The Cultural Garden of Amsterdam

26 Jul 2016
The Royal Barge is back!

It was big news in October 2015: after eight years, the Royal Barge was back in the Dutch National Maritime Museum. The Royal Barge, with its gold-plated ornaments, was built in 1816 for King Willem I, and used for decades as a 'golden carriage on water' by the Royal Family for official events. The last time it was used was quite a while ago, for Queen Juliana and Prince Bernhard's silver wedding anniversary in 1962. I'd never seen it.

The Royal Barge was on display in the Dutch National Maritime Museum until the museum's renovation in 2008, during which it was placed in storage. Moving the Royal Barge was quite an operation; a hole needed to be made in the outside wall of the building to remove it. While in storage, the barge was restored to its former glory and made seaworthy again; if King Willem-Alexander wants to use it, he can.

The Royal Barge's comeback was celebrated in style, with a spectacular opening ceremony and lead-up. It also has its own boathouse now. The barge clearly belongs there, just like a painting made more beautiful in the right frame - it's picture-perfect. But the boathouse is more than the right frame; it's also an exhibition room. Wall texts, a large screen with photo material and interactive screens reveal everything about the barge's history, its unusual protocol and its crew.

The Royal Barge has found its rightful home in the boathouse, moored next to the Amsterdam, a Dutch East India Company ship, and the Christiaan Brunnings, an icebreaker. Definitely go and have a look - the allure of the Royal Barge can only be experienced in person.

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