Havelock Vetinari

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Havelock Vetinari as drawn by Tealin
Name Havelock Vetinari
Race Human (as far as anyone can tell)
Age about 50
Occupation Patrician, ex-Assassin
Physical appearance Tall, fragile, in control. Has a goatee. His eyes are a penetrating ice-blue in colour. Walks with a cane after the events of Men at Arms
Residence Patrician's Palace, Ankh-Morpork
Parents Father dead, didn't take things seriously enough.
Relatives Aunt Lady Roberta Meserole
Marital Status never married, linked to Lady Margolotta.
Books Sourcery
Guards! Guards!
Moving Pictures
Men at Arms
Interesting Times
Feet of Clay
The Fifth Elephant
The Truth
Going Postal
Making Money
Unseen Academicals
Raising Steam
Cameos The Colour of Magic
Soul Music
The Last Hero
Night Watch
Mort (mentioned)
Wyrd Sisters (mentioned)
Discworld Noir (his voice is heard)


If it ain't broke, don't fix it

Havelock Vetinari is the current Patrician of Ankh-Morpork. He has been the supreme ruler for some years and is the successor of Mad Lord Snapcase. The Assassins' Guild have an AM$ 1,000,000 fee for his inhumation, though rumour says that they are not accepting contracts on him at present. As a former Assassin himself, he is probably just too difficult to kill. However, his greatest defence against would-be plotters is that he carefully sees to it that a reality with him as Patrician is slightly better than one without him.

It was his discovery that people only really want stability and that tomorrow should pretty much resemble today, and this has been his greatest contribution to Ankh-Morpork. Impressively, he manages to keep this up even while he drags Ankh-Morpork, sometimes kicking and screaming, into the future. It is said that Vetinari can accomplish more with irony than most others can with steel. He can also accomplish more with one raised eyebrow than most people can with two of them and a lifetime of practice.

He seems to have no vices whatsoever, since some guild or other would otherwise undoubtedly have made use of them by now. Admittedly, Vetinari did ban street theatre and tends to hang mime artists upside down in a scorpion pit opposite a sign reading "Learn The Words," but this is generally taken by the population as simply an amusing character trait. Anyway, in Ankh-Morpork people think that strolling players are no better than criminals, and mimes are just plain freaky.

It has also recently emerged that Vetinari also has firmly-held Views about modern art which are not far removed from those he holds concerning mime artists. While a fan of music in general, Lord Vetinari believes that actual live performance of Opera proves less enjoyable than simply reading the notes on the page.

Lord Vetinari enjoys a variety of games and puzzles (both metaphoric and literal); he faithfully completes the daily crossword in the Ankh-Morpork Times and is a master at Stealth Chess. He is also an expert Thud player, adept at either the Trolls or Dwarfs side of the board. For years, he has carried on a long-distance game with Lady Margolotta of Überwald, communicating moves via clacks. While initially opposed to the street game foot-the-ball, the Patrician recently endorsed the version of the game played at Unseen University.

Several of his abilities (an absolutely photographic memory, the ability to solve puzzles almost instantly and an apparent inability to get drunk) suggest he may not be entirely human.

Though he apparently lacks any magical or technological understanding whatsoever, matters of that nature have never presented much of an obstacle to Vetinari, mostly because from his perspective such things ultimately manifest, both in initial cause and final effect, in the behaviour of people, which he understands exceedingly well.

Following the events of The Truth, he employs Charlie as his double, standing in for him on occasion. One such occasion was during Raising Steam, while Vetinari adopted the guise of Stoker Blake.

In the Sky One adaptation of The Colour of Magic he is played by Jeremy Irons. In the Sky One adaptation of Going Postal he is played by Charles Dance.


Lord Vetinari has a vast spy network, and he himself is the head of intelligence, the only man who knows all of the information so far collected. We learn in Guards! Guards! that some of his spies are particularly intelligent rats who evolved under the magic-contaminated grounds of Unseen University. Also, in The Colour of Magic, it is suggested that he uses rats as messengers as well. It also appears that he has infiltrated the intelligence networks of the rival guilds and organisations in the city, taking choice morsels of intelligence. In Sourcery he was reading a report of what the chief thief said to his deputy in their secret meeting room. The patrician is adept at using the Clacks system to deliver misinformation. He has had Leonard of Quirm create highly difficult codes that can be broken by his most intelligent rivals, thus ensuring they know what he is thinking. Or rather they know what he wants them to believe he is thinking...

