No, I don’t intend to predict the identities of the next several Ministers for Magic, but rather to present and discuss the various evidence available in Harry Potter canon on the relative ages of the seven Weasley siblings.
Since the original version of this discussion, Rowling has, on her website, www.jkrowling.com, presented us not only with the actual birthdays of all the Weasley children (albeit not the years), but also with a correction to her statement in the World Book Day online chat [WBD], with respect to the relative ages of Charlie and Percy Weasley.
Throughout this essay I will use the relative dating system suggested in the Lexicon. The year designation according to the commonly employed method, using Nearly Headless Nick’s Deathday cake is given afterwards in parenthesis with a question mark to signify the uncertainty of that “guesstimate”—see e.g. my essay [TFO-1] In order to distinguish between differences in actual age and differences in school years, I will further use “H” to designate a school year with Harry and Ron’s year being “H0”. Someone born around the same time of the year as Ron and Harry, but two years prior to the boys, will consequently have been born in Y-2 and be in Hogwarts year H-2. This is done to avoid the confusion created for someone born in e.g. November who, if born in Y0 will attend H1.
There is a lot of evidence in the books regarding to the Weasley siblings—not surprisingly given the prominence of that family in the books. Five of the Weasley siblings attend Hogwarts at some point while Harry is there, and even the two oldest, Bill and Charlie, apparently left some marks on school history.
Let us first focus on the easy part—the school years of the five Weasley siblings who at some point attend Hogwarts together with Harry. It is of course easiest to start with Ron Weasley, who is in the same year as Harry.
Evidence scattered throughout the first books makes it plain that the five youngest Weasley siblings attend Hogwarts as summarized below:
|Fred & George||H-1|
That is, at the beginning of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Ginny is starting her first year at Hogwarts, Ron (obviously) his second, Fred and George their fourth and Percyhis fifth.
With respect to their birthdays, we finally know the date of the birthdays of all the Weasley children, and they are summarized below.
|Fred & George||April 1st|
Most of these dates have been disclosed at Rowling’s website in the birthday calendar, which is recorded at Mugglenet [MN]. Ron’s birthday is known from the Comic Relief chat [CR] and the twins’ birthday from Rowling’s “Extra stuff” section [JKR].
Knowing the birthdays and the relative shool years allow us to determine the precise relation between the children, because we know also that they have to be eleven years old the day they start at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
When Hermione arrived at Hogwarts, was she nearly eleven or nearly twelve? [also asked by vast numbers of people]
She was nearly twelve; you must be at least eleven to attend Hogwarts.
From Rowling’s website, the FAQ section [JKR].
What remains is to know the ages of Bill and Charlie relative to the other siblings.
Rowling has addressed this at two occasions. The first was the direct cause for the first version of this essay, and was given in [WBD].
Louisa: How old are Charlie and Bill Weasley in relation to their other siblings?
JK Rowling: Oh dear, maths. Let me think. Bill is two years older than Charlie, who is two years older than Percy.
This was, however, superceded by her later correction at [JKR]
You said recently that Charlie was two years older than Percy. If that’s so, he would have been the Seeker in Harry’s first year. Can you clarify his and Bill’s ages for us?
I knew I’d messed up that question the moment I had answered it, but web chats move fast and I wanted to keep going to get through as many questions as I could. Bill is two years older than Charlie, who is three years older than Percy, who is two years older than Fred and George, who are two years older than Ron, who is a year older than Ginny. Sorry. Maths is not my strong suit (though it’s better than my geography, as those who have found the most recent Easter Eggs might already know).
Well, at least she explicitly admits to having problems with maths …
The Years of the Weasleys
Designating the birth-years of the youngest five Weasley children is unproblematic, since they were all born during the first eight months of the year, and thus have the same relation to Ron’s year of birth, Y0 (1980?) as to his Hogwarts year.
The problem arises with the difference between Percy and Charlie. Percy was born on the twenty-second of August Y-4 (1976?), and going by Rowling’s three year difference, the immediate guess would be that Charlie was born on the twelfth of December Y-7 (1973?), making him two years, eight months and ten days older than Percy. This, however, would put him in H-5, meaning that he would be starting on his seventh year when Harry and Ron started their first.
