Muggles' Guide to Harry Potter/Characters/Cornelius Fudge
Cornelius Oswald Fudge is the Minister for Magic, which makes him the senior government official of the Wizarding world. He seems to have decided that he should adopt the dress of a government minister, as befits his office, but like so many wizards, does not quite understand the details of Muggle garments; in the books, one of his signature possessions is his lime-green bowler hat.
Role in the Books
Cornelius Fudge is entirely off-stage in this book. It is mentioned that he is perpetually summoning Professor Dumbledore to London for consultation, and that Fudge became Minister for Magic when Dumbledore turned down the offer.
Fudge appears briefly in this book, only long enough to accuse Hagrid of opening the Chamber of Secrets, and place him under arrest. Fudge's behavior in this vignette is already enough to show him as a pompous bureaucrat. He is also present when Lucius Malfoy arrives with an order for Dumbledore's dismissal.
When Harry arrives at The Leaky Cauldron after catching a ride on the Knight Bus, Fudge meets him at the door, much to Harry's shock. Apparently, Fudge has been involved in some effort to find Harry, and is relieved that he has appeared. Fudge takes him to a private room, has the innkeeper, Tom, bring tea, and tells Harry, who has been dreading punishment for his unauthorized use of magic, that it could have happened to anyone, and that it will be forgotten. He goes on to ask if Harry would spend the remainder of his summer vacation there at the Leaky Cauldron, and in Diagon Alley, staying clear of the Muggle side of the inn. He also suggests that Harry should expect to stay at Hogwarts over Christmas and spring breaks, and is politely disbelieving when Harry says he would much rather do that. However, when Harry, taking courage from Fudge's apparent expansiveness, asks Fudge to sign his Hogsmeade permission slip, Fudge refuses, fumbling out some sort of excuse.
Fudge re-appears in Hogsmeade at Christmas, where we see him discussing the current state of affairs with Professor Flitwick, Professor McGonagall, Hagrid, and Madam Rosmerta. Harry, who is in Hogsmeade without permission, must hide under the table. When Rosmerta complains the Dementors are affecting her business, Fudge explains they are necessary because Sirius Black is so dangerous. Rosmerta mentions that Sirius and James Potter were great friends once, always in the Three Broomsticks together. This surprises Harry. Fudge says that not only was Sirius James' best friend, but also best man at his wedding and Harry's godfather. As the conversation continues, it is learned that James and Lily knew Lord Voldemort was hunting them and went into hiding. They used the Fidelius charm to conceal themselves and appointed Sirius their Secret-Keeper. Dumbledore, aware someone close to them was leaking secrets, offered to be their Secret-Keeper, but they declined. Barely a week later, Voldemort killed James and Lily, although he met his own demise in baby Harry. Obviously Black, tired of playing double agent, had thrown his lot in with Voldemort but, after his defeat, had to flee for his life. Peter Pettigrew, another Potter friend, caught up to Black the next day and accused him of betraying James and Lily. Black killed him and twelve Muggle bystanders with a single curse. Only Pettigrew's bloodstained robes and a severed finger were left. Black was sentenced to Azkaban, where he remained until his escape. It is believed he is now trying to reunite with Voldemort, perhaps after killing Harry to prove his loyalty.
Finally, when Sirius Black is captured, Fudge appears again to take custody of him. He accepts Professor Snape's version of the story at face value, refusing to believe Harry's and Hermione's protestations of Sirius' innocence and the presence of Peter Pettigrew. After Black escapes, Snape returns to the hospital wing with Fudge alongside, insisting that Harry had something to do with Sirius' escape. Harry states that he was locked into the hospital wing for the entire time that Snape was away, and Fudge expresses the belief that Snape has become somewhat unhinged. Professor Dumbledore, who is present, says that Snape has just suffered a disappointment.
We first see Fudge when we enter the Top Box at the Quidditch World Cup with Harry and the Weasley family. Fudge is exasperated because his opposite number, the minister for magic from Bulgaria, apparently speaks no English, and Fudge has been trying to communicate with him by sign language all day. Also present is Lucius Malfoy, there as Fudge's guest, in gratitude for a large donation that Malfoy has just made to St. Mungo's Hospital. At the end of the match, the Bulgarian minister comments that it was a good match, and says that he had not told Fudge that he spoke English because it was so comical watching him try to act out his meaning.
We see Fudge again when Bartemius Crouch appears on the outskirts of the Forbidden Forest, apparently insane, and then vanishes. Foul play is suspected, of course, and Fudge apparently arrives at the school in order to use Dumbledore's and Professor Moody's input to support placing blame. Harry, standing outside Dumbledore's office door, hears Fudge suggesting that Madame Maxime, the headmistress of Beauxbatons Academy, may be at fault, because of her parentage. Harry is caught eavesdropping, and says that Madame Maxime was nowhere in sight, and she would be hard to miss after all. Fudge, Moody, and Dumbledore depart to look at the place where Mr. Crouch had been seen, leaving Harry alone in Dumbledore's office.
