Is Arthur Weasley a Hat-Tip to Arthur Wellesley?

I was just finishing up my essay on the choice of 1692 for the date of the International Statue on Wizarding Secrecy, when my wife received this post on her FaceBook page from HogPro All-Pro, Jerry Bowyer:

“Hey, Mary, has John ever noticed the parallel between Arthur Weasley in HP and Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington, the British PM?”

The answer to his question is “No, I hadn’t” but it is a great catch and I blush that I hadn’t made this connection. I think it’s a match for three reasons:

(1) The consonance of the names makes it likely that every schoolboy and schoolgirl in the UK can and does make the mental leap from the fictional character’s name to that of the larger-than-life general in command at Waterloo. “Wellesley” to Brits is something like “Washington,” “Grant” or “Eisenhower” is to Americans; only Horatio Nelson rivals him, I think, in the British Empire’s military pantheon. Imagine your response to a homophonic name with any of the American generals, say, something like “Dwight Eiffeltower,” and you have a sense of the effect of “Arthur Weasley” on UK readers.

(2) While the Harry Potter character is poor and modest while the Duke was always wealthy and disdainful of those not his equals, Arthur Weasley is heroic, proud (especially of his family), and willing to fight on points of honor. His role as one of Dumbledore’s chief lieutenants in both the original and the reborn Order of the Phoenix speaks to his martial capability, ardor, and accomplishment. He defeats the Minister of Magic, Pius Thicknesse, in the Battle of Hogwarts, which suggests Napoleon at Waterloo, if clearly Harry’s victory over the Dark Lord is a closer equivalent.

(3) The Duke of Wellington was born in Ireland in an Ascendancy family, the Protestant land-owners in subjected Catholic country. One of his principal achievements as Prime Minister, though, was the Catholic Relief Act of 1829. As I explain at great length in ‘Why She Chose 1692,’ my Infinitus talk on the date of the pivotal International Statute of Wizarding Secrecy (soon to be published in Harry Potter Smart Talk, the Potter Pundits collection), the end of the 17th century is a time of death on a scale rivaling the English Civil Wars — the Plague, the Great Fire, etc. — and also a time of religious persecution, the great brunt of it falling on Catholics and non-conformist sects like the Seekers. The restrictions on Catholic participation in public life remain in force until Wellesley’s Catholic Relief Act more than a century later.

So what?

As a proud member of an Ascendancy family, Wellesley was a blue-blood Protestant whose family’s claim to power in Ireland was largely based on the subjection of Catholics there. That the Duke moved the Catholic Relief Act through Parliament seems a clear parallel with “blood traitor” Arthur Weasley, son of a pure-blood family, and his determination to legislate against abuse of non-magical people, the so-called Muggle Protection Act.

The argument of ‘Why She Chose 1692’ is largely that the witches and wizards of Ms. Rowling’s sub-creation are fictional stand-ins for the Christian hermetic magi, the Spiritual Seekers led by the three brothers Legate and John Everard, who disappeared into the Society of Friends at the end of the 17th Century. This group was a non-conformist Protestant sect of Christian perfectionists and primitivists having nothing in common with the Catholic church other than being persecuted by the Church of England, so Pure blood magus Mr. Weasley’s coming to the aid of the Muggles is a neat parallel with Protestant Wellesley’s being the agent of Catholic relief in 1829.

I suspect someone must have caught this connection before but I cannot think of anyone who has (though I hope if you can, you will let us know!). My hat is off to Mr. Boyer for the best catch since he and Susan Boyer made the House of Gaunt, “dark mark” link with Thackeray’s Vanity Fair!

Your comments and corrections are coveted, as always.


  1. Just a quick correction, John. I don’t think Arthur and Molly were in the original Order of the Phoenix.

  2. They’re not mentioned in the scene from the Order of the Phoenix (chapter 9, ‘The Woes of Mrs. Weasley) in which Mad-Eye lists many of the original Order’s members — to include the two Prewetts, Molly’s brothers — and Lupin says to Molly while comforting her in the boggart room “you weren’t in the Order then.” I don’t think we have canon evidence, though, that Arthur was not in the first Order and it seems unlikely that he wouldn’t be.

    As you know, this level of detail is not my area of expertise, Pat, so I’ll yield to your suggestion, wait for a demonstrative citation that demonstrates he wasn’t, and apologize for asserting as point of fact something I hadn’t checked.

    Thank you, then, for this point; any thoughts on the Weasley-Wellesley link that is the subject of the post?

