Haytham Kenway is one of the essential characters in the AC universe, holding together multiple storylines and threads via his movements throughout the mid to late 18th century.
As avid gamers, we are constantly confronted with new lead characters that are seemingly built from the same off-the-shelf list of materials or character traits. They are all self-sacrificing, good-hearted, and noble with just a little dash of mischievous.
This character archetype was hit on by writers long ago, and ever since, we gamers have had to endure the same bland protagonist in nearly every triple-A title. Of course, one of the biggest perpetrators of this trend is Ubisoft, the creators of Assassin’s Creed franchise. Characters from this series alone, such as Ezio Auditore, Edward, and Conner Kenway, are perfect representations of central protagonists solely designed to appeal to a wide audience, pulling at the player’s heartstrings and sense of camaraderie just at the right moment, ultimately culminating in a story arc which leaves the player feeling satisfied and as if their character has grown in some way.
Of course, if you look at these characters critically, through the lens I just proposed, patterns begin to shine through, revealing that they are all, essentially, the same person. The subject of this guide, however, is a different matter altogether.
Haytham Kenway is one of the most unique central characters in the entire AC franchise. Not just because of his dual role as both the main character and a side character but because of his shifting loyalties throughout the series and the part he has to play across the entire AC franchise timeline.
So, with this in mind, why don’t we take a closer look at Haytham Kenway, a man apart in the Creed universe.
Family and Early Years
Haytham was born in London, England, in 1725. He was the second child and only son of Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag protagonist, Edward Kenway. As Haytham was the son of Edward’s second wife, Tessa, Haytham was technically only a half-brother to his sister Jennifer. However, it would seem that the pair got on very well, and the difference in their birth mothers never really became an issue.
Due to Edward’s position within the Order at the time of Haytham’s birth and formative years, the young boy grew up as part of the British nobility, leading a life far removed from that of his own father’s childhood. Because of this upper-class upbringing, Haytham was unable to mix with other children his age for most of his childhood. Instead, the young Haytham spent a great deal of time with adults and his father in particular. During these formative years, he was taught by many assassins, including the then leader of the British Order, Edward, how to become a true assassin worthy of taking the Creed and serving the Order.
A Derailed Life
All continued as normal for young Haytham for many years. His training and education continued excellently, and he was making fast progress in his father’s eyes. However, this all changed when a Templar plot took both Edward and the boy’s innocence away from him in 1735.
Throughout Haytham’s childhood, he became increasingly familiar and close with a number of his father’s associates, most of whom were upstanding members of society and/or members of the British Order of Assassins. However, unbeknownst to both Edward and Haytham, one of these men was secretly a member of the Templars.
It would seem that Reginald Birch somehow became friends with Edward in the years immediately preceding Haytham’s birth and would frequently talk to the young boy during his meetings with Edward. However, at some point, Birch seemed to have decided that his charade had gone on long enough, and he began pressing Edward for information regarding the First Civilizations. A subject that most members within the Order knew that Edward studied and made notes on extensively. Of course, this information was kept highly secret, and until this point, nobody had actually seen the work Edward had conducted on the topic as he knew just how valuable the information would be to a Templar.
This pressing of Edward by Birch seemingly culminated in an argument between the pair as Haytham reported later in life that just before his father’s death, he overheard both Birch and his father having a heated argument. This argument culminated in Birch telling Haytham that he “had tried to warn his father.”
What occurred next would, from an outsider’s perspective at least, suggest to me that Haytham was not all that bright in his youth, as within a couple of days of this argument, five mercenaries broke into and attacked the Kenway household. The attack resulted in not only the death of Edward but also the kidnapping of Haytham’s older sister, Jennifer. In Haytham’s defense, however, nobody knew at this time that Birch was a Templar agent, and thus he was free of suspicion. Of course, we know that he not only orchestrated the entire thing but that the murder of Edward was ordered simply to acquire his notes on the First Civilization structures he had spent the latter stages of his life researching. All of this occurred in December of 1735, when Haytham was only ten years old.
