The Golden Coach on display

Exhibitions Travel

I visited some lovely exhibitions already in September, but I have suddenly been so busy with wedding reports, travelling and other stuff, that I haven’t found the time yet to post about it.

If you make it to Amsterdam there is not only The wedding dress of Queen Máxima in the New Church that you really should visit. Until 22 Februar 2022 also the Golden Coach is on display in Amsterdam. The Amsterdam Museum is not far from the church, so it is easy to combine. The exhibition opened its doors on 18 June 2021 and is fully dedicated to this present of the city of Amsterdam to Queen Wilhelmina in 1898 on the occasion of her inauguration.

Description

The Golden Coach is on display in a glass enclosure in the large courtyard of the Amsterdam Museum. Visitors are able to view the restored carriage up close in peace and quiet. In six galleries around the courtyard, with a view of the Golden Coach, various stories are highlighted. Hundreds of cultural-historical objects, paintings, Orangery, garments, cartoons, photographs and moving images give a multifaceted picture of the history and use of the Golden Coach and the past and present discussions about this iconic vehicle.

The Golden Coach was conceived as a gift for the inauguration of the first woman on the Dutch throne, the then eighteen-year-old Queen Wilhelmina. Ever since its inception, the carriage has known fans and critics. The Golden Coach is therefore much more than just a vehicle. The carriage symbolizes something greater: the House of Orange, democracy, the self-confident capital of Amsterdam, the fairy tale (or: golden cage) of royal existence, the Kingdom of the Netherlands, the colonial past. All of these meanings are addressed in the exhibition, which is therefore designed in multiple voices.

The Golden Coach is the subject of a current debate, caused by the painting on the left side of the vehicle: Tribute from the Colonies. Depicted are people from the colonies paying tribute to a white youthful woman symbolizing the Netherlands. An increasing number of people are finding this depiction of colonialism inappropriate for national celebrations. Should the carriage continue to be used on Prinsjesdag and during Orange weddings and inaugurations? Does the carriage deserve to be adapted, or does it belong in a museum? The exhibition highlights diverse perspectives on this controversial driving heritage. The Amsterdam Museum also invites visitors to share their views and use augmented reality to create an alternative Golden Coach.

The exhibition

The exhibition starts with information about the inauguration of Queen Wilhelmina, an occasion on which the carriage wasn’t used. On display are souvenirs, information about the celebrations and there is even a lovely video to watch. Afterwards follows information about the occasions the carriage is used: the wedding of Queen Wilhelmina in 1901, christenings, weddings and Prinsjesdag (opening of parliament). There are several items on display: paintings, gifts, the wedding dress of Queen Wilhelmina, the christening gown of the royal family, the uniform of King Willem-Alexander worn on his wedding day, a Prinsjesdag dress and hat of Queen Beatrix. But there are also “horses” with stable gears and uniforms of the people working in the stables. And not to forget a selection of hats worn by female politicians on Prinsjesdag over the years. However there is also enough information of what people don’t like about the carriage.

I really enjoyed seeing the first part of the exhibition, although the rooms were a bit too dark to my liking. For me and many others however it is a big disappointment that the carriage itself is very difficult to enjoy. The glass enclosure is very light sensitive, and the carriage itself of course made of “gold”, which means that the sun reflects on the glass and the gold paint, and it is therefore very hard to see the details, although I did manage to see the panel the main controversy is all about rather well. I would recommend going on a day without sun or on a late afternoon in the winter. A friend of mine, Oscar, was so lucky to attend an event at the museum in the evening. In the dark it was well possible to have a good look at everything, as you can see on some of the photos below. At Prinsjesdag 2021 the museum also opened the door of the carriage, so one could have a better look at the inside, which was of course just days after my visit.

Don’t forget to visit the museum shop. I bought the book, a face mask and several postcards.

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