Vetinari is very good at listening, and has a way of making people uncomfortable so that they talk more and more in trying to dilute the atmosphere. Lord Vetinari is also very manipulative. His more obvious moves include the innovation of allowing crime syndicates to become legalized guilds much as guilds of people of other trades. This means that a certain amount of crime is legal, and it is the responsibility of the Thieves' Guild to punish unlicensed stealing, Assassins' Guild to punish uncontracted killing, etc., arguably doing a better job than the Guard, (when the Thieves' Guild went on strike, crime actually increased.) In politics Lord Vetinari strongly believes in the "one man – one vote," system, where he-alone is the man, and he alone has the vote. It seems to follow that the Patrician does not belong to any political party.

His less obvious moves include minimizing the Night Watch division of the Ankh-Morpork City Watch; populating it with riffraff and ethnic minorities and demoralizing its leader Samuel Vimes (then Captain), with the intent of winding him up so that he might unwind all at once, overstep his diminutive jurisdiction, and sort things out (Men at Arms). Lord Vetinari hires many clerks, some trained Assassins, some young diplomats who are not from the noble families, and some spies assigned to diplomatic offices.

The Patrician's Palace is in charge of the registration of the Guilds, diplomacy with foreign countries, the wages of City employees such as the Watchmen, and so on. Lord Vetinari also likes to give important jobs to unwilling young men whom he considers capable; his victims so far include William de Worde of the Ankh-Morpork Times, and Moist von Lipwig of the Post Office and the Royal Mint.

Unlike previous Patricians, Vetinari truly works to make the city work, not for personal gain or vanity. He has carried out many devious schemes for the good of the city, and eliminates persons or situations that threaten the city. In a very complex manoeuvre, he set up the Ankh-Morpork Post Office against the clacks company Grand Trunk to get the company out of the hands of embezzlers destroying the company for profit. After the clacks system gets back on its feet, Lord Vetinari can again let foreign diplomats send a clacks home about what he wants them to think; characteristically he specifies that his codes be 'fiendishly difficult' but not unbreakable as he wants people to read them so that he knows what they think he thinks they're thinking.

Lord Vetinari's head clerk, for several years now, is a slight, quiet young man named Drumknott. Both Drumknott and the other members of the Palace staff have been instructed to accept bribes proffered for access to the Patrician.

His success has led many to attempt to emulate him – or, in some extreme cases, to become him. There is apparently an entire wing of Ankh-Morpork's mental hospital devoted to people convinced that they are Vetinari. They often engage in eyebrow-raising competitions.

After the Unseen University banquet in Unseen Academicals he confesses to Drumknott that he is 'drunk as a skunk'; however, the only apparent manifestation of this is that he becomes extremely talkative, stubs his toe on a step in the palace, and takes an extra fifty seconds to solve the Times crossword.

Early Years

Havelock was born into the extremely wealthy and influential Vetinari family, and it seems that he was raised during the early part of his life by his aunt, Lady Roberta Meserole.

In his youth, he attended the Assassins' Guild, where he studied languages (the guild being the most proper place for wealthy families to send their children for education regardless of their specific vocation). It seems that Vetinari was particularly interested in classical arts of camouflage, defying the guild's policy of all-black dress in favour of dark grey and dark green. He was failed in his stealth course on account of his teacher never seeing him in classes. This, replied Vetinari in his own defense, was to his mind the entire point of the subject.

Vetinari gained a number of qualifications at the guild, listed in the Discworld's Assassins' Guild Yearbook and Diary 2000 as: Doctor of Medicine & Applied Pathology, Doctor of Music, Doctor of God Studies, Master Assassin, Master of Political Expediency, Master of Alchemical Science, Member of the Institute of Dance & Deportment, Bachelor of the Science of Inhumation & Diploma in Physical Education. He has also gone on to become the guilds Provost.

He studied at the guild at the same time as the current Master of Assassins, Lord Downey, who gave him the less-than-affectionate nickname 'Dog-botherer'. Given the positions they respectively hold thirty years later, it is possible that Downey now regrets the little misunderstandings of their youth, especially the nickname. It is obvious that Downey's attitude to Vetinari is now one of obsequious but wary respect. He did however graduate with full honors in 1968.

At some point during his early life he journeyed to Überwald, as part of the Grand Sneer (where young members of high-born and wealthy families journey to backwards countries to see how inferior they are.) During this period Vetinari seems to have had some sort of a relationship with an Überwaldean noblewoman, the vampire Lady Margolotta. Contrary to the way things might have been expected to go, given their respective ages, it is implied that he taught her at least a good deal of what she knows about manipulation.

It is also very possible that when the Patricianship changed hands, and Snapcase demanded files be created on "up and coming young men in the Guild of Assassins", that would have been a very good time for Vetinari to embark on the leisurely coming-of-age Grand Sneer; customary to young men of his social class. If the new Patrician was seeking to establish a shortlist of candidates to ascertain the identity of the Assassin who inhumed his predecessor, it is highly likely that Vetinari would have been offered the same sort of grateful advancement as was offered to John Keel - making this an ideal time to leave the city for a few years and exploit his aunt's Disc-wide social and business connections.

