Last weekend, on the occasion of the birthday of the queen, Pro Republica wrote that the queen’s political mandate is derived entirely from the tabloids. If you have not been voted in to office, yet want to be involved at the highest political levels, you are dependent on popularity. Popularity is not measured in voting booths. It is a form rather than a function. The exotic hat instead of the head, the stiletto instead of the foot.

There are two aspects regarding function: first, the demystification of the royals, and second, their desecration. We routinely question the appearances and the apparent holiness so we can expose the shocking sight of the monarchy’s functions. Often, the royal family is nothing but a beautifully decorated balloon full of hot air. The exterior looks so dignified and seductive, that many fall for it. Like old Socrates constantly trying to prove that the Beautiful equals the Good, the royals constantly polish their own image – in the absence of function.

Where does their image actually come from? From the royalist hagiographers who concluded that the royals create “unity” for Dutch society? From the prime minister who thinks that the royal family represents Dutch identity? Does the idea that the royals have to be a visible symbol of the Netherlands come from the obsequious servants that surround them?

We’ll disabuse you right away. It’s the queen herself doing it. She creates her own image. She dictates how her subjects see her. And she does it in an underhanded way. Secretly and on the sly. It is as if statue sculpted itself by changing from artist to image and vice versa. The queen can do this because of the way our political system is organized. Within the archaic monarchy we have another medieval relic, namely the privy council. This weird institution advises the government. And if ever it would be necessary, it replaces the crown.

So how does this self sculpting statue come to be? Very simple. The queen is head of government, while the prime minister is only its leader. So the queen, as head of the privy council, can ask advice from the privy council. For example: “the relevance of the monarchy is in its contribution to its tradition” or “as the power of the state gets more diffuse in a European and global context, there is a need for someone who manifests unity and continuity”. In other words, the queen asks herself by way of the privy council what the government should think about her, and the monarchy.

So the next time your hear the prime minister say that the monarchy provides us with continuity, stability and identity, you’ll know it is because the queen told him so.

Translated from a Dutch language article, “Form and Function”, originally published at ProRepublica. In recent months the Dutch Ambassador to Thailand has made numerous public statements about lese majeste laws. More on Dutch republicanism is available here.