The Ministry of Magic is one of the strangest and most mysterious government organizations in fiction, but that comes as no surprise since they are literally the governing body of magic in Britain. The Ministry's reach seems to go far, and they control and adjudicate over every aspect of magical life in the British wizarding world.
And one of the most interesting elements of the Ministry of Magic is the Wizengamot, the wizarding court within the Ministry. The Wizengamot is a collection of wizards who are set to serve as the judge and jury for any wizard or witch in the UK who breaks magical law, and it is they who decide what punishment is fit for what crime. The Wizengamot's appearance in the Harry Potter book and film series is relatively brief, but it's one of the most interesting and powerful organizations in the entire wizarding world. And here are 10 facts you probably didn't know about the Wizengamot.
10 Its Members Have A Uniform
Wizard robes don't seem to have a ton of variety to begin with, but the robes that the wizards and witches are required to wear in the Wizengamot are quite particular, and they actually do vary from book to screen.
In the Harry Potter books, the uniforms are described as plum purple colored robes with a large silver W embroidered on the front. The Wizengamot uniforms in the movie, however, are a lighter, almost magenta looking purple, and they have no embroidery either. The movie version of the Wizengamot also wear very large hats, and their entire uniform has a very clerical look to it.
9 Ignorance Is No Excuse
The Harry Potter films obviously have to get much more detailed in their costuming and set design than the book does, the books can just offer passing descriptions and that's enough. But one of the more interesting details in the movie version of the Wizengamot is that their insignia bears a Latin phrase, "ignorantia juris neminem excusat".
"Ignorantia juris neminem excusat" roughly translates to "ignorance of the law is no excuse". Obviously, that's a pretty common saying among muggle law as well, and it's interesting that the typically more casual and free-wheeling wizarding world still subscribes to that same idea when it comes to the law.
8 It's Been Active For Nearly 500 Years
Given how wild the wizarding world seems to be today, it's fairly reasonable to assume that the wizarding world in the distant past would have been like Mad Max but with magic. But that's actually not the case.
The Wizengamot has existed as an institution for approximately five centuries. The earliest record of the Wizengamot being active is in 1544, and it has been the committee that has adjudicated on the breaking of magical law ever since then. Although there aren't many details known about the laws and punishments of the era, here's hoping they have at least lightened up on the punishments since medieval times.
7 It Was Part Of The Wizard's Council
For those who are unfamiliar with the term, the Wizard's Council is actually the wizarding organization that came before the Ministry of Magic.
The Wizard's Council was founded nearly a millennia ago, it's existence at the very least goes back to the mid-1200s, and it was the governing body of the wizarding world in the UK from the moment of its inception until the Ministry of Magic was created. And of course, the Wizengamot was an essential part of the Wizard's Council, because in the early years there weren't as many rules and regulations but there still needed to be some control over magical use in the country.
6 It Predates The Ministry Of Magic
So the Wizengamot goes back at least to the mid-1500s, but the Ministry of Magic was actually only formed in 1707, which makes the Wizengamot at least a good century and a half older than the Ministry of Magic itself.
The Wizard's Council was the governing body of witches and wizards in the UK before the Ministry of Magic was created, but after the International Statute of Wizarding Secrecy was agreed on by the entire wizarding world the wizarding community in Britain realized that they would need a bigger and more organized government to handle their affairs. After the Ministry was created, the Wizengamot was incorporated into it.
5 The Wizard Wordplay
So like pretty much every weird word that J.K. Rowling decided to put into the Harry Potter universe, Wizengamot has a bit of an interesting etymology.
The prefix "wiz" seems to pretty clearly refer to the fact that it is the wizard's justice organization, but the rest of the word comes from the Old English term Witenagamot. The Witenagamot was a type of assembly that existed in Anglo-Saxon England from the 7th to 11th centuries, and it was an assembly of the important nobles in England who would collectively offer their advice to the king. Clearly, the wizards drew some inspiration from earlier muggle government.
4 They're Not Big On Defense
One of the more dubious aspects of the Wizengamot is that they seem to want whoever is on trial to just show up and sit there while the Wizengamot discusses what needs to be done.
Wizards who are appearing in front of the Wizengamot can call witnesses to speak in their defense, and they can have another party speak on their behalf if they choose. However, it doesn't appear that there are any magical equivalents to a muggle lawyer, and considering the reaction to Albus Dumbledore appearing to speak on Harry Potter's behalf, it would seem that having another person speak for you is pretty unusual.
3 They Have A Chief Warlock
The Wizengamot also has what they refer to as the Chief Warlock. The Chief Warlock acts as the overseer to the Wizengamot's activities, but it's unclear what exactly the role entails.
They are there in a supervisory capacity, but they could just be there to ensure that the trials go in the way that they are supposed to, or they could possess some extra form of power such as forcing the Wizengamot to come to a decision if they find themselves in a deadlock.
Albus Dumbledore was just one of many wizards who served in the position of Chief Warlock and considering his job at Hogwarts it would seem that it can be a part-time job.
2 A Predilection For The Job Might Be Hidden In Their Wands
One particular possible quirk about the Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot may be their wands. Garrick Ollivander, who as we all know remembers every wand that he's ever sold, has made note of the fact that three Chief Warlocks in a row had strikingly similar wands.
Apparently, three Chief Warlocks in a row had wands of chestnut wood and unicorn hair center, and Ollivander pointed out that this particular combination may be a natural fit for witches and wizards who are predisposed to magical law. It's unclear who these particular Chief Warlocks were, but it would be interesting to know if they had anything else in common besides their wands.
1 They Almost Never Go Full Wizengamot
As anyone who is familiar with the muggle justice system might expect, for the most part, the Wizengamot oversees and deals with magical crimes that are on a pretty small scale. The magical equivalent of misdemeanors, if you will. And when it comes to these small potato crimes, usually only a section of the Wizengamot appears and adjudicates over the trial.
However, on a very rare occasion, the entire Wizengamot will assemble for a trial, and typically that will be for more extreme crimes. When Harry Potter appeared before the Wizengamot the entire Wizengamot assembled, and a few wizards noted how strange it was that the full Wizengamot appeared for such a minor infraction.