Before the introduction of the International Statute of Secrecy in 1689, Muggles and magical folk had lived side-by-side. At one point, such was the level of fraternisation that even families like the Malfoys – later one of the most anti-Muggle, pro pure-blood families you could imagine – were known for mixing with the upper echelons of Muggle society.
So maybe it’s inevitable that some members of the magical community couldn’t resist interfering in Muggle events. Here are a few of the more memorable examples…
This one from the pre-Statute years was never proven but although subsequent generations of Malfoys denied it there was, apparently, ‘ample evidence’ to suggest that the first Lucius Malfoy got so carried away with royal ambition that he proposed to the so-called Virgin Queen, Elizabeth I (reigned 1558 – 1603).
Other wizarding historians go even further, alleging that the Queen’s subsequent aversion to marriage was the result of a jinx placed on her by the thwarted Malfoy. Still, at least there’s no King Lucius in the history books (that we know about…).
The Salem Witch Trials, which took place in America between 1692 and 1693, came at the end of a period of worldwide Muggle persecution towards anyone thought to possess magical powers. That many of those killed before, during and after the Salem Witch Trials were in fact Muggles (or No-Majs) who had been unfortunate enough to get caught up in the hysteria did nothing to alleviate the nervousness felt in the American magical community – especially because the level of persecution was complicated by the involvement of the notoriously unscrupulous Scourers.
Scourers were wizarding mercenaries who exploited the fact that America’s wizarding community was still pretty small and secretive. They travelled around dispensing their own brand of justice, which often involved bloodshed, torture and, sometimes, the trafficking of fellow witches and wizards. So corrupt did they become that wizarding historians believe at least two Scourers sat on Salem’s panel of Puritan judges, condemning magical and non-magical victims to death for the crime of witchcraft.
This event was devastating. Coming as it did around the same time as the enforcement of the International Statute of Secrecy, it did a lot to drive America’s witches and wizards underground. Ever since, Muggle-wizarding relations have been far more regulated in America than anywhere else in the world.
In 1777, two years after the generally accepted start date of the American Revolutionary War (also known as the American War of Independence), MACUSA President Elizabeth McGilliguddy oversaw a long and protracted discussion known as the ‘Country or Kind?’ debate. Its central premise was to decide whether or not American witches and wizards had a duty to intervene in the ongoing war, and the arguments for and against were complicated and, at times, vicious.
In the end, MACUSA – following the lead of their British counterparts – elected not to involve themselves. With the Salem Witch Trials still a relatively recent memory, protecting the interests (and the secrecy) of the magical community remained central to MACUSA’s law enforcement policies. However, despite the official line there were many instances of American witches and wizards intervening at an individual level to help their friends and neighbours.
Later that century, when Voldemort was doing his best to bring the British wizarding community to its knees, the Ministry of Magic had no choice but to keep its Muggle counterparts informed. The wizarding wars impacted Muggles almost immediately: Muggle families were killed for fun, bridges were destroyed, parts of the country were devastated by curses and giants. Muggle authorities were baffled. Their Prime Minister might have been facing questions about faulty joints and mysterious killings and freakish weather, but it was all down to wizarding involvement and he couldn’t reveal a thing about it.
Of course, Voldemort and his followers didn’t care about meddling with Muggle events because they didn’t care about the International Statute of Secrecy. Like Grindelwald before him, Voldemort saw non-magical beings as subservient, so a little Muggle-baiting was no big deal.
Not every example of wizard-Muggle meddling is so negative: Newt Scamander’s anonymous donation of several solid silver Occamy shells to his then-Obliviated Muggle friend Jacob Kowalski helped Jacob open his own bakery, for example. But even in a domestic setting, wizarding intervention could backfire – as Voldemort’s mother Merope Gaunt found to her cost when she tried to settle down to a happy married life with her unsuspecting, love-potioned-up husband Tom Riddle Sr.