How Vetinari himself ascended to the Patricianship is a story yet untold. It is known that his advice was heeded by Snapcase's administration on at least one occasion: when a 20p bounty on rat tails was introduced to combat a serious rodent infestation, but threatened to drain the treasury dry without curtailing the rats' numbers. Vetinari's suggestion to "tax the rat farms" provided an early demonstration of his shrewd political insight.

Another clue to the secret past of the Patrician is that once a year he, like several others, wears a sprig of lilac in remembrance of an important event in recent history. This is because the Patrician fought in the event on the side of the Watchmen, though at a point of time when old Vimes was not present and the young one was unconscious. As well, Vetinari himself inhumed Lord Winder, by the method of sheer terror. In the latter case, he showed a remarkable degree of foresight and high ambition: Asked by the then-Patrician Winder: "Who are yer?", he answers: "Think of me as ... your future".

It has been said that the only living thing Lord Vetinari truly cared for was his dog, an extremely elderly wire-haired terrier named Wuffles. After Wuffles' death, he religiously visits the grave weekly to leave a favourite dog biscuit. The end of Making Money seems to indicate that he has adopted the chairman of the Royal Bank, Mr Fusspot, to fill the void left by Wuffles.

In the difficult time of the Sourcerer, which is very carefully not remembered by people who were visiting their ailing aunt in Quirm at the time, Vetinari was transformed into a yellow-green lizard. Both lizard and Wuffles were taken in for safekeeping by the Librarian, until things could return to normal again. During this time, the lizard was kept in a glass jar. (This left him with an uncomfortable feeling near glass for some time.) Fortunately for the senior wizards, Vetinari suffered an uncharacteristic and extremely annoying memory loss on his return to human form, and was left with a distressing (but short-lived) urge to catch insects with his tongue...

Character Annotations

The name "Vetinari" is a pun on the infamous De' Medici family of Florence who ruled the city and surroundings during the Renaissance.

His dislike of mime artists may be based on the Roman Emperor Domitian who forbade mimes from appearing on stage in public. (Apparently appearing on stage in private was permitted between consenting adults.)

There is a famous Middle English chivalric romance called "Havelock the Dane."

There are several streets on Roundworld named 'Havelock' including a Havelock Place in Melbourne. It should be noted that many of these appear to be named after the British General Henry Havelock, who fought in the Indian Mutiny, and after whom the piece of cloth that hangs from the back of a kepi to keep the sun off the neck was named. (In the very best traditions of military officers having items of clothing named after them, and despite the fact the Japanese, who at the time didn't count, had independently invented such a useful item six hundred or so years beforehand).

Another famous Havelock was Victorian sexologist Havelock Ellis, whose career took a very decidedly non-Victorian route, when he compiled what for many years were held to be the first definitive scholarly works on deviant sexuality. As the Victorians seemed to believe virtually every form of sexual expression was deviant, Ellis had no shortage of raw material to include, and gleefully set about shocking his society with a catalogue of work that comprehensively covered just about everything imaginable and quite a few things that are not, perhaps, so easily encompassed by the normal mind. Oddly enough the writings are not at all sexually stimulating or prurient: this Havelock dissects his subject with the same sort of matter-of-fact forensic care and attention to detail that Havelock Vetinari might put to running a city. The underlying reasoning is one that Havelock Vetinari might recognise and nod approval to- there is a suspicion that Ellis is trying to wake people up and bring them to a new level of understanding about how things can be better organised and understood, even if this means having to think the hitherto unthinkable, and contemplate things previously thought beyond the civilised pale.

The name "Havelock" is often said to be of Old Norse/Norwegian origin meaning "sea war"/"sea-contest"/"sea sport" and the likes. According to this site, however, it's said to be of Germanic origin, primarily used in the Welsh language, meaning "elf warrior" or "olive tree".

Interestingly, this quote echoes Vetinari's philosophy and his stated reason why he has remained Patrician for so long:

In the end, more than freedom, they wanted security. They wanted a comfortable life...

Controversy dogs its provenance. It is sometimes attributed to historian Edmund Gibbon, writing on the final collapse of the Greek city states, first to Persia, then to Macedonia and Rome. But research suggests this is more recent: Margaret Thatcher speaking on the evils of socialism in 1994. A version may have originated with Gibbon; Thatcher's paraphrase is in the context of a diatribe on the perceived evils of state intervention and socialist patriarchy. And Gibbon certainly never said that!

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