Dutch King Ditches Tradition of Using Royal Golden Carriage Over Links to Netherlands' Colonial Past
© AFP 2022 / SANDER KONINGDutch King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima arrive in the Golden Carriage at the Binnenhof in The Hague, on 'Prinsjesdag' (Prince's Day), on 15 September 2015. Prince's Day is the opening-day of the Dutch parliament and takes place every year on the third Tuesday of September. AFP PHOTO / ANP / SANDER KONING
The Netherlands has been struggling to deal with its past over the last few years as some of its citizens have urged the authorities to formally apologise for the country's former involvement in the slave trade during the colonial period.
King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands has announced that he and other royals will stop using De Gouden Koets – the golden carriage used for ceremonial purposes like the opening of parliament. The carriage has been in repair between 2015 and 2021, but apparently will not be used anymore after the lengthy restoration.
The move was prompted by criticism of the images drawn on one side of the carriage. They depict Black and Asian people, some of them kneeling, offering various goods, such as cocoa, to a young white woman believed to be representing the country. One of the images also shows a white man offering a book to a boy, which was interpreted by the painter back in 1896 as the portrayal of the Netherlands' gift of "civilisation" to the colonies it controlled.
King Willem-Alexander said he agreed with the arguments of some Dutch people that these images can hurt people's feelings and thus should not be demonstrated. At the same time, he opposed the idea of cancelling the past and judging the country's history from the perspective of modern values.
"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".
The royal stressed that the country should not be divided by its past, but unite to face the challenge that its colonial history presents.
The Netherlands' participation in the slave trade and its colonial history has prompted some of its citizens to call on the government and the royal family to publicly denounce its past and condemn its policies. These calls have already led to divides in the country after Prime Minister Mark Rutte refused to follow in the footsteps of Amsterdam Mayor Femke Halsema, who publicly apologised for the city's involvement in the slave trade in the past.