Ronald Rust

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Lord Rust
Lord Rust, as drawn by Matt Smith
Name Ronald Rust
Race Human
Physical appearance Now infirm with age and confined to a wheelchair
Residence Ankh-Morpork
Relatives Baron Rust, Lord Albert Rust - father or grandfather?
Children Son, Gravid & daughter Regina.
Marital Status married
Books Jingo, Night Watch
Cameos Mentioned Men at Arms, The Fifth Elephant, Monstrous Regiment, Snuff

Surname of one of the older noble families in Ankh-Morpork, the most powerful city-state on the Sto Plains. The ancestor of the current Lord Rust was created a Baron after single-handedly killing thirty-seven Klatchians while apparently armed with nothing more than a pin.

The Rust family has adjusted to the fall of the monarchy and the rise of merchants and Guilds and now makes money by renting out slum property. Current leader: Lord Ronald Rust, or "Ronnie." He is the drawling kind of nobleman, the gentleman who looks so leisurely that he seems to be sleeping during important meetings. Lady Sybil Ramkin, who had dated him for a little while when they were younger, once remarked that Lord Ronald Rust was rather a wet fish.

He was one of the noblemen invited by Edward d'Eath to plot the restoration of the monarchy, and like the others, he was not interested. During the recent "almost war" with Klatch, (the conflict reached a stage of serious football) Lord Rust assumed command of the Ankh-Morpork forces.

He is known to have at least one son (possibly the notorious Gravid) who was brought before the Patrician for shooting a servant.

Lord Rust was also commander - by strict order of the Patrician, of Ankh-Morpork's military contingent only - in Ankh's recent intervention in the war between Borogravia and Zlobenia. he was also, again by strict order, only second-in-command of the whole expedition - the command, as well as sole direction of the political and diplomatic contingent, went to another, vastly more able, person. The suspicion is there that another reason for selecting two commanders who could barely stand each other was partly for their own further education, and mainly to put a brake on any lingering ambitions that a Rust, in charge of a small army, might have entertained for the Patricianship.

During the Glorious Revolution he was a young captain and was put in charge of one of the Watch Houses. Rust's actual aptitude for tactical thought and leadership can be best surmised from Vimes' evaluation of him during that period: "the gods' gift to the enemy, any enemy, and a walking encouragement to desertion."

An ancestor, Lord Albert Rust, is distinguished with a civic equestrian statue, despite not having won any battles nor having brought too many men back with him.

When His Grace, Sir Samuel Vimes rails against the bloated and blighted aristocracy, he is thinking of the Hon. Ronnie.

Lord Rust is something of a cartoon of all the supercilious snobs of movie and story aristocracy, conflicted by greed and vanity on one hand, and patriotism and "the done thing" on the other. He is arrogant and ignorant and a very dangerous military commander; he expects huge casualties, and if they have to be his, c'est la guerre. He has been described as operating on the principal that any battle where you can deduct your casualties from the casualties suffered by the enemy and result in a positive number is a glorious victory. In Jingo he even became the official leader of the city, but his military and political incompetence was soon exposed.

When most recently encountered in Snuff, as a wholly unexpected meeting for Sam Vimes who is also well out of the city. Vimes is shocked to see how much his old adversary has deteriorated physically: he is now wheelchair-bound and on the long downhill slope to Death. In this spirit, they mellow out and accord each other a certain respect, even though anything more than this is possibly too much to hope for. This may also be one of the reasons why Vetinari has left him alone after his brief stint as Patrician: an invalid Rust is even less of a continuing threat.

He later discovers the Rust family also own a second property in the same general area as Crundells: this is the family's country seat of Hangnails, and Rust and his son are currently in residence "on business".

We also learn that the very unpleasant son is called Gravid Rust, described by Colonel Charles Augustus Makepeace as a greasy lad with a name like a pregnant frog. Nobody who bred fish or dragons would ever call a son that; but, as the Colonel observed, Ronald Rust is not the kind of man to open up a dictionary and look things up. Rust also has at least one daughter; the eldest of whom is expected to inherit the family estates and name, if anything untoward involving native arachnids were to happen happen to Gravid while exiled in Fourecks.

Rust apparently had a favourite junior officer who is now something of a crony, Colonel Edgehill.


Rust is very reminiscent, in speech, manner and description, of Lord Cardigan, who led the Light Brigade in that renowned headlong dash against Russian artillery at the Battle of Balaclava. (1854)

Cardigan was a typical son of privilege, a baying, drawling, affected dandy not over-burdened with brains, who effectively bought his way up the ladder of rank in the British Army and was one of the explicit reasons why Garnet Wolseley reformed the system to one of a completely professional officer class that would, at least in theory, be selected and promoted on merit only. (In practice, considerations such as background, social standing, education - not so much quality of, but type of - and whether or not you have an independent income over and above the official pay scale, are still important considerations in certain corps and regiments of the British Army today, in 2007...). Cardigan's horse was, interestingly, "Ronald", a famous charger bred on Cardigan's Deene Park estate.

There are also striking similarities with the life, attitudes and military proficiencies of George Armstrong Custer, perhaps a North American relative of the Universal Rust. Custer was the same sort of affected dandy, with milky-blue eyes and long blonde hair of which he was vainly proud, even when it became thin and grey. He also led a cavalry regiment to destruction in an impetuous and ill-considered charge against superior odds - and he is still remembered today as an epitome of vainglory.

One suspects that the young Terence Pratchett had trouble with someone named Ronald at school. Discworld Ronalds include the former King of Lancre, Ronald the Third, remembered in an unflattering bit of rhyming slang, Ronnie Jenks, a bully, Foul Ole Ron, raving mad with a smell that repels buzzards, and Lord Ronald Rust, with a less pleasant personality. And interestingly, the chosen first name of Kaos, when he settles down to run a dairy as Mr Soak, is Ronnie. (Another level of disguise?)

A Bernhard Rust [1] served as Hitler's Reichsfuhrer for Education and Science. By all accounts neither a sympathetic man, nor especially intelligent, he was not a great leader or administrator and his underlings were kept constantly busy compensating for his errors and preventing German education going down the toilet. This Rust was also obsessed with the purity of the German language and the perceived need for all German children to be taught correct grammatical forms and spellings. His life's work was to create a single standard form of High German that would supercede all the little quirks and differences of the myriad dialect forms. He was frequently thwarted in this by people who told him Germany had other rather more pressing things to worry about, like losing the war. But it is interesting to note that this Rust was, literally, a Grammar Nazi.

Continuity glitch?

The novel Snuff is fairly explicit that Gravid Rust is the only son of Lord Rust, and that on his necessary demise, the sucession must therefore go to his sister Lady Regina. But the Discworld Fools' Guild Yearbook and Diary 2001 tells a different story. In the section dealing with the espionage and intelligence-gathering function of the Fools' Guild, one interesting snippet of useful news concerns the massive gambling debts of The Honourable Charles "Charlie" Rust, explicitly described as "the younger son of Lord Rust". Unless Charles Rust has also died in strange circumstances (and this might have been mentioned?) there's a continuity problem going on here. The possible demise of Charlie Rust is implied on a close reading of the text. Apparently he borrowed $100,000 from Chrysoprase to cover his gambling debts. And had problems paying it back. Hmmm. The intelligence notes also observe that his father, Lord Rust, was in no position to assist because his mercantile fleet had suffered serious attrition for various reasons and the family finances had been considerably impaired as a result. (Interesting sideline: is this another reason why his son Gravid looked for an alternative way of making money quickly and with no questions asked - hence setting up the events of Snuff?)