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The Netherlands (Dutch: Nederland [ˈneːdərlɑnt] (About this sound listen)), often referred to as Holland, is a country located mostly in Western Europe with a population of seventeen million. Together with three island territories in the Caribbean (Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba), it forms a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The European portion of the Netherlands consists of twelve provinces and borders Germany to the east, Belgium to the south, and the North Sea to the northwest, sharing maritime borders in the North Sea with Belgium, the United Kingdom, and Germany. The five largest cities in the Netherlands are Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague, Utrecht (forming the Randstad megalopolis) and Eindhoven (leading the Brabantse Stedenrij). Amsterdam is the country's capital, while The Hague holds the seat of the States General, Cabinet and Supreme Court. The Port of Rotterdam is the largest port in Europe and the world's largest outside Asia.

"Netherlands" literally means "lower countries", influenced by its low land and flat geography, with only about 50% of its land exceeding 1 metre (3 ft 3 in) above sea level. Most of the areas below sea level are artificial. Since the late 16th century, large areas (polders) have been reclaimed from the sea and lakes, amounting to nearly 17% of the country's current land mass. With a population density of 414 people per km2 – 510 if water is excluded – the Netherlands is classified as a very densely populated country. Only Bangladesh, South Korea, and Taiwan have both a larger population and higher population density. Nevertheless, the Netherlands is the world's second-largest exporter of food and agricultural products, after the United States. This is partly due to the fertility of the soil and the mild climate as well as its highly developed intensive agriculture. The Netherlands was the third country in the world to have elected representatives controlling the government's actions; it has been administered as a parliamentary democracy and a constitutional monarchy since 1848, organised as a unitary state. The Netherlands has a long history of social tolerance and is generally regarded as a liberal country, having legalised abortion, prostitution, and euthanasia, while maintaining a progressive drug policy. The Netherlands abolished the death penalty in 1870 and had women's suffrage introduced in 1917. Regarding the LGBT community, it became the world's first country to legalise same-sex marriage in 2001.

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Marlborough receives captured standards
The Battle of Ramillies was a major engagement of the War of the Spanish Succession fought on 23 May 1706. The encounter was a resounding success for the allied forces of England, the Dutch Republic, and Denmark; but the battle had followed a year of indecisive campaigning in 1705 where Allied over-confidence after their success at the Battle of Blenheim had resulted in an abortive campaign along the Moselle, forcing the Duke of Marlborough to abandon his plans for a push into France. Yet despite the Allies' inability to achieve a decisive victory, Louis XIV was eager for peace; but he wanted it on reasonable terms. Therefore, rather than standing on the defensive, French armies on all fronts swung over to the offensive.

The year 1706 had begun well for Louis XIV's generals, who had gained early success in Italy and in Alsace, where Marshal Villars had forced the Margrave of Baden to retreat across the Rhine. Louis now pressed Marshal Villeroi to seek out Marlborough and bring the Allies to battle in the Spanish Netherlands. Accordingly, the French Marshal set off from Louvain at the head of 60,000 men, and provocatively marched towards Léau.

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Credit: Rembrandt

The Shooting Company of Frans Banning Cocq, commonly referred to as The Night Watch, is a 1642 oil painting by Rembrandt van Rijn.

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Selected biography

Ellen van Dijk
Eleonora "Ellen" van Dijk is a Dutch professional road and track racing cyclist. Van Dijk is a time trial specialist and became 2008 World Track Champion in the scratch race and 2012 Road World Champion in team time trial.

Van Dijk started as a speed skater and undertook cycling as part of cross-training in summer. She excelled at both, competing nationally at junior level. After becoming a national cycling champion for the fifth time in 2007, she quit speed skating and became a full-time cyclist. Along with her world title successes, Van Dijk has also twice been European track champion, twice European time trial champion and has won five world cup races. In 2012 she competed in three disciplines at the 2012 Olympic Games in London, where she helped Marianne Vos win the gold medal in the road race, finished eighth in the time trial and sixth in the team pursuit.

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