phrases, sayings, idioms and expressions at

He that draws his sword...

Posted by Lewis on January 03, 2008

In Reply to: He that draws his sword... posted by Victoria S Dennis on December 10, 2007

: : : Does anyone know the meaning of 'He that draws his sword against his prince must throw away the scabbard'? Appears in the novel by Alan Furst: The Foreign Correspondent.

: : Anyone who draws his sword against his prince will not need his scabbard, since he won't live to use it. Perhaps it's just a poetic way of saying that once you've drawn the sword against the prince, only your death will permit you to put your sword down, as you will be busy until then defending yourself. You surely won't have time to throw your scabbard away, and you won't actually need to in any case.
: : SS

: According to Google, it was first said (presumably in Italian or Spanish), by the Duke of Parma, who was Philip II of Spain's commander in the Low Countries. It means that if you rebel against your prince you must be prepared to fight to the death, since in that situation there is no option of simply withdrawing, or patching up a truce, as there would be if you fought a foreign enemy; if your prince gets the upper hand he will - because he must - crush your rebellion utterly. (VSD)

it is quite an interesting expression - I hadn't heard it before, but it makes a great deal of sense. leading a domestic revolt means that you will never be free of enemies - even if the rebellion succeeds, there will be people from the 'losing' side who will want revenge. a foreign enemy can be accommodated, but it is very unusual for civil war to not leave serious rifts, which endure.