The solution is, naturally, to use the Hogwarts years: Charlie is three years ahead of Percy at Hogwarts, which would mean that he was born December 12th Y-8 (1972?). Bill, then, being born in November, is as always two years older than Charlie at both Hogwarts and in calendar years. This allows me to create a table of the birthdays of the Weasley children:
|Bill||November 29th Y-10 (1970?)|
|Charlie||December 12th Y-8 (1972?)|
|Percy||August 22nd Y-4 (1976?)|
|Fred & George||April 1st Y-2 (1978?)|
|Ron||March 1st Y0 (1980?)|
|Ginny||August 11th Y1 (1981?)|
I have summarized the findings from the previous sections in the table below in the hope of giving a better overview of the results.
Now, all of the above seems quite clear-cut. With the available information everything fits nicely together and we can infer the age of every Weasley kid. But how well does this fit with what else is known about them: are the conclusions consistent with other evidence from the books?
Since there has never been any real question about the ages of the younger five siblings, the consistency data all pertains to the two older; Charlie and Bill.
Charlie and Quidditch
With respect Charlie, the best we know much about his age from the books ccomes from books 1 and 3 and refers to the time when he played Quidditch for Gryffindor. We learned already in PS6 The Journey From Platform Nine and Three-quarters that “
Charlie was captain of Quidditch,” but nothing is said at that point about when he was the Gryffindor Quidditch captain.
In PS9 The Midnight Duel we get the first real indication of Charlie’s Quidditch abilities.
‘He caught that thing in his hand after a fifty-foot dive,’ Professor McGonagall told Wood. ‘Didn’t even scratch himself. Charlie Weasley couldn’t have done it.’
This implies that McGonagall expects Wood to know of Charlie’s extraordinary skills as a Seeker, and Wood’s reaction (he “
was now looking as though all his dreams had come true at once“) confirms that her description indeed is meaningful to him. I cannot, however, be sure that this is because he has actually seen Charlie in action or if it is because of Charlie’s legendary status, which we hear about in book 3. In the early typewritten draft of the chapter available as one of the rewards at www.jkrowling.co.uk, she describes Wood’s reaction to Harry’s abilities. “After a couple of weeks he’d stopped calling him the ‘new Charlie Weasley’ and started telling people ‘I’ve got a Seeker even better then Charlie Weasley.'” Later in the same chapter we see the twins’ reaction to Harry becoming the new Gryffindor Seeker.
‘I tell you, we’re going to win that Quidditch Cup for sure this year,’ said Fred. ‘We haven’t won since Charlie left, but this year’s team is going to be brilliant. You must be good, Harry, Wood was almost skipping when he told us.’
One has to ask oneself, “since Charlie left what?” Is this to be read as “since Charlie left Hogwarts” or “since Charlie left the Gryffindor Quidditch side?” Of course this doesn’t necessarily mean that Gryffindor actually won the Quidditch Cup the year Charlie left (assuming that he left either Hogwarts or the Quidditch team at the end of an academic year). Another thing I note here is that Fred and George don’t mention any kind of dispensation for Charlie, which in the context would have seemed natural if Charlie had indeed played in his first year.
In PA12 The Patronus when McGonagall returns Harry’s new Firebolt to him after it has been checked for curses and jinxes.
‘Seriously,’ said Professor McGonagall, and she was actually smiling. ‘I daresay you’ll need to get the feel of it before Saturday’s match, won’t you? And Potter—do try and win, won’t you? Or we’ll be out of the running for the eighth year in a row, as Professor Snape was kind enough to remind me only last night …’
And in PA15 The Quidditch Final, there is another specific statement:
The whole of Gryffindor House was obsessed with the coming match. Gryffindor hadn’t won the Quidditch Cup since the legendary Charlie Weasley (Ron’s second-oldest brother) had been Seeker.
The last two quotations finally provide some specific information. We now know that prior to Gryffindor winning the Quidditch Cup in book 3 (the finals taking place in Y13) there had been seven years in which Gryffindor had not won, and that last time they did win, Charlie Weasley played on the team. This victory was eight years before book 3, which means that the finals were in Y5 at the end of the academic year that started in Y4. As first year students aren’t allowed to play (or even bring their own brooms) to Hogwarts, Charlie must have been at least in his second year at that point, meaning that he must have attended H-7, as shown in the summary table above.
