XII.28 On the consideration which monarchs owe to their subjects

They must be extre­mely cau­tious with res­pect to mockery. It flat­ters when it is mode­rate, because it offers a means of deve­lo­ping fami­lia­rity ; but cut­ting mockery is much less allo­wa­ble to monarchs than to the least of their sub­jects, because they are the only ones who always wound mor­tally.

Even less must they poin­tedly insult one of their sub­jects : they exist to par­don and to punish, never to insult.

When they insult their sub­jects, they treat them much more cruelly than the Turk or the Muscovite treats his. When these insult, they humi­liate without disho­no­ring ; but monarchs both humi­liate and disho­nor.

Such is the bias of Asiatics that they take an affront from the prince as an effect of pater­nal kind­ness ; and such is our man­ner of thin­king that we add to the cruel fee­ling of the affront the des­pair of never being able to purge it.

They must be char­med to have sub­jects for whom honor is dea­rer than life, and not less a rea­son for loyalty than for cou­rage.

We can recall mis­for­tu­nes that have befal­len prin­ces for insul­ting their sub­jects : the repri­sals of Chærea,1 of the eunuch Narses,2 and of Count Julian3 ; also of the Duchess of Montpensier, who, furious at Henry III for having revea­led one of her secret flaws, tor­men­ted him for the rest of his life.4

[Cassius Chaerea assassinated Caligula for mocking him, in the year 41.]

[Narses, a Byzantine general (mid-6th century) was reputed to have taken vengeance on the empress Sophie by inviting the Lombards to invade Italy.]

[Count Julien was said to have avenged an insult to his daughter Florinda by calling the Moors into Spain.]

[Catherine de Lorraine, duchess of Montpensier, was a declared enemy of Henry III and, after two of her brothers were assassinated at Blois, claimed to be behind the king’s own assassination in 1589.]