During this event, Haytham made his first kill when he stabbed his mother’s assailant in the eye. After this man fell, he moved towards his father’s attacker but was easily handled and knocked over by the much bigger and more skilled mercenary. At this point, Haytham was about to be ended by the same blade that killed his father that Birch stepped in and killed the mercenary he had hired. His actions were most likely done to exonerate him in the aftermath of the event.
– Haytham was trained from a young age to become an assassin like his father, Edward. However, after his father’s death, this plan was derailed.
– Birch posed as a friend and ally to Edward before eventually ordering his death due to his need for Edward’s notes on the First Civilization.
– Haytham’s sister was also kidnapped during the attack on the Kenway home.
The Templar Corruption
Birch Steps In
In a turn of events that almost appears Shakespearian in nature, Birch was appointed as the Kenway family representative and guardian after the passing of his apparent good friend, Edward. Of course, Tessa was still alive at this point, but 18th century England still hadn’t gotten their head around women being actual people with personal authority yet. Hence, a man needed to be appointed in Edward’s stead.
Search for Jennifer
As Edward was not the only victim of the Birch orchestrated attack, Haytham became obsessed with finding his abducted sister in the years following the Kenway homestead attack. At first, however, young Haytham did not wish to leave for Europe due to his mother’s frail condition following the death of her husband and the abduction of her stepdaughter. However, Birch told Haytham that the mother he once knew was no longer there. Apparently, she was traumatized, not by her husband’s death or Jennifer’s abduction, but by witnessing her son kill a man. Haytham rejected this notion at first, but when he eventually saw his mother, her cold disposition towards him seemed to affirm Birch’s statement, so he left for Europe soon after.
The search was extensive, and Haytham was seemingly always accompanied by his now surrogate father, Reginald Birch, in said search. However, this monumental effort came to no avail, and it would seem that Birch used this period of time in order to continue his young wards training. However, as you might imagine, he also spent a great deal of time corrupting the teaching which Edward had given his son, turning Haytham from someone who would have gone on to become a great assassin to a mindset more aligned with the Templar’s view of the world.
Becoming a Templar
After these many years of training and searching for his sister, Haytham and Birch would eventually settle in a French village near Troyes. According to the lore, their efforts to find Jennifer had to be called off due to the Austrian War of Succession outbreak in 1740, a war which would have made their constant traveling near impossible and incredibly dangerous.
During the next four years, Birch continued and intensified his training of Haytham, and by the time 1744 rolled around, he had decided that Haytham was ready to take the sacred oath and become an official member of the Templars. This would have made Haytham 19 years old when he eventually swore his Templar oath.
His First Targets
As with any evil organization, one can not simply join without displaying some form of loyalty to their new overlords. Therefore, Haytham was tasked with two different assassinations during his first couple of months with the Templars. His first target saw him return to England to track down a wealthy merchant in the city of Liverpool. According to the lore, this merchant was not evil in the sense that would incur the wrath of the Creed; however, his business dealings and operations did somehow conflict with the interests of the Templars. Therefore, he had to be killed.
Haytham was active in Austria within the same year as he hunted down and assassinated a crown prince due to his political leanings. It would seem that the Order also determined his actions or perceived future actions to be against the interests of the Templars.
Through these first two assassinations, Haytham not only cut his teeth and really learned what it meant to be an assassin working for the Templars but also how they manipulated world politics to their own ends. He also earned a reputation for these two kills, the manner in which they were carried out seeming to impress those within the Templar ranks.
– Haytham searched for his sister alongside Birch for five years before the Austrian war of Succession forced the pair to give up their efforts. However, one could assume Birch knew about Jennifer’s whereabouts the entire time.
– Birch inducted Haytham into the Templar Order at the age of 19. His first two assassinations would take place that same year, 1744.
– Haytham learned how to be an effective killer during this time and earned respect from others within the Order.
The Colonies and Haytham’s Search for Answers
After Haytham spent another couple of years conducting assassinations and other deeds for the Templar Order, he went, once again, on the hunt for his father’s murder. During this time, he found very little information which would lead him to the actual truth behind the events. After this, Birch decided it was time to remove Haytham from Europe altogether and remove any possibility of finding out about his part in Edward’s death.
In 1754, Haytham was eventually sent off to the Thirteen Colonies to establish a Templar force in the region and hunt down a particular First Civilization artifact and location.
