Legs Fit for a King: Masculinity in the Staging of the Dutch Restoration Monarchy, 1813-1819


  • Stefan Dudink




This article explores visual strategies of legitimisation deployed in the establishment of the Dutch Restoration monarchy. It asks how these visual strategies were shaped by historically specific notions of masculinity and simultaneously helped shape such notions. Concentrating on the first state portrait of William I as King by Joseph Paelinck painted in 1818, it argues that this portrait was part of a ‘staging’ of the Dutch Restoration monarchy. In the absence of ancien régime claims to legitimacy, Restoration monarchies needed to have recourse to theatrical means of legitimisation, but also had to make sure not to provoke associations with the theatrical elements inherent in old regime monarchies.


The representation of the King’s body in the state portrait, drawing strongly on neoclassical and revolutionary conventions, invoked notions of masculinity centring around political virtue and naturalness. As such, the King’s body, and the masculinity it represented, helped undo the artificiality associated with monarchy and lent a sense of reality to the staging of the Dutch Restoration monarchy.


This article is part of the special issue 'Low Countries Histories of Masculinity'.


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Author Biography

Stefan Dudink

Stefan Dudink (1967) teaches at the Institute for Gender Studies of Radboud University Nijmegen. His research is concerned with the meanings of gender and sexuality in modern political culture, with a focus on the Netherlands in a comparative context. With Karen Hagemann and Anna Clark he is editor, of Representing Masculinity: Male Citizenship in Modern Western Culture (New York 2007, second edition 2012); with Karen Hagemann and John Tosh of Masculinities in Politics and War: Gendering Modern History (Manchester, New York 2004), and author of Deugdzaam liberalisme. Sociaal-liberalisme in Nederland 1870-1901 (Amsterdam 1997).




How to Cite

Dudink, S. (2012). Legs Fit for a King: Masculinity in the Staging of the Dutch Restoration Monarchy, 1813-1819. BMGN - Low Countries Historical Review, 127(1), 45–71. https://doi.org/10.18352/bmgn-lchr.1565