Hogwarts Headmasters play a crucial role in the Harry Potter series. They are responsible for overseeing the running of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, maintaining discipline among the students, and ensuring that the curriculum is taught properly.
For the bulk of the Harry Potter series, Dumbledore was the Headmaster of Hogwarts, and for many fans he will always be the most iconic witch or wizard to lead the school. However, even within the original series, there were a few notable Hogwarts Headmasters over the years. Dolores Umbridge, Severus Snape, and Minerva McGonagall all held the position during Harry’s time at school (or when he should have been at school, but was off chasing horcruxes). Not much is known about the earliest headmasters of Hogwarts, but some information
A few other Headmasters of Hogwarts are mentioned in the series and ancillary materials, too. Dumbledore’s predecessor, Armando Dippet, gets a few mentions and even a scene or two in the Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets book. Others who occupy their portraits in the Office also appear, such as Phineas Nigellus Black, who plays a much bigger role in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Further pieces of Phineas Nigellus’ reign have also been revealed in the game Hogwarts Legacy. But based on the entire Harry Potter canon, which of the known headmasters of Hogwarts are worth remembering (and which are just background portraits)?
First Unnamed Headmaster (circa 11th century)
Nothing is known about the first of the headmasters of Hogwarts, not even their name — but they get a mention for two reasons. First, because none of the four founders themselves were ever Headmaster of Hogwarts, although each was ‘head’ of their own house (obviously). Second, because there was a statue of the first headmaster at the school, which is mentioned in passing. Unfortunately, it is presumed that the statue of the Architect of Hogwarts was destroyed during the Battle of Hogwarts as it was replaced in 1998 by the statue of the first headmaster in the Entrance Hall. Another statue of him was stored in the Room of Requirement, where the Ravenclaw diadem horcrux is hidden. Even if he didn’t have many other achievements, being the first Headmaster is worth something.
Sometime before 1408, Phyllida Spore became one of the headmasters of Hogwarts. Not much is known about her time at Hogwarts, however, if her name rings familiar it is because she was the author of Harry Potter’s Herbology textbook, One Thousand Magical Herbs and Fungi. It’s unknown, though likely, Spore was a Herbology professor before being promoted to Headmistress. Phyllida Spore got not one, but two portraits in Hogwarts, one of them painted in her middle age while the other, which hung in the headmaster’s office, where she is much younger. Headmistress Phyllida Spore passed away sometime in 1408.
Elizabeth Burke was Headmistress of Hogwarts, and was one of the few Slytherins to take the job. She may have been related to the Burke of Borgin & Burkes, and was known to favor her own house, and to encourage her students to be “nasty to Mudbloods“. From the DVD extras and games, it is known that her portraits hung over the entrances to shortcuts to and from the dungeons, that Slytherins could use with a password.
One of the headmasters of Hogwarts from 1741 to 1768, Dilys Derwent is described in the series itself as one of “Hogwarts’s most celebrated Heads. Their renown is such that both have portraits hanging in other important Wizarding institutions”. According to Harry Potter history, she began as a healer at St. Mungo’s in 1722 before leaving the hospital in 1741 to become headmistress of Hogwarts. She is mentioned in the series, as her portraits at Hogwarts and St Mungo’s are used to send messages when need be, such as when Arthur Weasley is attacked by Nagini while guarding the prophecy in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Among all the headmasters of Hogwarts, she is celebrated as one of the best alongside Dumbledore and Everard.
Everard is the second of the Hogwarts headmasters mentioned alongside Dilys as one of the “most celebrated”. Unlike Dilys though, Everard’s portrait is not at St Mungo’s, but at the Ministry of Magic. He was also involved in important communication between Dumbledore and the others when Arthur Weasley was attacked, as well as between the Ministry and McGonagall when Dumbledore was killed. What he did to become so celebrated as one of the headmasters of Hogwarts, though, is unknown.
Quentin isn’t mentioned in the series as many of the other more notable headmasters of Hogwarts, but like many, he was also an author. Previous Hogwarts Headmasters have been known to write many books on magic, but Trimble’s is definitely the most significant accomplishment, as he wrote the textbook that would later be used by every student in Defense Against The Dark Arts: The Dark Forces: A Guide to Self-Protection. Quentin Trimble’s portrait hangs in the headmaster’s office with the rest, however, whoever painted his name misspelled it, and the mistake was never rectified.
Phineas Nigellus Black
Phineas Nigellus Black was one of the headmasters of Hogwarts, and his unpopular reign began sometime in the latter half of the 19th century, ending before his death in 1925. Notably, Phineas Nigellus is headmaster during the game Hogwarts Legacy in the 1890—1891 school year. During this year, he had banned Quidditch due to a pureblood student suffering injuries a year prior. In Harry Potter and beyond, Phineas Nigellus was widely regarded as one of Hogwarts’ most unpopular headmasters, and he was notably prejudiced against those with Muggle ties.
During his reign as headmaster of Hogwarts, he attempted to persuade Minister for Magic Faris Spavin to crack down on Hogwarts admissions, likely to skew in favor of pureblood students. He has two portraits, one in the headmaster’s office and one at Grimmauld Place. In The Deathly Hallows, Hermione steals Phineas Nigellus’ portrait from Grimmauld Place to spy on Snape. In turn, he finds out that the trio are camping in the forest of Dean, which is how Snape is able to send his Patronus there to guide the three to the sword of Gryffindor.
