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Monday, May 20, 2024

The royal family did nothing to stop it – Dutch King apologises for country's role in slavery

Dutch King Willem-Alexander has publicly apologised for his country’s participation in the slave trade, stating that he was “personally and intensely” impacted.

After the 17th century, the Netherlands became a significant colonial power, holding colonies all over the world with Dutch slave smugglers shipping off close to 600,000 people.

The practice was described as a “horror” the by King on Saturday.

He also admitted that the “royal family did nothing to stop it.”

Speaking at an event commemorating the 160th anniversary of the country’s abolition of slavery, it was unclear if the King would apologise for the Royal Family’s participation in the practise prior to the event.

A recent research paper published in June found that Dutch royalty alone received the equivalent of €545 million (R10.9 billion) in today’s money from slave-holding colonies between 1675 and 1770.

During his widely televised address in Amsterdam, King Willem-Alexander admitted that the “monarchs and rulers of the House of Orange took no steps against slavery”.

“Today, I stand in front of you as your King and as a member of the government,” the King said. “I’m apologising today, today, I’m asking for forgiveness for my blatant lack of action.”

The King, accompanied by his wife Queen Maxima, admitted that he could not speak for the whole country, but he assured the audience that “the vast majority” of Dutch residents “support the fight for equality for all people, regardless of colour or cultural background.”

“After acknowledgement and apology, we can work together on healing, reconciliation, and restoration,” King continued.

His address was applauded by the audience during the Keti Koti Festival, the country’s yearly celebration of the abolition of slavery.

But, not all Dutch are happy with the King’s apology.

The Netherlands gained significant swaths of territory in what is now Indonesia, South Africa, Curaçao, and West Papua during the 17th Century, and became a prominent role in the transatlantic slave trade.

The Cape Malay people originated from various parts of South-east Asia, including Indonesia which was then known as the Dutch East Indies. They were brought to South Africa as slaves by the Dutch East India Company during the 17th and 18th centuries.

Before slavery was outlawed in 1863, hundreds of thousands of people were carried from Africa to Dutch territories in the Caribbean and South America, accounting for around 5% of the transatlantic slave trade.

According to the Dutch Research Council, the slave trade brought enormous riches to country with a Council study concluding that the trade accounted for 40% of economic development in the western province of Holland alone between 1738 and 1780.

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