Methods of Successful Reign in the Little Prince

Throughout history, monarchies have either found success or have collapsed due to many crucial factors, overall in a result of their preparedness. In 1532, Niccolò Machiavelli’s The Prince became the first thorough guide for upcoming rulers to follow in order to maintain a successful ruling. The Prince details his thoughts on the perfect way to run a state, over an already conquered population. Machiavelli fills his work with ideas and methods to maintain power based on historical example and reasoning. The political turbulence and disorganization of Italy inspired Machiavelli’s work.

Western Civilizations: Their History & Their Culture describes, “Machiavelli’s political writings reflect the unstable political situation of his home city as well as his wider aspiration for a unified Italy” (314 Cole). The political philosopher writes three essential rules to remain prosperous, confidently assuring the reader that any prince ignoring these rules will fail as a leader and lose their kingdom.

First, Machiavelli’s work strongly suggests military preparation and fortification of the state.

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He notes several times throughout his treatise that without an army or protection, any sovereign will be attacked and thrown out by neighboring nations. It is important to him that a ruler keeps his land secured from outside forces to prevent being dominated by other territories, and his work reflects that belief. Machiavelli’s next rule is that a new prince should appear dominant in front of his people. He believes that the king should contain all the power for the sake of decision-making and preventing the risk of being overtaken, so appearing fearful was the best way of controlling a society.

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Lastly, as he expresses several times throughout the source, Machiavelli believes that the worst acts a ruler can do are ones that cause animosity toward himself from his people. Machiavelli suggests that, with enough displeased citizens, a rebellion could quickly turn to replacement of the leader. The Prince contends the strong opinions of Niccolò Machiavelli and how he advises to properly rule conquered people, believing that a good king should prepare strong military and defenses, assert his power, all while nurturing the respect and admiration of his people, in order to rule a successful state.

Machiavelli has many theories for managing a successful and peaceful ruling. One of the foremost ideas for guaranteeing the safety of the state he describes in The Prince is maintaining a strong military. He begins his argument by noting that every kingdom should have a good fortress to defend from attacks. He explains that outside countries won’t bother attacking a state with heavy borders, simply because it’s more challenging: “Whenever a man has fortified his city strongly, people will be slow to attack him; men are always wary of tasks that seem hard, and it can’t seem easy to attack a prince whose city is in fine fettle” (412 Brophy). He also provides evidence for this idea by including Germany’s success and state of peace, noting that attacking this country would be “tedious and difficult,” specifically because “they have proper ditches and walls, and have sufficient artillery” (39 Machiavelli).

Aside from a good defense, the political philosopher also believes that a powerful army is necessary for a ruler to protect his power and country. While there are many types of armies, The Prince argues that native citizens are the best for war, while mercenaries and auxiliaries are the worst. Machiavelli writes that mercenaries prioritize financial gain over the war itself and their duty as soldiers. Auxiliaries are also a poor option because of the risk of them potentially turning against their employer: “they are disadvantageous; for losing, one is undone, and winning, one is their captive” (51 Machiavelli). The best option for a strong and reliable army is to have the citizens themselves armed. The author confirms this by giving an example of Rome, Sparta, and the Swiss, noting that all of these states had fewer problems remaining free when compared to countries with mercenaries and auxiliaries. Lastly, Machiavelli expects every prince to have a war mindset and to study battle techniques from historic victories. He includes evidence of this by describing Philopoemen, Prince of the Achaeans, noting that he was always ready for any combat. Military preparedness intertwines with having historical knowledge, allowing a king to be ready for any unexpected scenario:

“To exercise the intellect the prince should read histories, and study there the actions of illustrious men, to see how they have borne themselves in war, to examine the causes of their victories and defeat, so as to avoid the latter and imitate the former, and above all do as an illustrious man did” (56 Machiavelli). This discipline is crucial to Machiavelli, separating a competent prince from an exceptional prince. To correctly and responsibly rule over a state, a king must be militarily prepared to protect his society from outside forces and consistently assess the art of war.

Machiavelli stresses many times that remaining in control is one of the most important qualities of being an exceptional ruler, and if one does not appear powerful, they risk being overtaken. A key message from The Prince is that sometimes, it is important to love the people, while other times, it is necessary to destroy them. The author explains that after taking control of a new territory, the portion of the population against the idea of you ruling will cause issues and possibly even rebel. Machiavelli proposes that to remain in power, the only option is to move there, instead of ruling from the outside. Living inside the new state will allow a prince to have more control of his new society, giving him the opportunity to punish any rebels that are against the new government.

