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The Prince

The Prince

by Niccolò Machiavelli

The Prince Chapter 7 Summary

States won by lucky circumstance and someone else's armed forces

  • For those of you who got your nation by sheer luck, or by buying it: we have good news and bad news.
  • The good news is—yay!—you have some territory now.
  • The bad news is, it won't be like that for long. Unless you've been hard at work figuring out how to fight and defend your new land with your very own army, you will probably soon be known as the ex-ruler of your nation. Oops. Enjoy it while you can.
  • Machiavelli gives us examples of men who got their new kingdoms by luck and by sheer abilities.
  • The first is Francesco Sforza, who got Milan through ability and effort and kept it fairly easily. The second is Machiavelli's historical crush, Cesare Borgia, who got his land because his dad tricked people to get it for him.
  • Now, Machiavelli wants us to know that just because Borgia died and lost his land, doesn't mean he wasn't awesome. You see, he did everything right in Machiavelli's eyes. He was just super unlucky.
  • Here's how it went down.
  • Pope Alexander VI, otherwise known as Borgia's dad, got some land called Romagna for his son.
  • Now it was up to Borgia to stand on his own two feet, and he realized that his army (borrowed from the Orsini family) and his ally (French King Louis XII) weren't the most loyal ever.
  • This is a problem. Remember what Machiavelli said about using other people's power? Well, Borgia was fed up with it and decided to free himself by getting some new allies. Then he took it up a notch and decided it was time to get rid of anyone else who might challenge him. He invited them to a party and killed them all. So far, so good.
  • Now, remember how were just talking about how sometimes you have to crush your new land in order to rule it? Well, guess who knew that? That's right, Borgia. He put a crazy ruthless guy named Remirro de Orco in charge of Romagna who whipped the area into shape.
  • No one really liked de Orco or Borgia after all this violence, but that would change.
  • Borgia decided that he didn't need such violent methods anymore and established a court of locals to run everything. Oh, and he killed de Orca and displayed his corpse in the town center to show everyone that he was so angry with him for being mean to them. Hmmm.
  • These shenanigans (a) scared the pee out of anyone trying to mess with Borgia and (b) made everyone think that he was a nice guy.
  • We're not sure if there has ever been another case where killing someone and displaying his rotting body has made people like someone. Don't try this on your next date.
  • Things were going okay for Borgia, until he realized that his buddy France was turning on him.
  • He needed some new buddies, and soon—but then his dad died, throwing a wrench in Borgia's plans.
  • But he'd always been a quick thinker. He made a new, four-part plan to deal with whomever the new pope (and so the new ruler of the Papal Lands which were pretty big and powerful) was going to be.
  • (1) Kill more people who didn't like him
  • (2) Make friends with all the nobles of Rome
  • (3) Control the people who were choosing the new pope
  • (4) Get lots and lots of land before the new pope came so he could defend himself
  • When he died, Borgia was pretty close to checking off all of the to-dos on his list. The only thing left was to become master of Tuscany, which would happen as soon as he completed his collection of regions with Pisa.
  • But, well, he never got Pisa. And he was mortally ill. And the new pope? He hated Borgia. So, yeah. Not so great.
  • Despite all this, Machiavelli says that Borgia is the best role model for any new ruler because he did all the things that a ruler should do, like killing all your enemies ruthlessly and appearing to be a nice dude.
  • The only problem was his horrible bad luck.
  • Machiavelli only has this critique of Borgia: he let Julius II become pope.
  • There were tons of other options that would at least have been afraid of Borgia—if not his best bud—but instead, he let the papacy go to a hater. Not a smooth move.

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