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Patrician of Ankh-Morpork

The Patrician of Ankh-Morpork is the title for the head of the fictional city state of Ankh-Morpork in the Discworld series.


The Institution's history

Ankh-Morpork used to be run by kings, until King Lorenzo the Kind (a characterisation both accurate and misleading because Lorenzo was "very kind" to children) was executed by Stoneface Vimes, an ancestor of Ankh-Morpork City Watch Commander Samuel Vimes. The ensuing revolution eventually brought about the institution of Patricians as rulers of the city.

A Patrician has almost absolute power over the affairs of the city and works together with the leaders of the city's Guilds, who are the ones who unofficially elect him in the first place. Eligible for election are members of rich and influential families. Unfortunately, almost all of the people who have held the post through the years did not prove to be much different from a king, except from the fact that power was not given automatically to their descendants. They were despotic, oppressive and fairly often mad. Past Patricians have included Mad Lord Snapcase, Frenzied Earl Hargath, Nersh the Lunatic, and Giggling Lord Smince.

Lord Havelock Vetinari

The current Patrician of Ankh-Morpork is Lord Havelock Vetinari, who has proved to be quite different from his predecessors.

Early years

Lord Vetinari was born in the extremely powerful Vetinari family (a word play on the real life family of the Medici) and raised by his aunt. As a youth he enrolled in the Ankh-Morpork Assassins' Guild which, apart from teaching its students how to kill other people for money, also gives them an excellent education. Lord Vetinari was particularly interested in the classical arts and camouflage. He enjoyed the nickname of Dog-botherer. He graduated from the Guild with exceptional marks. He later journeyed to Uberwald on what is known as the Grand Sneer – travels of the younger members of rich families to backward areas to see first hand how much more inferior they are. (See also Grand Tour.) There he met the vampire Lady Margolotta. It is implied that the two had some kind of relationship. He taught her a lot of what she knows.

Rise to power

Lord Vetinari succeeded Mad Lord Snapcase, who had been as mad as his name suggests. One of Vetinari's earliest actions and a sample of his way of running the city was to legalize Guilds such as those of the Thieves or the "Seamstresses" (that is, the Prostitutes), which had been active but outlawed for years. Their leaders became esteemed members of society and their members insured and licensed. Eventually, lawlessness was not eliminated so much as organized. Nowadays, for a modest fee, an Ankh-Morpork citizen may walk the streets confident that he will not be mugged more than a few times per year.

Vetinari's golden rule

Lord Vetinari's genius political thinking and his running of the city can be summarised in his belief that what people wish for most is for things to stay the same. This does not mean that there are absolutely no changes, however; the Vetinari family motto is Si non confectus, non reficiat (If it ain't broke, don't fix it). Things that don't work, however, get broken.

Staying in power

While he is quite unpopular, like his predecessors, contrary to them Lord Vetinari is disturbingly sane and still alive. He manages this by being equally disliked by all power-wielding groups in the city, but not more than each of these groups dislikes all of the others and by carefully arranging matters so that a reality which includes him as Patrician is slightly better than one which does not. The Assassins' Guild no longer accepts contracts on the Patrician (the price he used to have was the highest ever - one million Ankh-Morpork dollars).

Other reasons for the Patrician's continued rule is his mastery of diplomacy and manipulation of the human nature, his distant and menacing air, his everpresent calmness and composure which puts other people off their ease, his abilities as a listener (often people tell him things simply to fill his silence) and of course his very, very good skills as an Assassin.

Appearance, habits and miscellaneous

Lord Vetinari is currently in his fifties. He is tall, thin and dresses all in dusty black. His appearance has been likened to that of a predatory flamingo, if one existed. He lives and works in the Patrician's Palace, which used to be the Royal Winter Palace. He sits on a plain wooden chair at the feet of the Golden Throne of Ankh (much like the Steward of Gondor in The Lord of the Rings) and accepts auditions in the Oblong Office (a reference to the White House's Oval Office). He has never been seen asleep, but presumably does so in a spartan chamber next to his office. Since an assassination attempt on his life, he has used an ebony cane.

Strangely enough, Vetinari has no lust for power. The sole reason for him ruling the city is that he is fiercely loyal to it. He also has no exploitable vices, barring his intense dislike of mime to the extent of outlawing all practice of it within the city walls and subjecting perpetrators to being suspended upside down in a scorpion pit on the walls of which is the inverted notice "Learn the words".

He does keep a pet, a sixteen-year old terrier dog called Wuffles. It is said that Wuffles is the only living creature Lord Vetinari actually cares about. Wuffles has been described as very elderly in two books that take place many years apart; perhaps Vetinari's only quirk is to name all his dogs Wuffles. He also enjoys reading written music, because the idea of it being performed by people, with all the sweat and saliva involved, strikes him as distasteful.

Lord Vetinari also has a strange clock in his waiting-room. It ticks and tocks out of time, which has the effect of turning your brain "into a sort of porridge" (Feet of Clay).


Lord Vetinari makes featured appearances in the Discworld novels Sourcery, Guards! Guards!, Moving Pictures, Reaper Man, Men at Arms, Feet of Clay, Jingo, Interesting Times, Soul Music, The Fifth Elephant, The Truth, and The Last Hero. Night Watch features him in his youth.

Other Media

Lord Vetinari was played by Crawford Logan in the 1992 BBC Radio 4 adaption of Guards! Guards!. To many fans of the books, however, the character is firmly associated with Stephen Briggs, who has portayed him on the amateur stage and at numerous Discworld Events.

External Links

Last updated: 10-24-2004 05:10:45