in the city centre of The Hague, next to the Hofvijver lake. It houses the meeting place of both houses of the States General of the Netherlands, as well as the Ministry of General Affairs and the office of the Prime Minister of the Netherlands. Built primarily in the 13th century, the Gothic castle originally functioned as residence of the counts of Holland and became the political centre of the Dutch Republic in 1584. It is counted among the Top 100 Dutch heritage sites. The Binnenhof is the oldest House of Parliament in the world still in use.
Little is known about the origin of the Binnenhof. Presumably, the grounds next to the Hofvijver lake, and the small homestead on it, were purchased by Count Floris IV of Holland from Meiland van Wassenaar in November 1229. Between 1230 and 1234 he had the homestead expanded to a small keep. After Floris' son and successor William II was crowned King of the Romans in 1248, this construction continued. Between 1248 and 1280, William had the Ridderzaal built. To its left and right, walls were built, which divided the area in front of the building from that behind it. Both walls had a gate. At the end of the wall on the left, near the Hofvijver, the court chapel was built, and near that the Ridderhuis where visiting knights were sheltered. William died in battle in 1256, before the construction of the Ridderzaal had finished, and the castle was completed during the reign of his son, Floris V. The Binnenhof was the residence of the counts of Holland for a short period. After the house of Holland died out in 1299, the county fell in the hands of the counts of Hainaut. The counts of Hainaut barely resided in the Binnenhof in the early 14th century. Duke Albert I of Bavaria and his successor William II lived in the Binnenhof virtually permanently. Under their reign, the castle saw a sizeable expansion, and gradually became enclosed by buildings.
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