Dutch King Willem-Alexander retires historic golden carriage amid slavery row

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The Netherlands’ King Willem-Alexander has announced that Dutch royals will cease using a historic golden carriage amid a debate over slavery links.

Critics say that one side of the horse-drawn carriage, called De Gouden Koets, is decorated with an image that glorifies the country’s colonial past.

Out of use since 2015, the carriage has traditionally been used to carry Dutch monarchs to the opening of parliament.

The move comes amid an ongoing debate in the country over its history.

The controversial image featured on the vehicle is called Tribute from the Colonies, and depicts black and Asian people – one of whom is kneeling – offering goods including cocoa and sugarcane to a seated young white woman who symbolises 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 “civilisation” to its colonies.

In an official video announcing the move, King Willem-Alexander accepted that the carriage was offensive to a large number of people and called on the country to face the legacy of its colonial history together.

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 key player in the transatlantic slave trade.

Photo – A file photo of Dutch King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima sit in the golden carriage in The Hague, The Netherlands. EPA/ROBIN VAN LONKHUIJSEN

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