With Crouch missing and Percy Weasley, his assistant, in some disgrace, Fudge himself takes on the task of judging the Third Task of the Triwizard Tournament. When Harry and Cedric Diggory emerge from the maze, Fudge tries to disguise the fact that Cedric has been murdered, saying he is only injured. Summoned to Professor Moody's office to interrogate Barty Crouch Jr., Fudge feels that he must bring a Dementor with him; the Dementor administers the Kiss to Crouch immediately, making it impossible for Fudge to hear his confession directly. He then dismisses Harry's story of the return of Voldemort, saying that it can't be true. At one point, talking to Dumbledore, he almost seems to plead with him, asking Dumbledore to confirm that it can't have happened; but when Dumbledore remains unshakable, Fudge decides that Dumbledore has chosen to stand against the Ministry and they have reached a parting of ways.
Fudge rightly believes that if Lord Voldemort has returned, his tenure in office will end. In order to deny what Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter, and Severus Snape have told him and shown him, Fudge has to come up with an alternate explanation; and the explanation he apparently comes up with is that Dumbledore has decided to become Minister for Magic and has set himself up as an enemy of the Ministry. To defend himself against this contrived threat, Fudge must discredit Dumbledore and Harry, so he apparently engineers the removal of Dumbledore from the Wizengamot, replacing Dumbledore himself. He also leans on the Daily Prophet so that they will print stories that disparage Harry and Dumbledore, thus attempting to ensure that anything that they say can be easily discredited.
All of this is happening behind the scenes. The first time we actually see Fudge in the story is when Harry is at his hearing for his unauthorized use of magic. Fudge has apparently convened the full Wizengamot for the hearing, and is acting as combination head judge and prosecutor. He has decided Harry's guilt, and even in the face of evidence from Dumbledore and Arabella Figg that there were Dementors present, thus making the use of magic justified under the law, insists on bringing up irrelevant information that he feels bolsters the Ministry case against Harry. In the end, however, the panel of judges rules that Harry's use of magic was justified. Fudge sullenly declares him cleared of all charges, and leaves. As Harry departs the courtroom with Arthur Weasley, they run into Fudge and Lucius Malfoy, who is evidently about to make a large donation for something. After exchanging a few barbs with Mr. Weasley, Lucius suggests that he and Fudge should adjourn to Fudge's office, and let Arthur go about his business.
Fudge does not directly appear through much of the rest of the book; instead, he arranges the passage of Educational Decree Number Twenty Two, providing that the Ministry can appoint teachers to fill vacancies at Hogwarts when the Headmaster is unable to fill them himself. Using this decree, Fudge appoints Dolores Umbridge to the school as teacher of Defence Against the Dark Arts. Umbridge apparently has been given the prime mission of preventing the students from learning any useful jinxes, as the class is taught theory only, and apparently from a book that stresses negotiation rather than defence. Harry guesses that this is because Fudge fears that Dumbledore wants to become Minister for Magic himself, and so he is trying to prevent Dumbledore's school from creating an army that can be used against Fudge; Sirius Black later confirms this belief. Fudge also acts to increase his control over Hogwarts indirectly, by issuing new Educational Decrees that grant ever more powers to Umbridge.
He returns directly to our story at the point where Harry's Defence Against the Dark Arts group, "Dumbledore's Army", is broken up by the actions of Marietta Edgecombe. Umbridge calls him in to witness the capture and punishment of the group, who are supposedly meeting in direct violation of Educational Decree Number Twenty-Four, which prohibits unapproved student groups. Fudge is dismayed to find that the only meeting of which they have direct evidence actually occurred before the Decree was made, and therefore is not in violation, and is further upset when Miss Edgecombe refuses to repeat the story she had told Professor Umbridge, instead silently maintaining that there had been no meetings since the first. However, Umbridge does finally retrieve the Dumbledore's Army membership list, and Dumbledore quietly agrees that, as Fudge had supposed, Dumbledore was creating a private army. However, when Fudge demands that he give himself up, Dumbledore refuses; in the ensuing, brief battle, Fudge, along with Umbridge and the Aurors Fudge has brought, are rendered unconscious and Dumbledore escapes. Fudge, on regaining his senses, runs off thinking that he is chasing Dumbledore.
At this point, Fudge manages to get Umbridge appointed Headmistress. However, she is unable to enter the Headmaster's office, remaining in her original office.
Finally, at the end of the battle at the Ministry, Fudge actually sees the returned Voldemort, who is rescuing Bellatrix Lestrange, one of his supporters. Fudge blusters at Dumbledore, but eventually must concede that Dumbledore and Harry were right all along, and that Voldemort has returned.
