By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
AMSTERDAM (Worthy News) – The Netherlands’ King Willem-Alexander said Thursday that Dutch royals would cease using a historic golden carriage amid a debate over slavery links and racism.
The opulent horse-drawn carriage called De Gouden Koets, or ‘The Golden Carriage,’ has traditionally transported the Dutch monarch to the opening of Parliament and other state occasions.
It has not been used since 2015 amid controversy of a picture on the left-side panel of the golden coach.
Called “Tribute of the Colonies,” the image depicts kneeling black people handing over produce like cocoa and sugarcane to their white masters – including to a young white woman on a throne representing the Netherlands.
Seated next to her is a man offering a book to a young boy, which the work’s painter, Nicolaas van der Waay, said in 1896 was intended to portray the Netherlands’ gift of “civilization” to its colonies.
Critics said the decoration glorifies the country’s colonial past, while several right-wing politicians say removing the carriage would deny Dutch history.
Yet, in a video announcing the move, King Willem-Alexander suggested the carriage was offensive to many and called on the country to face the legacy of its colonial history together.
“There is no point in condemning and disqualifying what has happened through the lens of our time,” he explained.
“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.”
The king stressed that “As long 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.”
The carriage has been out of use for several years and has resided at the Amsterdam Museum since a lengthy restoration project concluded last year.
Anti-racism campaigners in the Netherlands have welcomed the move but have called on the king to take further action to face the legacy of colonialism.
“He says the past should not be looked at from the perspective and values of the present,” said Mitchell Esajas, co-founder of The Black Archives in Amsterdam.
“I think that’s a fallacy because also in the historical context, slavery can be seen as a crime against humanity and a violent system.”
In recent years, many Dutch people have been urging the country to have a reckoning with its colonial past.
During the 17th Century, the Netherlands conquered large swathes of territory in regions now known as Indonesia, South Africa, Curaçao, and New Guinea, where it became a crucial player in the transatlantic slave trade.
In the Netherlands, as in other European nations, there is a growing debate over the colonial past. The process was spurred by the Black Lives Matter movement that swept the world after the death of Black man George Floyd in the United States.
Last year, 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.
Amid the debate, the mayor of Amsterdam, Femke Halsema, formally apologized for the city’s role in the slave trade. The move put her at odds with Prime Minister Mark Rutte, who has rejected calls for a formal state apology.
However, Halsema said she wanted to “engrave the great injustice of colonial slavery into our city’s identity.”
If you are interested in articles produced by Worthy News, please check out our FREE sydication service available to churches or online Christian ministries. To find out more, visit Worthy Plugins.