2015 was the last time the Golden Coach which chauffeurs the Dutch monarchs to open the parliamentary year was seen. This is because the usage of the coach is seen as an endorsement of the country’s slavery past.
The Tribute from the Colonies is a featured image on the coach depicting Black and Asian people with one kneeling and offering goods such as cocoa and sugarcane to a seated young white woman who represents the soul of the Netherlands, according to BBC.
In the wake of the Black Lives Matter campaign, the Golden Coach in recent times has not performed its ceremonial role of opening the Dutch parliament. Ordinarily, the king and queen of the Netherlands would have ridden in it to Ridderzaal at Binnenhof to read the throne’s opening speech.
The occasion usually attracted a large gathering who waved at the coach, which is drawn by eight horses and accompanied by a procession of footmen and coaches, as reported by the Amsterdam Museum. In special events like royal weddings and inaugurations, the coach is used by the king and queen to grace the occasion.
The Golden Coach was a gift from the people of Amsterdam to their first female monarch, Queen Wilhelmina. She was formally crowned queen after her 18th birthday on August 31, 1898. The coach was financed through taxes collected from Amsterdam’s poorest regions.
The Tribute of Colonies designed by Nicolaas Van Der Waay is linked to the Netherlands’ involvement in slavery. The image of the white woman seated and receiving gifts from Black and Asian people is considered a symbol of the Netherlands’ influence on its colonial regions in Indonesia, Suriname and the former Dutch Antilles, including the islands of Curacao and Aruba.
A protest was first raised about the depiction by an artist from Curacao, Ruben La Cruz, at the Summer Carnival in Rotterdam in 1990. The campaign was revived by activist Jeffry Pondaag who called out the monarch to stop using the Golden Coach and indicated that it was time reparations are paid to descendants of slavery and colonialism.
A motion was filed in parliament by two members of the House, Mariko Peters and Harry Van Bommel, in 2011 for the monarch to halt the usage of the coach. In 2020, the global Black Lives Matter agitations hit hard at the royal family for their association with the historical relic.
The monarch was compelled to listen to these agitations when a young generation of activists led by de Helden Van Nooit literally meaning “the Heroes of Never” declared they will begin defacing statues in public space until the king and queen halt the usage of the coach.
An online petition initiated by social geographer Nugah Schrestha garnered 8,000 signatures asking the monarch to stop using the Golden Coach. In January this year, the Netherlands’ King Willem-Alexander announced that Dutch royals will stop using the golden carriage.