The Historical Figures That Inspired Bellatrix And Narcissa In Harry Potter

Harry Potter, the boy who lived, exists because of a train delay. Back in 1990, J.K. Rowling was on a London train headed to King's Cross from Manchester. As she waited, a twinkling of an idea started forming. She spent the next five years plotting the books that became the juggernaut series, writing most of her thoughts down on paper scraps in longhand (via Bloomsbury). 

Many of her characters were inspired by people that she knew. A childhood neighbor named Ian Potter inspired the lightning-scarred protagonist, who, like her Bristol friend, was high-spirited and mischievous. Ron Weasley also came from Rowling's youth: her best friend Sean Harris. The author offered that she "never set out to describe Sean in Ron, but Ron has a Sean-ish turn of phrase," according to Biography. Like her own pal — who Rowling included in "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets" book's dedication — Ron showed an amazing faithfulness to his companion. Hermione, the other main character, shares much of Rowling herself. "I did not set out to make Hermione like me, but she is ... she is an exaggeration of how I was when I was younger," Biography quoted the author.

Rowling also modeled her villains on people. Some like Dolores Umbridge came from reality — the mean-spirited Defense Against the Dark Arts professor who becomes promoted to Hogwarts High Inquisitor and then Headmistress — took on qualities from a former teacher. Some of the bad guys though, like Bellatrix Lestrange and Narcissa Malfoy, possibly developed from historical figures.

British sisters become inspirations

It is said that Bellatrix, Narcissa, and Andromeda Tonks (aka "the Black Sisters") are quite similar to another female siblings group of three sisters: Unity, Diana, and Jessica Mitford. The three came from an aristocratic family (with three other sisters, Nancy, Deborah, and Pamela, and a brother Thomas) that sided with fascists, according to Historicity.  In fact, Unity — who probably influenced the creation of Bellatrix — loved Hitler, who supposedly dated her as a tactic to make his later wife, Eva Braun, jealous. She even shot herself deliberately when Britain entered into war with Germany. The bullet did not kill her.

Diana seems like Narcissa, who also treasured wealth and status, and wed a prominent death eater. Diana ended up married to the head of the British Fascist Party, Oswald Mosley, and embraced fascism and anti-Semitism throughout her life. After World War II ended, she and her husband consorted with a rich crowd near Paris, and their neighbors were the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. Narcissa would approve.

Rowling's admiration of Jessica Mitford

While Unity and Diana offered plenty of material for creating villains, Rowling did admire one sister: Jessica. Andromeda's doppelganger, Jessica, left home as a teenager. She wanted to fight in the Spanish Civil War. By 19, she had married Esmond Romilly, her second cousin and a communist. Unity, according to Historicity, wrote to Jessica that even though she would kill her husband in a nanosecond to support Nazism, they could still continue their friendship. 

"My most influential writer, without a doubt, is Jessica Mitford. When my great-aunt gave me 'Hons and Rebels' when I was 14, she instantly became my heroine," said Rowling to The Scotsman in 2002. "... I love the way she never outgrew some of her adolescent traits, remaining true to her politics — she was a self-taught socialist — throughout her life. I think I've read everything she wrote. I even called my daughter after her."