With a metropolitan population of more than 1 million, it is the third-largest city in the Netherlands, after Amsterdam and Rotterdam. The Rotterdam The Hague Metropolitan Area, with a population of approximately 2.7 million, is the 12th-largest in the European Union and the most populous in the country. Located in the west of the Netherlands, The Hague is in the centre of the Haaglanden conurbation and lies at the southwest corner of the larger Randstad conurbation.
The Hague is the seat of the cabinet of the Netherlands, the States General, the Supreme Court, and the Council of State, but the city is not the capital of the Netherlands, which constitutionally is Amsterdam. Most foreign embassies in the Netherlands and 150 international organisations are located in the city, including the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court, which makes The Hague one of the major cities hosting the United Nations, along with New York City, Geneva, Vienna, Rome, and Nairobi. King Willem-Alexander lives in Huis ten Bosch and works at the Noordeinde Palace in The Hague, together with Queen Máxima. The Hague is also home to the world headquarters of Royal Dutch Shell and numerous other major Dutch companies.
The Hague originated around 1230, when Count Floris IV of Holland purchased land alongside a pond, the present-day Hofvijver, in order to build a hunting residence. In 1248, his son and successor William II, King of the Romans, decided to extend the residence to a palace, which would later be called the Binnenhof (Inner Court). He died in 1256 before this palace was completed but parts of it were finished by his son Floris V, of which the Ridderzaal (Knights' Hall), still intact, is the most prominent. It is still used for political events, such as the annual speech from the throne by the Dutch monarch. From the 13th century onwards, the counts of Holland used The Hague as their administrative center and residence when in Holland.
The village that originated around the Binnenhof was first mentioned as Haga in a charter dating from 1242. In the 15th century, des Graven hage came into use, literally "The Count's Wood", with connotations like "The Count's Hedge, Private Enclosure or Hunting Grounds".
's-Gravenhage was officially used for the city from the 17th century onwards. Today, this name is only used in some official documents like birth and marriage certificates. The city itself uses "Den Haag" in all its communication. When the dukes of Burgundy gained control over the counties of Holland and Zeeland at the beginning of the 15th century, they appointed a stadtholder to rule in their stead with the States of Holland as an advisory council. Their seat was located in The Hague.