Headmaster Dippet was one of the headmasters of Hogwarts when Dumbledore was working at the school, and his immediate predecessor. He was also Headmaster during the time that Tom Riddle went to Hogwarts, and when he opened the Chamber of Secrets. Had it not been for him telling Tom Riddle that the school would close if the attacks continued, it’s possible that the Chamber would’ve remained open, and caused more deaths than just that of Moaning Myrtle. Fans will also know Dippet as the man who expelled Hagrid, although they may not forgive him for that.
It’s possible that Dippet was responsible for hiring Hogwarts professors like Horace Slughorn, Herbert Beery, Silvanus Kettleburn, and Galatea Merrythought. Armando Dippet was also the one to decline offering Tom Riddle a Defense Against the Dark Arts position at Hogwarts after his graduation, declaring that Riddle was too young for the job. Possibly the oldest headmaster to ever live, Dippet was born in 1637 and died around 1992, making him 355 years old. Dippet was clearly a capable wizard, as he had a book written about him (by Rita Skeeter, admittedly), and he also had a chocolate frog card, but his specific achievements are not mentioned.
Dumbledore is, of course, referred to as one of the greatest headmasters of Hogwarts, and is one of the most powerful wizards of all time. He is certainly considered to be the most powerful wizard of his own time — although much of this may be down to his possession of the Elder Wand. Before becoming headmaster, Dumbledore was the Transfiguration teacher at Hogwarts, despite being shown as the Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher in Fantastic Beasts. He worked under headmaster Armando Dippet.
It’s difficult to sum up Dumbledore’s time as one of the headmasters of Hogwarts, as he is such a huge figure in the series. He was there all throughout Harry’s time at Hogwarts, seeing the second opening of the Chamber of Secrets and the Triwizard Tournament. He found out the Dark Lord’s ultimate secret and destroyed one of his seven horcruxes. But as Headmaster, he is usually well-liked and respected, and apart from some brief (and well-documented) periods, most of the wizarding world regards him with respect, and mourned his passing. Subsequently, he is the subject of Rita Skeeter’s tell-all book, The Life and Lies of Albus Dumbledore.
Only brought on by Ministry interference, Professor Umbridge barely counts as one of the true headmasters of Hogwarts, as she announced herself as Headmistress when Dumbledore fled after Dumbledore’s Army was revealed. While he was on the run, Umbridge became one of the most hated headmasters of Hogwarts of all, with everyone (teachers and students alike) attempting to undermine her. Peeves had a field day, of course, as did Fred and George Weasley, and the Headmaster’s Office even refused to admit her.
Unfortunately, Dolores Umbridge’s reign of terror didn’t end after Order of the Phoenix. Instead, she simply went back to her cushy Ministry of Magic job after turning Hogwarts upside down and being dragged off by a pack of Centaurs. In The Deathly Hallows, she is given even more power as the head of the Muggleborn Registration Committee, in which she would try muggle born wizards in the courtrooms of the Ministry, demanding to know who they “stole” their magic from. Deeply prejudiced and repugnant, Umbridge came in contact with Slytherin’s locket (and Voldemort’s horcrux) after swiping it off Mundungus Fletcher. She claimed that the “S” on the front stood for “Selwyn,” one of the Sacred Twenty-Eight pureblood families which she claimed to be related to.
After Dumbledore’s passing, Snape was instated as Headmaster — an appointment that was clearly arranged by Voldemort, who was very much in control at this point in time. Arguably even less popular than Dolores Umbridge as one of the headmasters of Hogwarts, Snape had the unfortunate task of keeping both Hogwarts students safe and Voldemort happy with his reign of the school. It was because of this that he was forced to hire Death Eaters Amycus and Alecto Carrow to teach Defense Against the Dark Arts (which was simply changed to “Dark Arts”) and Muggle Studies. Capital punishment was name of the game when Snape was headmaster, as many students were subject to Unforgivable Curses at the hands of the Carrows.
Snape’s time as a Hogwarts Headmaster would be short-lived, though. After it was revealed that he was the one to kill Dumbledore, the other teachers drove him out, and he fled to Voldemort, and his death, during the Battle of Hogwarts. Snape’s death revealed once and for all that he was actually a double agent, technically on the side of the light, when everything had been pointing to the opposite. Snape’s time as one of the headmasters of Hogwarts was an unfortunate blight on Hogwarts history, as if he were headmaster under any other circumstance it’s possible that his time in power would’ve been much different.
Minerva McGonagall is acting Headmistress more than once in the series, and then takes up the position permanently at the end of the original Harry Potter books. Usually the animagus Transfiguration professor, Minerva McGonagall is introduced as the Deputy Headmistress, and generally acts as one of the headmasters of Hogwarts when Dumbledore is away. Professor McGonagall is the Gryffindor head of house during Harry’s time at Hogwarts, and Fantastic Beasts decided to break canon by including her as a Professor at Hogwarts in the 1930s.
Outside of being one of the headmasters of Hogwarts, McGonagall was a member of both the first and second Order of the Phoenix, instrumental in Voldemort’s downfall. She survived the Second Wizarding War and the Battle of Hogwarts, dueling her way through Death Eaters and adding numerous magical protections to the school. She also received the Order of Merlin, and a Chocolate Frog Card. In The Cursed Child, McGonagall is still Headmistress, and unsurprisingly, continues to run the school the way she did her classroom and her house — firmly, but fairly.