New study estimates wealth of Dutch rulers acquired from slavery
A golden coach in The Hague with images of colonial offerings to Dutch rulers is valued at more than €545 million.
A new study, State and Slavery, estimated the startling sum of colonial profit for Willem III (also king of England, Ireland, and Scotland), Willem IV, and Willem V.
The research was released last week at the request of the Dutch Parliament, just in time for the present King's long-awaited apologies for slavery.
The Dutch House of Orange-Nassau's colonial commerce enslaved at least 600,000 African men, women, and children, and tortured and exploited roughly 660,000 and 1 million Asians.
Willem-Alexander is due to issue a public apology at Amsterdam's Oosterpark on July 1, the Keti Koti (breaking the shackles) festival, 150 years after Dutch slavery effectively ended.
Read more: Apology for slavery leaves Dutch divided
One example of loot begotten from The Netherlands' colonial past is a golden coach in The Hague with images of colonial offerings to Dutch rulers, which is valued at more than €545 million
The €545 million equivalent exceeds the money that the rulers, known as Stadhouders, received as state and military chiefs. Between 1675 and 1770, William III received 1,094,998 guilders as his share of the Dutch East India Company revenues - the equivalent of €196 million today.
Raymund Schütz, a researcher at The Hague's municipal archives, uncovered the statistics concerning the Dutch Stadhouders, or appointed regents, in Gerard van Vredenburch's private archive last year. This senior person in the Dutch East India Company was believed to have been storing and recording secrets "like poker cards."
Showing off with slaves
According to Schütz, “In some cases, they took enslaved people to the Netherlands to show off. It was a kind of conspicuous investment and consumption to show you were important, a kind of status symbol. These days, everybody is ashamed and it’s hard to imagine how it was seen at the time. But the main thing was making money.”
Schütz stated that it was unknown how much the Dutch rulers earned from slavery between 1621 and its abolition on July 1, 1863 (followed by ten years of obligatory labor for the slaves).
Last year, the United Kingdom's King Charles, then Prince of Wales, expressed "the depths of his personal sorrow" for the misery inflicted by the British slave trade, while Germany gave €1 billion in acknowledgment of colonial-era atrocities in Namibia in 2021.
Months ago Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte apologized for the "appalling suffering" inflicted on generations, announcing a €200 million fund for awareness projects, but no restitution or damages.
Don Ceder, an MP for the Christian Union and a lawyer expressed that the apology is expected to be "of enormous significance in the reconciliation process,” as “The Dutch royal family received a significant portion of her wealth through the slave trade … A sincere reflection upon that past could contribute to a shared future.”
According to Linda Nooitmeer, president of the National Institute of the Dutch Slavery Past and Legacy (NiNsee), whose surname means “never again," "In 2019, an investigation showed that 5% of Dutch GDP [in 1770] came from slavery. What the community thought, seems to be true."
Roy Kaikusi Groenberg, of the Honour and Recovery Foundation, a Dutch Afro-Surinamese organization, stated that the apology "will be the start of another era," and will bring peace. According to Groenberg, descendants of slavery are today paying the price through racism, discrimination, and being undervalued.
Organizations across the country have organized hundreds of “Keti Koti Tafels” shared meals where people discuss stories of discrimination experiences and how to resolve them.
According to a spokesperson, the aim is to bring people closer together and increase awareness. We share a society, we are all people and we need to come together.”