Golden Carriage's gold comes from Suriname, research shows ahead of Dutch PM's visit
The gold used for the Golden Carriage came from Suriname, according to a recent study on the royal vehicle initiated by the Amsterdam Museum. According to the museum, this solves a mystery. Prime Minister Mark Rutte will visit Suriname on Monday and Tuesday to further tighten the “special historical bond” with the country. It has been 14 years since a Dutch Prime Minister visited the former Dutch colony.
According to Amsterdam Museum curator Annemarie de Wildt, Suriname has said for generations that the gold leaf with which the carriage is gilded - and from which the vehicle gets its name - comes from there. The research carried out by the museum in collaboration with the VU University Amsterdam, the Netherlands Institute for Conservation+Art+Science+, and the Naturalis Biodiversity Center now confirmed that.
After over five years of restoration work, the Golden Carriage was recently on display in the Amsterdam Museum. The accompanying exhibition also focused on the construction of the carriage. According to De Wildt, the makers at the time wanted the carriage to represent the entire Kingdom of the Netherlands. They used, among other things, leather from Noord-Brabant, wood from Java, and ivory from Sumatra. But Suriname did not seem represented, and that raised questions, said the curator. Possible archives with more information about this have been lost.
The investigation was a big job because the gold on the carriage contained many lead particles from air pollution the carriage had been exposed to over the years. According to lead researcher Gareth Davies, professor of Petrology at the VU, they had to remove billions of lead particles. The job took four months. The team then compared the gold leaf with samples of gold provided by Naturalis from various regions in South Africa and Suriname, which were seen as possible origins. Davies said the gold from the coach is most similar to that from a gold mine on the Suriname River. Conservator De Wildt finds this plausible since a lot of gold was mined in that area when the carriage was made.
The carriage will not be used for the time being due to controversy around a panel showing enslaved people. The museum also researched the sentiment about the future of the carriage. Most Netherlands residents agree that the carriage should be preserved and visible, though opinions differ on how.
Queen Wilhelmina received the Golden Carriage as a gift from the people of Amsterdam at her inauguration in 1898. She didn’t use the carriage until her marriage in 1901. Since then, the carriage has served at Royal weddings and baptisms and, since 1903, on Prinsjesdag (Budget Day).
The research may give Prime Minister Rutte another thing to talk about on his visit to Suriname this week.
The visit comes at a time of criticism for Surinamese president Chan Santokhi. There were protests against his government in the summer. The country is in economically difficult weather. Support from the Netherlands would be welcome. A trade mission is traveling along in Rutte’s revenue.
The departure of president Desi Bouterse two years ago paved the way for a warmer relationship. Bouterse was convicted in the Netherlands for drug smuggling. In 1982, his military regime murdered 15 opponents at Fort Zeelandia. Rutte will lay a wreath there.
Rutte will also address the Surinamese parliament and have a conversation with representatives of the National Committee for Commemoration of Slavery Past and the National Repair Committee Suriname about the slavery past. Rutte is not expected to apologize on this visit.