  3. Thank you, John, for another fascinating entry!

    I’m not British so I’ve never heard of Arthur Wellesley before, but when I read the title of this blog post I was very confused for another reason. My brain immediately read, “Arthur Weasley a Hat-Tip to Arthur Weasley?” It didn’t click until the second paragraph that this WASN’T about two Arthur Weasleys!

  4. Perelandra says

    The names may sound similiar but there’s no etymological connection. Even if Rowling had this in mind, I also think she was influenced by the mythology of the weasel and the ermine (a species of weasel), valiant foes of serpents, basilisks, and cockatrices.

  5. Agreed. This isn’t an either/or name point but a ‘both/and.’ I should have mentioned the reason she chose to make Arthur “Weasel-y” but you’ve done that now. His name means “sacrificial warrior and scourge of Basilisks” (even image of Christ) as well as being a hat-tip to one of England’s greatest generals. Another great multi-valent name!

  6. Perelandra, you might want to read my blog post on the symbolism of the weasel in HP if you have not done so already. It’s the entry called “Weasley Is Our King!”

    John, I love your comment about what Arthur Weasley’s name means and your comparison of the Catholic Relief Act and the Muggle Protection Act. I definitely think that you are onto something! I thought your Infinitus talk on why Rowling chose 1692 was really interesting, and I’d love to hear more on this topic.

  7. Everard is the name of a former Hogwarts Headmaster, of course!

    From the Harry Potter Lexicon:

    “Former headmaster of Hogwarts whose portrait now hangs in the headmaster’s office. Everard is particularly famous and as a result his portrait hangs in many famous wizarding institutions, including the Ministry of Magic. Everard is a sallow-faced wizard with a short black fringe (OP22).”

  8. This is fascinating! I just finished reading “Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell”– Wellington is a supporting character in the novel.

  9. I loved ‘Jonathan Strange’ — wonderful blend of ‘Thursday Next’ and the literary-historical thrillers of Louis Bayard and Matthew Pearl.

  10. Hey brother,

    This is the most recent “name post” I could find. I was noticing the similarity between “Harry” and “Harrow” the other day:

    1. The meaning of “harrow” can be either “pillage” as in the “harrowing of hell” or the metal discs that till up soil, that prepare soil or even clay as would a “potter”
    2. The etymology’s closest grandpa is “harwe” which brings to mind “arwen”
    3. “Harrow” is a borough of NW greater londen, specifically where a BOARDING SCHOOL for boys exists by the same name
    4. It took a kid to hear this, but if you have a small child with a speach impediment pronounce the deathly hallows, it’s “deathly harrows”

    Thoughts? I know you’re partial to the “heir-y pater” thing…

  11. You’re right about my partiality! And, as interesting as “harrows” is, you haven’t made a compelling connection, I don’t think. What does this name tell us about Harry? That’s the question — and I don’t think “harrows” opens up meaning significantly.

    But it is interesting!

  12. That’s fair.

    Have you seen Inception?

  13. I thought of this when I noticed there’s a statue of Arthur Wellesley in Porto (where I live). 21 years living here and I had never noticed the statue because it’s very poorly located.- the resemblance popped up to me and notice that JK Rowling lived in Porto while she was still writing the Sorcerer’s Stone….coincidence?

  14. Bonni Crawford says

    That’s really interesting, Sara! Are there any other references to or influences of Porto (or even Portugal) in the books I wonder? Beatrice Groves has written about the significance and influence of Scotland on Rowling’s work (, but I don’t think I’ve ever read anything before that makes any link to Porto/Portugal itself – as opposed to Rowling’s relationship with her first husband, which happened there, but could have happened anywhere, in terms of any references she might make in her work. e.g. John spotted a great link between Cormoran Strike’s calls to Robin in Lethal White and Peter Rowling’s account of calling Jo when she was married to Jorge (and living in Portugal) –

    Of course, she has lived in Scotland longer and wrote all her books while living there – but she did do a significant amount of planning of the Harry Potter series while in Portugal, so there may be some subtle references we’ve missed?

  15. We were walking through Porto today. The city in which JK Rowling lived two years of her life, where she created the main plot of the story and started writing the first book. It is a known fact that she has been influenced by many things throughout the city – So we were walking by a big statue in Porto of Arthur Wellesley today which had a huge similarity to the Arthur Weasley. We couldn’t believe our eyes and therefore googled if anyone else found out about that similarity.

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