Although it was written as if it were a traditional work in the mirrors for princes style, it is generally agreed that it was especially innovative. This is only partly because it was written in the vernacular Italian rather than Latin, a practice which had become increasingly popular since the publication of Dante’s Divine Comedy and other works of Renaissance literature
Chapter VIII Concerning Those Who Have Obtained A Principality By Wickedness
Yet it cannot be called talent to slay fellow-citizens, to deceive friends, to be without faith, without mercy, without religion; such methods may gain empire, but not glory.
This chapter deals with territories acquired by deceit and cunning, or being plain vicious. There can be the carrot or the stick – and if you plan to use the stick, you can still rule as the people will fear you.
Hence it is to be remarked that, in seizing a state, the usurper ought to examine closely into all those injuries which it is necessary for him to inflict, and to do them all at one stroke so as not to have to repeat them daily; and thus by not unsettling men he will be able to reassure them, and win them to himself by benefits.
He who does otherwise, either from timidity or evil advice, is always compelled to keep the knife in his hand; neither can he rely on his subjects, nor can they attach themselves to him, owing to their continued and repeated wrongs.
For injuries ought to be done all at one time, so that, being tasted less, they offend less; benefits ought to be given little by little, so that the flavour of them may last longer.
Chapter IX Concerning A Civil Principality
I say then that such a principality is obtained either by the favour of the people or by the favour of the nobles. Because in all cities these two distinct parties are found, and from this it arises that the people do not wish to be ruled nor oppressed by the nobles, and the nobles wish to rule and oppress the people; and from these two opposite desires there arises in cities one of three results, either a principality, self-government, or anarchy.
He who obtains sovereignty by the assistance of the nobles maintains himself with more difficulty than he who comes to it by the aid of the people, because the former finds himself with many around him who consider themselves his equals, and because of this he can neither rule nor manage them to his liking. But he who reaches sovereignty by popular favour finds himself alone, and has none around him, or few, who are not prepared to obey him.
But one who, in opposition to the people, becomes a prince by the favour of the nobles, ought, above everything, to seek to win the people over to himself, and this he may easily do if he takes them under his protection. Because men, when they receive good from him of whom they were expecting evil, are bound more closely to their benefactor; thus the people quickly become more devoted to him than if he had been raised to the principality by their favours; and the prince can win their affections in many ways, but as these vary according to the circumstances one cannot give fixed rules, so I omit them; but, I repeat, it is necessary for a prince to have the people friendly, otherwise he has no security in adversity.
Well, this is the point where Cersei messed up. The people don’t love her. They loved Margery – who had the nobles and the people eating from the palm of her hand.
Chapter X Concerning The Way In Which The Strength Of All Principalities Ought To Be Measured
And whoever shall fortify his town well, [..] will never be attacked without great caution, for men are always adverse to enterprises where difficulties can be seen, and it will be seen not to be an easy thing to attack one who has his town well fortified, and is not hated by his people.
For it is the nature of men to be bound by the benefits they confer as much as by those they receive.
Chapter XI Concerning Ecclesiastical Principalities
And the short life of a pope is also a cause of weakness; for in the ten years, which is the average life of a pope, he can with difficulty lower one of the factions
The interesting part in mixing religion with the state functions is a bad idea – unless the Pope can grant the state an aura of divine grace – “being exalted and maintained by God, it would be the act of a presumptuous and rash man to discuss them.”. The Papal state became weak as it was put in place by large families in Florence – but it slowly regained power as it placed cardinals with each of the bigger barons.
Chapter XII How Many Kinds Of Soldiery There Are, And Concerning Mercenaries
Mercenaries and auxiliaries are useless and dangerous; and if one holds his state based on these arms, he will stand neither firm nor safe; for they are disunited, ambitious and without discipline, unfaithful, valiant before friends, cowardly before enemies; they have neither the fear of God nor fidelity to men, and destruction is deferred only so long as the attack is; for in peace one is robbed by them, and in war by the enemy.
