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The Patrician is the ruler (read: "dictator for life") of Ankh-Morpork since the end of the monarchy, with the death of King Lorenzo the Kind at the hand of "Stoneface" Vimes, then commander of the Ankh-Morpork City Watch and supposedly ancestor of Samuel Vimes. In absence of a monarch, the Patricians have inherited the right to create lordships.

Upon the death (or perceived disability) of the Patrician, a council of guild leaders elects a new one immediately, without any sort of campaign or overt search for candidates. They will have had their replacement in mind for some time. Quite often the change is accelerated by the intervention of the Assassins' Guild. In theory, the council has also the possibility merely to require the Patrician to step down; but this idea had been brought up only once and wasn't implemented.

Historically, Patricians were often power-mad, selfish men who didn't want to share their power. They believed in the principle of "one man, one vote" (as in, "I am the Man, I have the Vote"). Such a figure would have powerful enemies, and frequent assassinations would be attempted. The Patrician would decide to hold on to his power monopoly even tighter, and not to trust anybody. This would make for more enemies, more assassination attempts, more paranoia on the Patrician's part, and it would go on until an assassination attempt was successful and a new Patrician came into place. The more insane Patricians have been discussed in Guards! Guards! and Men at Arms. People often pointed out that being a patrician simply would drive a man mad. Ankh-Morporkians sometimes speculate that their current patrician, Lord Vetinari, may be mad underneath his cold, calculating sanity.

While the idea of a dictator elected by a college of representatives is unusual on Roundworld, a parallel to the Patricianship exists in the governance of professional sports leagues. There is usually a Commissioner or League President who is at once all-powerful and totally beholden to the team owners; he is in charge as long as he doesn't annoy more than half of them. The Guild of Assassins is not usually involved, of course.

Patricians mentioned in the books include:

  • Nersch the Lunatic
  • Olaf Quimby II
  • Frenzied Earl Hagarth
  • Giggling Lord Smince (whose main claim to fame was his Laugh-A-Minute Dungeon)
  • Laughing Lord Scapula mentioned in Men at Arms
  • Deranged Lord Harmoni mentioned in Men at Arms
  • Homicidal Lord Winder (at power during the bulk of the events of Night Watch and mentioned in Men at Arms)
  • Mad/Psychoneurotic Lord Snapcase (Vetinari's predecessor, in power at the end of Night Watch)
  • One or more unnamed Patricians (who may or may not be Vetinari) appearing in The Colour of Magic and mentioned in Mort
  • Lord Havelock Vetinari (the current Patrician, directly mentioned since Sourcery)

Patrician during the events of Mort[]

There is a suspicion among readers that the Patrician at the time of Mort may not have been Vetinari: The Patrician's pet is a small swamp dragon whereas Vetinari has an elderly terrier named Wuffles. There is a riotous party at the palace involving a great deal of drink, wild entertainment and damage which is not in keeping with the more reserved, abstemious and fastidious Havelock Vetinari. It is generally assumed that the Patrician prior to Vetinari was Lord Snapcase (see above); however, the possibility exists that there were one or more interim patricians between these two.

Pratchett himself says that "I'm pretty certain that the same Patrician was in all the books. [...] He's clearly lost weight and got more austere. It must be the pressure. As for racehorses and so on -- Vetinari is not the first Patrician, and no doubt the earlier ones, like Lord Snapcase, were often crazed, greedy and acquisitive. So he has inherited all sorts of things. But he doesn't change anything without a reason."

When the people on alt.fan.pratchett were not immediately prepared to take his word for this (after all, what does he know -- he's only the author...), Pratchett conceded: "How about: maybe he was Vetinari, but written by a more stupid writer?"

When some people on alt.fan.pratchett questioned whether Vetinari would really be the type of man to throw the kind of party described in Mort, Pratchett answered: "I've always thought the Patrician is a party animal. Can you imagine waking up next day and remembering all those witty things you said and did, and then realising that he was listening?"

It is also written in The New Discworld Companion that "The holder of the office throughout the Discworld Chronicles (apart from some events in Night Watch) is Havelock, Lord Vetinari"

Historical Annotation[]

The word Patrician comes from the hereditary ruling class of ancient Rome, said to be the descendants of Rome's original inhabitants. The patricians apparently took control of the city following the exile of the last king of Rome and founded the Roman republic. The patricians widely abused their power over the lower classes leading the plebs to sue for political equality with the result that in later centuries patrician status offered little more than rarity value. The patrician, ie noble-born upper classes, also alienated the intermediate equestrian class, which can be likened to the middle classes of modern society (although this is an oversimplification: the equestrian class is otherwise thought of as "the knights" of Rome, more like the lower strata of the upper classes, than a middle class in the modern sense).

It is interesting that on the downfall of the last Western Roman Emperor, Romulus, in September 476 AD, the leader of the victorious Ostragoths (who captured the city intact with little looting and sacking) refused entreaties for him to take over as Emperor. Instead, Odeoacer declared his intention to carry on ruling Rome and what he had captured of the Empire with the rank of Patrician...