Creating an intimidating reputation will allow a king to gain respect from his society. Furthermore, Machiavelli makes it clear that liberality and mercy can destroy a state by showing areas of weakness. He explains that generosity doesn’t always work in favor of a ruler’s power. The journal Machiavelli’s Intention: The Prince acknowledges and quotes this, noting, “From its text we learn that just as Cesare Borgia did not become master of the Romagna except by ‘cruelty well used,’ Philip of Macedon did not become within a short time ‘prince of Greece’ except by use of means which were inimical not only to every humane manner of life but to every Christian manner of life as well” (25 Strauss). The last method that the author recommends for a new ruler attempting to contain their power is to appoint ministers over barons. Throughout the source, Machiavelli describes barons as being risky due to their power and influence, while ministers are essentially weak. He notes that barons are challenging to govern with because “the former finds himself with around himself who consider themselves his equals,” while a king governing with the people “finds himself alone, and has none around him” (35 Machiavelli). The Prince includes several methods on how to properly rule over a conquered society; however, some of Machiavelli’s primary focuses fall on the importance of the display of power through expressing a dominant reputation.

Lastly, Niccolò Machiavelli underlines the importance of preventing revulsion as a ruler over a conquered state. One thing he mentions several times is that altering the people’s property and families will cause chaos. He recommends that any prince ruling over a conquered society leaves these principles alone, stating that “a prince ought to inspire fear in such a way that, if he does not win love, he avoids hatred; which will always be as long as he abstains from the property of his citizens and subjects and from their women” (66 Machiavelli). Being feared can be beneficial, but being repudiated due to impacting people’s possessions can be dangerous for a ruler. Moreover, Machiavelli also warns of excessive generosity. The political philosopher believes that giving less will result in lower taxes, giving the appearance that a ruler demands less from his people, “This will soon make him odious to his subjects, and becoming poor he will be little valued by anyone; thus, with his liberality, having offended many and rewarded few, he runs into the reproach of being miserly” (61 Machiavelli).

He argues this because he believes that people will be more offended by a tax as a result to compensate for a king’s liberality. Lastly, Machiavelli presumes that the best way to receive a righteous reputation is to be artificial. Throughout his primary source, he notes that it’s important to “know how to disguise this characteristic and to be a great pretender and dissembler,” as a means to appeal to your nation (70 Machiavelli). Additionally, William Thyer agrees, noting: “He tells a prince that it is safer for him to be feared than loved; provided it be necessary for the preservation of his State; to lie and dissimulate; to make a pretence of religion” (477-478). Overall, it is better for a king to have an artificial personality in order to possess a positive status. Lying can be a beneficial characteristic to contain, especially if a king is proficient in concealing it. Niccolò stresses throughout his source that acceptance from society is one of the most important methods for ruling over subjugated people.

Niccolò Machiavelli’s The Prince is a political treatise which mentions the proper ways of ruling over subjugated individuals; he specifically notes that having a reliable military, accumulating a powerful reputation, and presenting a positive status will enable a ruler to be successful. The author was influenced by his own country prior to writing his book of advice, using the turbulence of Italy to affirm his message. According to the International Journal of Ethics, Machiavelli notices that the English and French monarchies were successful because: “The power of the papacy had been neutralized, feudal privileges abolished, dangerous rivals destroyed, until the crown had become virtually the sole effective power in the nation” (214 Wilde). He replicates the idea of a monarchy and created his own methods of successful ruling. Military preparedness is a primary argument Machiavelli argues. The author believes that a strong army and protective fortress were the keys to keeping a kingdom safe. This is important, preventing a ruler from being overthrown by neighboring nations. Machiavelli also expresses the importance of appearing powerful toward his people; to him, fear is influential in the way a society acts. Finally, the political philosopher notes that above all, a prince should avoid being hated by his people. He specifies that animosity from one’s people is dangerous and could risk being overthrown. Niccolò Machiavelli ultimately believes that history and example have illuminated a correct way of ruling, and if followed properly, a ruler can garner a successful, protected city of proud and respecting people.


Updated: Dec 12, 2023
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Methods of Successful Reign in the Little Prince. (2021, Dec 27). Retrieved from

Methods of Successful Reign in the Little Prince essay
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