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.