The various quotations about Charlie’s Quidditch career for Gryffindor gives me the distinct impression that Gryffindor enjoyed a winning streak while Charlie played; not just a single victory of the Quidditch Cup followed by years of coming in an honourable second, but several years of winning the Cup. Unfortunately that interpretation of statements in the books is evidently impossible, but I can’t help feeling a bit disappointed there: based on the statements in the books, I had imagined a long and glorious carreer for Charlie, winning the Quidditch Cup again and again.
The last of the Weasley siblings—Bill.
The evidence pertaining to his age is particularly scarce, but that only makes it more interesting.
In CS17 The Heir of Slytherin Ginny is deeply unhappy because of what she has done while possessed by Tom riddle:
‘I’m going to be expelled!’ Ginny wept, as Harry helped her awkwardly to her feet. ‘I’ve looked forward to coming to Hogwarts ever since B-Bill came and n-now I’ll have to leave and – w-what’ll Mum and Dad say?’
Once more I feel like crying out loud, “came where, and from where?” Unfortunately Rowling didn’t choose to expand on this, so I have to get by with what I’ve got. First of all it is clear that Ginny under no circumstances would be able to remember when Bill started at Hogwarts—she was about one year old at the time. She could, however, easily remember his leaving Hogwarts, or even the time when he was made a Prefect (when she would have been six years old).
Other evidence giving us some small clues to Bill’s age is Harry’s description of Bill as being cool with earring and ponytail (GF5) as well as his relationship to Fleur Delacour (OP4). This does, IMO, fit nicely with Bill being almost ten years older than Harry, and seven years older than Fleur (assuming that she also left school at eighteen), which might seem a large age difference, but not entirely unrealistic.
In book 4, after the appearance of the Dark Mark, it is Bill who explains about the Death Eaters. This, IMO, points to him being old enough to remember the first war, though not necessarily as an active combatant. Recalling that Voldemort’s attack on the Potters occurred in Y1, this makes it before Bill started at Hogwarts. If Bill remembers much about the war, he would have had to be rather a precocious child, though he may, of course, have been relating information he heard later on.
Finally Ron remembering Bill wearing the Head Boy badge in PS12 The Mirror of Erised is hardly surprising. Ron would have been 8 years old when Bill started his last year at Hogwarts, and would certainly remember it well when he started himself just three years later.
Looking only at the evidence available before 2004, I would without hesitation have proposed a scenario for Charlie and Bill that made them some two or three years older than Rowling’s information. I would, of course, have noted the upper and lower limits, and have given the arguments for choosing a mid-range estimate. Such a scenario would fit all the evidence in the books nicely and without straining any of it overmuch. Having Charlie win his last Quidditch victory in his fourth or fifth year might seem a little early, but on the other hand making them older would strain the credibility of Bill’s age relative to Ginny and Fleur. Assuming that Gryffindor won the Quidditch Cup every year from Charlie started playing (presumably in his second year) and until his fourth or fifth year would give them a winning streak of three or four years, which would seem enough to justify Charlie’s legendary status in the house. This status seems less credible when he has only been instrumental in winning the Cup once (Harry is a different matter as he was both legendary before joining the Quidditch side, and was the youngest player on a house team for a century: something which was presumably allowed because of Gryffindor’s desperate need of a Seeker). All in all the mid-range estimate seems the most likely by far when looking only at the evidence available at New Year 2004.
The information in WBD, and later on Rowling’s website, obviously changes this situation somewhat. As can be seen from the summary this places Charlie in H-6, which significantly diminishes Charlie’s possible achievements for the Gryffindor Quidditch side.
Given what we have seen with respect to Rowling’s use of numbers in the books, it is not unlikely that her statement that Charlie “
is two years older than Percy” should be interpreted a bit loosely; as a statement of range rather than a precise number. That she, in other words, meant that Charlie is a couple of years older, in the loosest possible interpretation of “a couple of”. I.e. somewhere between one and four or five, which would, in broad terms, make it fit with my mid estimate.
I do have to admit that I don’t particularly like this information. When the only available information was WBD, I rejected that and proposed a scenario that made Charlie a bit older, but given the correction at Rowling’s website, I don’t think that option is open any longer, and one must accept that Charlie left Hogwarts a few months before Harry and Ron started.
On the other hand, we should probably be very careful about requiring—or even expecting—scientific consistency in the Harry Potter books. Rowling herself admits that maths and physics aren’t her strong suits, and there are other issues where the evidence isn’t mathematically consistent (e.g. the number of students at Hogwarts).