Because from such arms conquests come but slowly, long delayed and inconsiderable, but the losses sudden and portentous.
A mercenary’s interest is not to win a war, is to get paid while fighting it.
Chapter XIII Concerning Auxiliaries, Mixed Soldiery, And One’s Own
Therefore, let him who has no desire to conquer make use of these [auxiliary] arms, for they are much more hazardous than mercenaries, because with them the ruin is ready made; they are all united, all yield obedience to others; but with mercenaries, when they have conquered, more time and better opportunities are needed to injure you; they are not all of one community, they are found and paid by you, and a third party, which you have made their head, is not able all at once to assume enough authority to injure you. In conclusion, in mercenaries dastardy is most dangerous; in auxiliaries, valour. The wise prince, therefore, has always avoided these arms and turned to his own; and has been willing rather to lose with them than to conquer with others, not deeming that a real victory which is gained with the arms of others.
King Louis, abolished the infantry and began to enlist the Switzers, which mistake, followed by others, is, as is now seen, a source of peril to that kingdom; because, having raised the reputation of the Switzers, he has entirely diminished the value of his own arms, for he has destroyed the infantry altogether; and his men-at-arms he has subordinated to others, for, being as they are so accustomed to fight along with Switzers, it does not appear that they can now conquer without them.
Chapter XIV That Which Concerns A Prince On The Subject Of The Art Of War
A wise prince ought to observe some such rules, and never in peaceful times stand idle, but increase his resources with industry in such a way that they may be available to him in adversity, so that if fortune changes it may find him prepared to resist her blows.
A wise ruler will need to create strategies for every course of action their enemies can take.
Chapter XV Concerning Things For Which Men, And Especially Princes, Are Praised Or Blamed
Therefore, putting on one side imaginary things concerning a prince, and discussing those which are real, I say that all men when they are spoken of, […], are remarkable for some of those qualities which bring them either blame or praise; and thus it is that one is reputed liberal, another miserly, […] one is reputed generous, one rapacious; one cruel, one compassionate; one faithless, another faithful; one effeminate and cowardly, another bold and brave; one affable, another haughty; one lascivious, another chaste; one sincere, another cunning; one hard, another easy; one grave, another frivolous; one religious, another unbelieving, and the like.
These qualities of a ruler are unknown at the start of the rule but they will make themselves known in time. And some things which look like virtue can ruin a ruler and some things that look like vices can solidify his rule and bring peace and stability.
Chapter XVI Concerning Liberality And Meanness
Therefore, any one wishing to maintain among men the name of liberal is obliged to avoid no attribute of magnificence; so that a prince thus inclined will consume in such acts all his property, and will be compelled in the end, if he wish to maintain the name of liberal, to unduly weigh down his people, and tax them, and do everything he can to get money.
This will soon make him odious to his subjects, and becoming poor he will be little valued by any one; thus, with his liberality, having offended many and rewarded few, he is affected by the very first trouble and imperilled by whatever may be the first danger; recognizing this himself, and wishing to draw back from it, he runs at once into the reproach of being miserly.
It is interesting that considering a ruler liberal will bring the leader to ruin. With the example of a Pope who was a liberal but did not strive, Machiavelli believes that being cruel is better for the long run:
We have not seen great things done in our time except by those who have been considered mean; the rest have failed.
Chapter XVII Concerning Cruelty And Clemency, And Whether It Is Better To Be Loved Than Feared
Cesare Borgia was considered cruel; notwithstanding, his cruelty reconciled the Romagna, unified it, and restored it to peace and loyalty
Therefore a prince, so long as he keeps his subjects united and loyal, ought not to mind the reproach of cruelty; because with a few examples he will be more merciful than those who, through too much mercy, allow disorders to arise, from which follow murders or robberies; for these are wont to injure the whole people, whilst those executions which originate with a prince offend the individual only.
So the rule is – be cruel but fair. Show weakness and be ruled.