At the end of the evening there is an opportunity for a picture with the carriage. This requires some skill now that the sun has already set. Backlighting, the dazzling reflections from the glass case and the gloss of the carriage itself, are a challenge for an amateur like me.
A friendly young photographer, who works for several newspapers, offers to help. ‘Wait, I’ll get my own big flash and take the picture of you standing in front of the carriage with your own camera. First I have to measure the light.” He mounts his own flash on my camera, but first he takes a few shots with his own. When he’s finished, I mumble, “Trix the third.” He laughs at the comment, unaware that I have a completely different association than the obvious. I don’t mean the former queen (Beatrix), but I am thinking of the daughter of one of my ancestors, who is referred to as Catharina 3 on a statement of account: a slave with no last name. In 1898, the year the carriage was built and twenty-five years after the actual abolition of slavery, she wouldn’t even have spared a thought about an official state coach. Survival would have been her only concern. She and her ancestors contributed to the work of a painter who neatly captured how the Dutch viewed those distant colonials: people who come willingly and with humility to provide you with food and goods, and who gladly and unconditionally allow their fate to be tied to yours, even as recently as 1898. Thank goodness the poor Catharinas in Surinam and the Indies never had to see this carriage drive past.