Arriving in Boston
When Haytham eventually landed in Boston, he made initial contact with the man who would one day become his second in command, Charles Lee. Lee soon introduced Haytham to this new land and began helping him set up a Templar command within the new world. It was during this time that Haytham recruited and began training William Johnson, Thomas Hickey, Benjamin Church, and John Pitcairn.
Search for The Observatory
Whilst Haytham did not know it at the time, what he was really searching for was a First Civilization Temple is known as The Observatory, a place which could see, in real-time, the actions of anyone around the globe. Therefore, this location would give the Templars ultimate control over world governance via the blackmail of certain pivotal figures.
Haytham’s search would inevitably lead him to Native American land, a place the Mohawk tribe had lived for centuries. Little did Haytham know that he was so close to his ultimate prize before he eventually gave up the search. However, all was not lost, as, during this time, it would seem that Haytham fell in love with one of the Mohawk people, a young woman called Kaniehtí:io.
During this brief love affair, Haytham and Kaniehtí:io conceived the child who would later become the main protagonist of AC 3, Conner. However, Haytham left well before either of them knew of her pregnancy, and thus Conner grew up without a father in his life, and Haytham lived not knowing of his son’s existence.
Returning to Europe
Once Haytham had determined his efforts to be completely fruitless, he decided that it was once again time to return to Europe, eventually making his way back to England in 1757. At this time, Haytham decided to search for his sister once again.
It would seem that the passage of time had done wonders for his efforts as Haytham soon found a lead on his sister. After reading back some old diaries and questioning the right people, Haytham was led toward the Ottoman Empire. Here, he managed to track down his sister amongst a group of slaves.
Once he managed to free her from the bondage she had been forced into, she revealed to him that in the days after her initial kidnapping, she realized that the men holding her were associates of Birch. In fact, it was Birch’s valet who had led the attack on the Kenway’s home that night.
The Death of a Mentor
As you might imagine, finding out someone who you have trusted your entire life and allowed to manipulate you into going down a path totally abstract to what you were born to pursue was heartbreaking for Haytham and inspired anger within him he had never felt before.
Once Jennifer was safe and secure, he immediately went on the hunt for Birch, eventually finding him held up in his estate, the same estate which he trained Haytham in the ways of the Templars. Haytham would soon gather a small force of men and led a rather one-sided assault on Birch’s estate, a siege that would ultimately end with Birch’s death. However, Haytham did sustain a rather gruesome injury at this time during his fight with Birch.
– When Haytham was in the Colonies, he met a Native American woman and fathered a son who would grow up to become an assassin. The same assassin who would ultimately put a stop to Haytham and his Templar plans.
– Haytham returned to Europe before he learned of his son’s existence. He did not become aware of this until the events of AC 3.
– After finding his sister, Haytham found out about Birch’s involvement in his father’s death. He then led an attack on Birch’s estate, killing him.
Events of AC: Rogue
Return to the New World
Almost immediately after he recovered from his injuries, Haytham apparently became obsessed with growing his power and that of the Templar Order, seemingly ignoring their involvement in his father’s death and laying all of the blame at the feet of Birch. With this new motivation in hand, Haytham returned to the Colonies in 1758.
His Work with Cormac
During his next stent in the Colonies, Haytham would meet up with and work closely with a former assassin turned Templar called Shay Patrick Cormac. Their relationship was a first in the AC franchise as the player got to see an actual assassin turn to become a Templar and how their actions and motivations differed from those of the Creed.
During the next two years, the pair worked together to stimy the Creed in every way they could, the ultimate goal of which was to block the Creed from accessing First Civilization sites and, therefore, keep them under the control of the Templars.
It was not long until the Creed and the Templars, headed up by Haytham at this point, met for one final altercation. At a First Civilization site located within the Arctic, the two groups met, and a great battle ensued. Eventually, the colonial arm of the Creed was defeated, leaving them almost completely wiped out. This not only allowed the Templars to flourish throughout the Colonies during the following years but it also made it seemingly impossible for the Creed to pose any more of a threat in the future.
