The Hague was (13th cent.) the site of a hunting lodge of the counts of Holland ( 's Gravenhage means "the count's hedge"). William, count of Holland, began (c.1250) the construction of a palace, around which a town grew in the 14th and 15th cent. In 1586 the States-General of the United Provs. of the Netherlands convened in The Hague, which later (17th cent.) became the residence of the stadtholders and the capital of the Dutch republic. In the 17th cent., The Hague rose to be one of the chief diplomatic and intellectual centers of Europe. William III (William of Orange), stadtholder of Holland and other Dutch provinces as well as king of England (1689–1702), was born in The Hague.
In the early 19th cent., after Amsterdam had become the constitutional capital of the Netherlands, The Hague received its own charter from Louis Bonaparte. It was (1815–30) the alternative meeting place, with Brussels, of the legislature of the United Netherlands. The Dutch royal residence from 1815 to 1948, the city was greatly expanded and beautified in the mid-19th cent. by King William II. In 1899 the First Hague Conference met there on the initiative of Nicholas II of Russia; ever since, The Hague has been a center for the promotion of international justice and arbitration.