King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands announced on Thursday that he will no longer use the royal golden carriage until further notice, at the center of a debate on slavery and racism because of depictions of men blacks kneeling before their white masters.
The sumptuous horse-drawn carriage has not been used since 2015. After a complete renovation that lasted five years, it sits as the centerpiece of an exhibition in Amsterdam on the colonial past of the Netherlands. The king believes that Dutch society is not “ready” to see the carriage, called the “Gouden Koets”, stroll through the streets during official ceremonies.
“We cannot rewrite the past. We can try to accept it together. This also applies to the colonial past”, King Willem-Alexander said in an official video. “The Gouden Koets can only be used when the Netherlands are ready for it. And that is currently not the case”, he continued. “As long as there are people living in the Netherlands who feel the pain of discrimination on a daily basis, the past will still cast its shadow over our time”, he added.
The carriage, gilded with fine gold, used by the royal family for baptisms, weddings and other occasions, is an object of controversy because of a decoration on its left side representing black men kneeling before their white masters, whose a young woman on a throne representing the Netherlands, to whom they deliver cocoa and sugar cane.
On the painting, called “Colonial Tribute”, a young white man is also seen giving a book to a black boy, a scene in which the painter Nicolaas van der Waay was said in 1896 to have depicted the “civilisation”.
In the Netherlands, as in other European countries, the recurring debate on the colonial past and slavery resurfaced after the Black Lives Matter movement in the United States.