At the beginning of this book, we find out that Cornelius Fudge has been sacked as the Minister for Magic in favor of Rufus Scrimgeour, though he has stayed on as Scrimgeour's assistant. He appears in the Muggle prime minister's office at the start of the book, to brief the Muggle Prime Minister on the current state of affairs in the Wizarding world and introduce Scrimgeour. When the Prime Minister asks why they can't eliminate the threat by using magic, it is Fudge who points out that the other side has magic also. During his conversation with the Prime Minister, Fudge makes mention of having written to Dumbledore twice a day in the past fortnight. It is later revealed that in a desperate bid to remain in office, Fudge wrote to Dumbledore to set up a meeting between himself and Harry to gain his support, but Dumbledore knowing Harry would never agree, ignore him. He has very little additional role to play in this book, though he does attend Dumbledore's funeral.
Though Fudge does not appear in this book he is mentioned a few times. His fate after the Ministry is taken over by Death Eaters is unknown.
Though it takes seeing Voldemort with his own eyes, Fudge does admit that he was wrong. Umbridge conceals from Fudge the fact that she ordered the dementors to attack Harry and later plans to do the same with her use of the Cruciatus Curse, implying that Fudge has at least enough morals that he would disapprove of these actions if he knew about them. He also showed clear disapproval at Lucius Malfoy's order for Dumbledore's dismissal despite his esteem for the former.
Though nowhere near Dumbledore's level, Fudge may be a reasonably skilled wizard in his own right. He at the very least seemed competent enough in his abilities to challenge Dumbledore, though it should be noted that he only did so with Umbridge, Dawlish, and Shacklebolt's assistance (and that all four were defeated rather quickly).
Cornelius Fudge is first and foremost a politician. His primary concerns are the viability of his post and his popularity. When faced with the inconvenient truth of Voldemort's return, Fudge chooses to deny the danger to the Wizarding World. Instead, he labors to discredit those who, in his opinion, threaten his political power. Ultimately he shows himself to be paranoid, self-centered, corrupt and without scruples. He also appears to be somewhat gullible, being easily duped by Lucius Malfoy and apparently failing to recognize Umbridge for what she was.
Relationships with Other Characters
Nowhere in the books do we see Fudge in anything except his political persona. If he has relationships based on anything except political advantage, we remain unaware of them. We note that his relationship with Dumbledore is seen to change over the story arc: Hagrid tells us that Fudge is perpetually seeking Dumbledore's advice in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, but at the end of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Cornelius determines that accepting Dumbledore's statement would be political suicide, and so turns against him. This rift likely can never heal, as Dumbledore wisely comments at one point that "it is far easier to forgive someone for being wrong, than to forgive them for being right." Added to the fact that Dumbledore was right about Voldemort, is the fact that Fudge lost office almost immediately after Voldemort's return was independently confirmed, a loss for which he almost certainly would blame Dumbledore, and we can guess that Fudge likely never spoke to Dumbledore again. We suspect that Fudge's motive for attending Dumbledore's funeral was equally political.
Cornelius Fudge is presented from the beginning as a classic politician, whose planning horizon extends no further than his own re-election. While it is not safe to guess at his motivations, we can see that he is modeled on any of a large number of politicians active in democratic governments throughout the world. The author has clearly studied the ways of politicians, and has amplified the self-serving characteristics in order to make a thoroughly unpleasant, shallow "leader" for the Wizarding government.
This being nominally a series of books for children, one may wonder why the author chose to install such a venial government? Our introduction to the Ministry is Hagrid's comment in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, about the Ministry of Magic messing up again. One can hear echoes of this statement at very nearly every family breakfast table most mornings, as the daily newspaper is perused. Perhaps part of the intent is to illuminate the reasoning behind the utterance. Alternately, perhaps this portrayal of the Wizarding government's failings is a way to enlighten children as to why they should not blindly trust the government. Fudge's obvious self-serving nature, seen in these books without the intervening shielding layers of "spin-doctors" and mass media common in the Muggle world, can be held up for comparison with the antics of real politicians. As the books' story arc progresses, and the Ministry is ever-more exposed, the reader may be able to draw tighter parallels between the morning expression of distrust of the government and the actual actions of the people involved in it.
On a completely irrelevant note: In October 2013, a narwhal tusk was auctioned off that had been Presented to Cornelius Fudge. Master at Arms. By his mess mates as a mark of respect and esteem on his leaving H.M.S London at Zanzibar to retire from the service. September 1881. The owner of the tusk had written to J. K. Rowling to ask if there was any connection, and she responded that there was none she was aware of.
- Why does Cornelius Fudge not like Albus Dumbledore?