Events of AC: 3
After the Colonial arm of the Creed was all but wiped out, the Templar order in the area grew and grew, working their tendrils into every position of power throughout the new world, using their precise methods of manipulation and murder to accrue more and more power over time.
By the time Conner came into contact with his assassin mentor, Achilles, Haytham was probably the most powerful man in the Colonies outside of George Washington. Over the next couple of years, the father and son pair worked against each other’s interests in order to achieve their own goals. Eventually, though, Haytham was made aware that Conner had been framed and imprisoned by Charles Lee for his fictional plot to kill General Washington.
Haytham then went to this prison in order to assess the situation. There, he met his son for the first time and learned of his true heritage. Haytham then helped Conner to escape, claiming that the young man could turn into a great asset for the Templars. However, one could claim that he did this simply to save his son from the hangman’s noose.
During the months following his escape from prison, Conner and Haytham held a rather unstable alliance, with each other’s goals becoming temporarily aligned. Conner also wished that he could somehow convince his father to see sense and betray his Templar leanings to side with his son and the Creed.
We also see that, during this period, Haytham believed the same, constantly suggesting that he could eventually persuade Conner into taking the Templar oath and swearing off the Creed. Eventually, however, in 1781, after Conner had continued to thwart the Templar efforts in the region, particularly in regard to finding The Observatory, Haytham decided that his son could not be convinced and therefore had to be killed.
It was when Conner eventually decided to lead an attack on the man he blamed for his mother’s death, Charles Lee, that Haytham decided enough was enough.
When Conner made his way through Lee’s defenses and entered his room, Lee was nowhere to be found as Haytham had ordered him to leave and let him deal with his own son. When Conner arrived, Haytham ambushed the younger man, and the two engaged in heavy combat. Eventually, Conner won the dual, stabbing his father through the throat with his hidden blade, a symbol to Haytham that it was his son, an assassin and member of the Creed, that killed him.
Then, during his final moments. Haytham did not relinquish his beliefs. Instead, he mocked the Creed’s ideals and held fast to his beliefs. However, he did compliment his son on his skill in battle and remark on how he should have killed him sooner.
Weapons and Skills
Much like every successful assassin, Haytham is outstanding in hand-to-hand combat as well as with bladed weapons. He is also a proficient free runner.
Haytham was also known to carry a hidden blade-like most assassins of the time alongside multiple other bladed weapons such as swords and daggers. Haytham would often resort to the flintlock pistol when these weapons did not cut it.
– During AC: Rogue, Haytham partnered with the former assassin, Shay Patrick Cormac, in order to defeat the Creed in the Colonies.
– Conner and Haytham had a tenuous alliance until the pair realized they could not resolve their differences.
– Haytham is ultimately killed by his own son, Conner.
So, there you have it, a complete and dedicated guide to one of the most important men within the AC universe. Haytham was not only the father of one of the main characters in the series, but he was also one of the most pivotal side characters across multiple titles.
Due to his significant role and complicated personal beliefs, I would say that Haytham is probably one of the most interesting people in the Assassin’s Creed universe. Hopefully, this guide has given you a little bit more information about the master assassin and leader of the colonial arm of the Templar order. With all that being said, I hope you enjoyed reading this guide, and good luck on your next mission!
Frequently Asked Questions
Question: Is Haytham related to Conner and Edward?
Answer: Yes, Haytham is the son of Edward Kenway and the father of Conner Kenway, although he lost his father at ten years old and never got to see Conner grow up.
Question: Are the Kenways related to Ezio?
Answer: While Desmond is related to all lead assassins in the AC franchise through his multiple bloodlines; this does not mean all the individual assassins are related to one another. In this case, the Kenways are in no way related to the Auditore family.
Question: Why was Haytham in AC: Rogue?
Answer: According to one of the lead writers on the game, Haytham was included because they felt that their main character, Shay Patrick Cormac, needed a strong Templar mentor who the fans would connect with.
Question: How did Haytham get a hidden blade?
Answer: Even though Haytham is not a member of the Creed, he is known to carry a hidden blade. This anomaly was explained in the AC novel “Forsaken,” wherein it mentioned that he looted the hidden blade off of a dead assassin named Miko.
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