AMSTERDAM — In 1896, the city of Amsterdam decided to build Queen Wilhelmina a very special gift: a carriage covered in gold. The “Golden Coach” was designed to represent the entire kingdom and its resources, with leather from Brabant, cushions filled with flax from Zeeland and teak from the Dutch colony of Java.
A prominent Dutch artist of the era, Nicolaas van der Waay, was commissioned to make panel paintings on all four sides. One of them, “Tribute from the Colonies,” depicts a virgin on a throne. On the left, Africans in loin cloths bow down before her. On the right, Southeast Asians in colorful batiks present her with gifts, as representations of the Dutch East Indies colony.
All of these component parts glorifying the empire would have been appreciated by most Dutch people in that era. But it is precisely these elements — reminders of slavery and colonial oppression — that make the carriage a source of pain in the Netherlands, particularly for descendants of formerly colonized people.
In the context of the worldwide Black Lives Matter protests, the coach has become a focus of anti-colonialist and antifascist protest. The controversy is an echo of similar debates in the United States over Confederate statues and other monuments, and in Europe over monuments honoring colonialists and slave traders.
petition to retire the Golden Coach has received more than 9,000 signatures.
The coach was first used in 1898 to carry Queen Wilhelmina to what the Dutch call her “inauguration,” eight years after she became queen at age 10. In recent
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