This speech was given during Indigenous Liberation Day at the 1492 People’s Tribunal in Amsterdam, on October 12th 2022. The speech is a charge against the (Dutch) monarchy and royal families for colonial crimes against Indigenous peoples and other colonized peoples.
Dear judge and jury,
I am here to talk about Western royalty. About colonial royalty. From the Spanish empire to the British, from the French empire to the Dutch, nearly the entire world was colonized, enslaved, raped, pillaged and murdered in the name of the royal heads of state.
We know that king Leopold pillaged the Congo as his own personal property, killing 10 million people in a brutal holocaust. We know that the Spanish crown financed the voyage of Columbus, setting in motion the process of unimaginable genocides and ecocides, leading to the death of an estimated 175 million people. We know that British royalty were the main shareholders of the Royal African Company, which has shipped more enslaved people than any other company in the world.
When queen Elizabeth died a few weeks ago, she was still the largest legal landowner in the world, owning a sixth of the planet’s land surface. We are still living in the colonial present, your honor.
Dear judge and jury, I am of course here to speak, in particular, about Dutch royalty. And for the sake of time, allow me to focus on just three people of the House of Orange-Nassau. I believe they will suffice to make my case.
First, Johan Maurits Nassau, who became the governor of ‘new Holland’, a Dutch colony in Northern Brazil and one of the major centres of trans-atlantic slavery after the genocide of the local Indigenous peoples. Maurits Nassau became one of the richest people in the Netherlands, as he traded in enslaved people and hunted down maroon communities in a complete reign of terror. The House of Orange-Nassau was a major shareholder in the West Indian Company, which became, for a brief period in time, the single largest trader of enslaved people across the globe. As such, the royal family was directly responsible for grave crimes against humanity.
Our very first official king, your honor, is William the first. Under the Dutch constitution, the colonies were completely under his tyrannical foreign rule. William the first was heavily involved in the brutal crushing of the Java uprising, where his forces murdered 200,000 civilians. These brutal massacres laid the basis for William’s imposition of the so-called Culture System, forcing Indigenous peasants to work their best lands for coffee and sugar, on which the Dutch Trading Company (NHM) gained a complete monopoly. And William the first himself was the major shareholder, getting rich as countless locals succumbed to deep poverty and even to famine and starvation.
But William the first was also a drug-pushing mobster. His Dutch Trading Company (NHM) became one of the largest opium traders in the world as they drugged the local population who slaved away on the colonial plantations. Clearly, the royal family was directly responsible for some of the worst crimes of colonialism, including forced labor, forced starvation, civilian massacres, war crimes and massive dealing in opioids.
To finish off, your honor, with a more recent example, prince Bernhard, who passed away in 2004. Before he married the Dutch queen Juliana, he was a German citizen, member of the Nazi SS, SA and the NSDAP. After WW2, prince Bernhard still had the nerve to fraudulently appropriate a million gilders from a German fund for holocaust victims. But, you honor, there is more.
Prince Bernhard was one of the founders and first president of the World Wildlife Foundation, which to this day tortures, murders and forcefully deports Indigenous peoples from their lands in the name of white conservationism – nature parks for tourists – all across the world. But Bernhard himself was a hunter and a hypocrite. The 1000 founding funders of the WWF are full of major Apartheid figures, arms dealers, dictators, fascists and oil barrons. Prince Bernhard personally financed the first WWF death squad in South-Africa, the KAS. According to insider testimonies, the KAS directly trained pro-Apartheid militias in the Kruger National Park and killed an estimated 6000 oppononents of the Apartheid regime. As such, prince Bernhard sided with the crimes of apartheid and against the self-determination of Indigenous peoples.
These are just three examples, dear judge and jury. There are, of course, many more. The royal family was a major shareholder – might actually still be – in countless Dutch companies that grew directly under colonialism, including Royal Dutch Shell, ABN AMRO and Unilever. That is how the royal family became one of the richest in the world, with an estimated wealth of 12 billion euros. And still, the royal house receives an estimated 350 million euros every year from the Dutch state, through tax privileges and subsidies for the maintenance of their castles and their luxurious travels. Like their trips to their vacation home in Wallmapu, on stolen Indigenous Mapuche lands.
Right now, as we speak, the king and queen claim they want to come clean with their past. But talk is cheap. I say the answer is simple. Forsake your power and your stolen wealth. Give back your castles and your shares – those mountains of gold you have never worked for – return all of it, every last penny, to the peoples that were colonized, murdered and enslaved. It is time for reparations. So step down from your throne. Become a common person like all of us. Because the royal house cannot be decolonized, it can only be abolished.
Dear judge and jury, that is all I have to say.
Chris Kaspar de Ploeg