Dutch Royals Won't Use Controversial Golden Coach

At least for the time being, due to its ties to Netherlands' colonial past, slave trade
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jan 14, 2022 8:16 AM CST
Dutch Royals Won't Use Controversial Golden Coach
Footmen walk alongside the Golden Carriage as the Netherlands' King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima arrive at Noordeinde Palace on Sept. 17, 2013.   (AP Photo/Peter Dejong, File)

On Thursday the Dutch king ruled out using, for now at least, the royal family's "Golden Carriage." One side of the carriage bears a painting that critics say glorifies the Netherlands' colonial past, including its role in the global slave trade. The announcement was an acknowledgement of the heated debate about the carriage as the Netherlands reckons with the grim sides of its history as a 17th-century colonial superpower, including Dutch merchants making vast fortunes from slaves. "The Golden Carriage will only be able to drive again when the Netherlands is ready, and that is not the case now," King Willem-Alexander said in a video message, per the AP.

One side of the vehicle is decorated with a painting called "Tribute From the Colonies" that shows Black and Asian people, one of them kneeling, offering goods to a seated young white woman who symbolizes the Netherlands. In the past it has been used to carry Dutch monarchs through the streets of the Hague to the state opening of Parliament each September. The Netherlands, along with many other nations, has been revisiting its colonial history: Last year, for instance, the country's national museum, the Rijksmuseum, staged a major exhibition that took an unflinching look at the country's role in the slave trade.

In this week's statement from King Willem-Alexander, he noted, "There is no point in condemning and disqualifying what has happened through the lens of our time. Simply banning historical objects and symbols is certainly not a solution, either. Instead, a concerted effort is needed that goes deeper and takes longer. An effort that unites us instead of divides us." Mitchell Esajas, an anti-racism activist and co-founder of the Black Archives in Amsterdam, called the king's statement "a good sign," but also the "bare minimum." "He says the past should not be looked at from the perspective and values of the present ... I think that argument is often used as an excuse to kind of polish away the violent history of it."

(Read more Netherlands stories.)

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