About time: King Willem-Alexander apologises for the Netherlands’ role in slavery

Dutch King Willem-Alexander finally stepped up to the podium on Saturday, 1 July, the day of Keti Koti, to apologise for the Netherlands’ slavery past and ask for forgiveness.

Exactly 150 years after slavery finally ended in all Dutch colonies, the King asked for forgiveness for his country’s and his ancestors’ violent past in the Atlantic slave trade and slavery in its former Asian colonies, reports the NOS

A speech to remember

At the National Commemoration of Slavery Past in Oosterpark, Amsterdam, the ruling Dutch monarch said that he felt these apologies with his “heart and soul”. 

He continued to call the country’s past practice a “crime against humanity” and that “we carry with us the horrors of the slavery past.”

The King was also personal in his apology, addressing his ancestors’, the governors of Nassau, lack of action at the brutal slavery at the time. 

The remnants of slavery still felt today 

The Netherlands was one of the last countries in Europe to end slavery and only recently began to formally acknowledge its role in the historically cruel practice. 

The Dutch Prime Minister, Mark Rutte, apologised for the first time on behalf of the Dutch government only six months ago.

In the last few years, slavery and colonialism still remain an undiscussed part of Dutch history for many people.

READ MORE | Dutch Quirk #120: Struggle with their colonial past

Several schools glide right past the Dutch colonial history, and a survey in 2019 found that 50% of Dutch people were proud of their past empire. 

In his speech, the King went on to say that the effects of slavery are still felt today through racism in the Netherlands.

All in all, the House of Orange profited more than €545 million from its colonialism and slavery past. The King promised that the royal family’s role in the past would be investigated further, and we can expect to hear more by 2025.

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Feature Image:Koninklijkhuis
Naomi Lamaury
Naomi Lamaury
Naomi came to the Netherlands four years ago for her studies with two suitcases and without ever having been to the country or knowing much about it. Now, you can find her eating ‘bitterballen’ and fighting against the Dutch wind on her bike every day like a local. Naomi enjoys writing about what is going on around her alongside a warm cup of coffee.

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