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Controversial Golden Coach now museum exhibit

June 17, 2021

Formerly used by the Dutch royal family, the 122-year-old coach was criticized for featuring racist, colonialist imagery. It is now on show in Amsterdam.

Golden Coach of Dutch Royal Family
The Golden Coach has been used up to more-modern times for royal occasionsImage: ANP/Benelux Press/picture alliance

An extravagant gilded carriage once used by the Dutch royal family is now a museum exhibit.

A panel on the side of the coach was the subject of heated debate because of its imagery, deemed by some as racist and colonialist.

A close-up view showing details of the Golden Coach
The triptych depicts people from then-Dutch colonies paying humble tribute to a white woman symbolizing the NetherlandsImage: Patrick van Katwijk/dpa/picture alliance

The 1898 triptych by Nicolaas van der Waay, entitled "Tribute from the Colonies," depicts people from then-Dutch colonies Indonesia, Suriname, and the former Dutch Antilles, paying humble tribute to a white woman symbolizing the Netherlands.  

The Golden Coach is used on Prince's Day in Holland
The Golden Coach is used on Prince's Day in HollandImage: Patrick van Katwijk/dpa/picture alliance

In a 2011 op-ed in Dutch daily NRC Handelsblad, Suriname-born Barryl Biekman, chairman of the National Platform for the History of Dutch Slavery, along with several other Dutch politicians called for the image to be removed from the coach. 

The Golden Coach is on exhibition at the Amsterdam Museum until February 2022
The carriage is made of teak wood and covered in gold leafImage: Robin Utrecht/picture alliance

The carriage, made of teak wood and covered in gold leaf, was a gift to Queen Wilhelmina from the people of Amsterdam in honor of her coronation in 1898.

The NL Times once reported that more than 1,200 people worked on it, including children who lived in the city orphanage, which is now the Amsterdam Museum where the coach will be exhibited from June 18 until February 27, 2022.

Dutch Crown Princess Maxima Zorreguieta waves from the Golden Coach after her wedding to Crown Prince Willem Alexander February 2, 2002.
The carriage has also been used for royal weddingsImage: Sion Touhig/Getty Images

The coach has been used for royal weddings since 1901, including the 2002 wedding of the current king and queen, then-Prince Willem-Alexander and Princess Maxima.

It also used to carry the Dutch monarch to the opening of parliament each year on Prinsjesdag, or Prince's Day.

However, since 2016, the Royal Family has used the Glass Carriage instead while the Golden Coach underwent restoration.

Queen Maxima of the Netherlands waves from the Glass Coach
Queen Maxima of The Netherlands waves from the Glass Coach during Prinsjesdag, the annual opening of the parliamentary yearImage: Patrick van Katwijk/Dutch Photo Press/dpa/picture alliance

Given the controversy surrounding the Golden Coach, its fate after the exhibition remains unknown.

Brenda Haas | Porträt
Brenda Haas Writer and editor for DW Culture