King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands announced on Thursday that he will no longer use the “Golden Chariot”. The vehicle, used by Dutch royalty since 1901, has a panel on its side with the image of black men kneeling before their white masters..
The historical relic is at the center of a debate about images of colonization and racism in Dutch society.
Since 2015, the luxurious carriage made of gold-plated wood has not been used by the Dutch royal family, stopped for renovation. Before that, the golden vehicle was used by monarchs to go to christenings, weddings and other great occasions.
After a complete renovation that lasted five years, the carriage is now the centerpiece of a controversy in the country because of its decorative panels.
On the left, a painting about the colonial period depicts enslaved blacks kneeling before white men and a woman seated on the throne representing Holland. Blacks give him cocoa and sugar cane (see image below).
Footmen walk alongside the Golden Chariot, which takes King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima to Noordeinde Palace, after the King of Holland officially opens the parliamentary year in The Hague, Netherlands, on September 17, 2013 — Photo: Peter Dejong/ AP
The painting, called “Homage to the Colonies”, also shows a young white man giving a book to a black boy, a scene in which the painter Nicolaas van der Waay said in 1896 to have represented “civilization”.
The discussion on the topic provoked an upsurge of moods in the country.
On the one hand, groups accuse the monarchy of glorifying a period of racist and inhumane oppression in the country. On the other hand, defenders of the artifact consider the carriage to be a historical object. which reveals important moments from Holland that should not be erased.
In the statement given on Thursday in an official video, the king said he considered that Dutch society was not “ready” to see the carriage, known as the “Gouden Koets”, on the streets again during official ceremonies.
“We cannot rewrite the past. We can try to accept it together. This also applies to the colonial past,” said Willem-Alexander. “Gouden Koets may only be used when the Netherlands you are ready for it. And that’s not the case at the moment.”.
“As long as there are people living in the Netherlands who feel the pain of discrimination in everyday life, the past will still cast its shadow over our time,” added the monarch.
The King of the Netherlands Willem-Alexander (left) and the country’s Prime Minister Mark Rutte during a ceremony at the Royal Palace Noordeinde in The Hague on January 10, 2022 — Photo: Sem van der Wal/Pool via AP