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Carriage has to go because of the presentation

Carriage has to go because of the presentation

The Golden Coach of the Dutch royal family, which is at the center of a debate about how to deal with the colonial past, is being temporarily withdrawn from circulation. “The Golden Coach will only drive again when the Netherlands are ready for it,” said King Willem-Alexander in a video message on Thursday, “and that is not the case now.” The vehicle is now in the royal stable. Thomas Gutschker Political correspondent for the European Union, NATO and the Benelux countries based in Brussels. The king last used it in 2015 for the opening ceremony of Parliament on Prince’s Day. The carriage built in 1898 was then extensively restored over a period of six years; since June last year it has been shown in the Amsterdam Museum as part of a historical-critical exhibition. Since the exhibition will end next month and the museum itself will be completely rebuilt afterwards, the king had to decide the fate of the carriage. It allegorically depicts how the Netherlands bring civilization to the colonies they conquered. Willem-Alexander combined his decision with basic statements on historical commemoration. You can’t rewrite the past. “Simply banning historical symbols and items is definitely not a solution,” he said, dismissing calls for the offending side panel to be removed. At the same time, he admitted that the depiction – black people submissively worshiping the Dutch maiden – could hurt people. “As long as people live in the Netherlands who feel the pain of discrimination every day, the past will still cast its shadow over our time.” Only if we walk the “path to reconciliation” together can the carriage drive again on Prince’s Day.

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The representation on the carriage has been the subject of controversy since 2011. At the time, two activists had won MPs for a protest against the “glorification of colonialism and slavery”. One of the two activists even called for the carriage to be burned, while his comrade-in-arms suggested removing the panel on the left side wall. In doing so, they aroused the ire of royalists, a number of historians and politicians who opposed “censorship of our history”. “I’m not in favor of rewriting history by defacing the Golden Coach,” said Prime Minister Mark Rutte. The controversy calmed down while the carriage was restored; On Prince’s Day, King Willem-Alexander used another vehicle that he owned. But it came back into focus last summer in the course of the “Black Lives Matter” protests after the violent death of George Floyd in America. Within a few days, 8,000 people signed an online petition calling for the carriage to be permanently transported to the museum. It was first shown in a glass case as part of the Amsterdam exhibition, which is well worth seeing. Willem-Alexander said at the opening of the exhibition that it was where it belonged – which some understood as if he had already made up his mind. With Thursday’s decision, however, the king is keeping the option open to use the carriage again one day. This may be the most diplomatic way to settle the conflict, which is part of a larger debate about the colonial past and slavery.

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