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The Netherlands

King Willem-Alexander apologises for the Netherlands’ involvement in slave trade

willem alexander

King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands has apologised for the Netherlands’ involvement in the slave trade.

The Dutch monarch apologised during remarks he made at the event marking 160 years since the abolition of slavery in the Netherlands.

The King said: “Today, I’m standing here in front of you as your King and as part of the government. Today I am apologising myself. And I feel the weight of the words in my heart and my soul.

“Today, I am asking for forgiveness for the crystal-clear lack of action.”

Dutch slave traders are believed to have trafficked around 600,000 people from Africa to the Dutch colonies in the Caribbean and South America, and the King said the Royal Family did nothing to stop what he called “crimes against humanity.” He noted that “monarchs and rulers of the House of Orange took no steps against slavery.”

A study found the Dutch rulers earned an equivalent of €545m in today’s money from the slave trade between 1675 and 1770.

The monarch, who attended alongside his wife Queen Maxima, said that he knew he could not speak for all Dutch people but that most agree with him.

The King said: “I realise only too well that by no means everyone shares the same feelings about this commemoration. And there are people in the Netherlands who feel that apologising now, so long after the abolition of slavery, is going too far. Nevertheless, the vast majority of them do support the fight for equality for all people, regardless of skin colour or cultural background. 

“I would therefore ask you to open your hearts to all those people who are not here today but who do want to work with you to build a society in which everyone can participate fully. I ask you to respect the differences in people’s experiences, backgrounds and powers of imagination.”

King Willem-Alexander said he hoped the descendants of the enslaved people and forced labour “feel heard.”

He concluded: “After acknowledgment and apologies, let us work together to foster healing, reconciliation and recovery. So that we can all be proud of what we share.”

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte also apologised for the Netherlands’ role in the slave trade last year.

King Willem-Alexander has been on the throne since 2013. He marked ten years as monarch in April of this year.

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About author

Brittani is from Tennessee, USA. She is a political scientist and historian after graduating with a degree in the topics from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, in December 2014. She also holds a master's degree from Northeastern University. She enjoys reading and researching all things regarding the royals of the world. She's been researching, reading, and writing on royalty for over a decade. She became Europe Editor in October 2016, and then Deputy Editor in January 2019, and has been featured on several podcasts, radio shows, news broadcasts and websites including Global News Canada, ABC News Australia, WION India and BBC World News.