Gaining and Keeping Monarchy Power in The Prince

June 22, 2022 by Essay Writer

The Prince, a novel written by philosopher Niccolò Machiavelli, explains features of rulers that allow them to gain and keep power. Henry the VIII, monarch of England that ruled from 1509 to 1547 is best known for marrying six times, and executing two of his former wives. He broke the English Church away from the papacy, and put himself in command of the Church. He maintained power throughout his reign, and strengthened the power of the crown (‘Henry VIII of England.’). Henry VIII followed Machiavelli’s advice to achieve this success, by incorporating fear into his rule, involving himself in war and hunting, and attempting to keep a solid reputation of himself.

First, Henry VIII was known for ruling with fear. Hutton states that “Henry repeatedly declared both that he was determined to rule effectively and that the best way of managing people was through fear”. This follows Machiavelli’s advice, where he says ‘…it is much safer to be feared than loved…men have less scruple in offending one who makes himself loved than one who makes himself feared; for love is held by a chain of obligation which, men being selfish, is broken whenever it serves their purpose; but fear is maintained by a dread of punishment which never fails” (Machiavelli 72). He executed his political enemies, such as Edward Stafford, who threatened his position, as well as any of his own statesman and advisors that fell out of favor (‘Henry VIII of England.’). Henry also executed 50,000 to 70,000 people during his rule (Layton). Henry did this to keep himself feared, as it is a reliable way to prevent treason and maintain order, according to Machiavelli. The fear of a prince is sustained much longer than love for a prince, and to maintain love a prince must continue to give benefits.

Henry VIII also followed Machiavelli’s advice for war, who stated, “A prince…must, therefore, never take his thoughts away from this exercise of war, and in peace he must train himself more than in war” (Machiavelli 63). He also recommends princes to “engage continually in hunting” (Machiavelli 64). Henry closely followed this advice, as he “wore out eight horses a day while hunting” (Hutton) and was recorded as an “enthusiastic huntsman” (Williams). As Machiavelli states, hunting is essential for a prince, as it readies their body for hardships, and familiarizes the landscape for the prince, which will aid him in times of war. Henry also readied his country for war, as he greatly expanded the English navy, constructed coastal forts along England’s southern coast, and encouraged the use of artillery (Knighton). By encouraging the use of artillery, Henry helped modernize the military, while the construction of coastal forts and a grander navy did the equivalent of a stronger army for other European countries, as it would have helped protect England from threats originating from the European mainland, like France or Spain, since England was located on the British Isles, and travel by sea was required to reach them. This way, Henry VIII prepared for war.

Lastly, Henry VIII, despite his frequent executions, attempted to keep up a decent reputation for himself to not be despised by his people. He “worked hard to present an image of unchallengeable authority and irresistible power” (‘Henry VIII of England.’). This matches Machiavelli’s advice, where he advises princes to “maintain such a reputation that no one would think to deceive him or try to get around him. The prince who creates this opinion about himself will enjoy great prestige, and it is difficult to conspire against and difficult to attack someone who has such a reputation…” (Machiavelli 79). Henry regularly jousted or hunted, emphasizing his power and capabilities to his people and diplomats (‘Henry VIII of England.’). Henry VIII, by keeping himself feared, readying himself for war, and attempting to keep a good reputation about himself, he successfully maintained his position within England. Henry greatly expanded the power of the crown, executed those he disliked, made military and naval reforms, and tried to prevent himself from becoming hated.

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