I have been asked by several people now why I chose the Pashley Princess over the Gazelle and other options, so I wanted to describe the process that led to this decision.
First, I want to say that I do not necessarily think that Pashley is "the best" bicycle. It was the right choice for me, and this decision was based on very subjective criteria. In terms of quality, I think that most of the manufacturers profiled here are equivalent, and any differences in preference between them are a matter of personal choice. Please be certain to try out a bicycle before deciding whether or not it is right for you; it is the only way to really know.
My initial choice was between Gazelle, Batavus and Pashley. These were the only models out of the list here that fit all of my criteria and were available locally to try before buying. Gradually, the Batavus fell out of the competition, because it just did not pull at my heartstrings in the same way as the other two, lacking some of the more elegant touches. And so the real choice soon became between Pashley and Gazelle.
1. Fit: The proportions of the Pashley fit my body just a tad better than the proportions of the equivalently sized Gazelle. Namely, the Pashley felt a bit roomier between the saddle/seating-tube area and the handlebars/front wheel area. Note that the Pashley Princess is available in three different frame sizes. Size "small" is smaller than Dutch bike sizes; sizes "medium" and "large" are equivalent to the 51 and 58 Dutch frames. I tried the Pashley "medium" and the Gazelle 51-size.
2. Getting the Perfect Configuration: To get a Gazelle configured with all the components I wanted (including adding gears, but more importantly, getting both the colour I liked and the brake system I wanted on the same model) would have involved more customisation and more money than Pashley.
3. Aesthetics: The subtle elements of Pashley's design -- including the angles, the curvature, the style of the chain cover and dress guard, the placement of lights, etc. -- appealed to me just ever so slightly more.
4. Je Ne Sais Quois?... : Granted, this is a rather vague factor, but I think it is important if you want the kind of bicycle that you will have a love affair with. The Pashley got to me at the intuitive/emotional level. It whispered "Take me, I am yours!..." in a sweet husky voice. What could I do?
And so there it is. My Pashley Princess Sovereign is now at Harris Cyclery, getting customised with a coaster brake and 7-gear Shimano hub. I also asked for her to be fitted with a drop-down stand and Brooks leather handles. By the time I return to the US, my green beauty will be waiting for me, and oh how happy our union shall be!
But I have a confession to make: I still want the Gazelle!... Yes, in addition to the Pashley... But that's insane, right? I don't need a second bicycle. Right?...
[Edited to add: I have now posted a full review of my customised Pashley Princess.]