|ATTENTION! SPOILERS AHEAD!!|
This article contains information from later episodes of The Magnus Archives and may contain major spoilers for the setting and plot. Continue at your own risk.
Gertrude is described as "an old woman, probably in her fifties or sixties, wearing reading glasses and grey hair curled into a tight bun." In MAG 162, Timothy Stoker describes her as "like a hundred years old and more cardigan than woman."
Gertrude was ruthless and effective in dealing with monsters and followers of the Entities. Her demonstrations of violence and threats made her feared by many associated with the paranormal. She is noted to not have a strong sense of allegiance to her own entity. She was more concerned with thwarting the people acting on behalf of the entities than with accessing the greater powers.
This ruthlessness also involved being manipulative, hiding her true face from people who were not threats. She also used innocents for her own purposes, such as when she dismembered Jan Kilbride because she required his body to stop a ritual. The Distortion notes that it has "rarely seen anyone so adept at distorting the truth as Gertrude Robinson." Michael Shelley, and likely Gertrude's other assistants, thought she was a "frail old woman" who was "so delicate, so forgetful, yet gently wise," and regarded her with absolute trust and protectiveness. However, as she led him to where she would sacrifice him to stop the Spiral's rituals, he saw that "now she was like iron, and walked with a purpose that Michael had never before seen in her" and her eyes grew "cold."
Gertrude became the Head Archivist of the Magnus Institute around 1965. She took over the position from Angus Stacey after he was killed by a creature of masks and smiles that she called "The Grinning Wheel." She had enough knowledge of the truth to be both dangerous and cautious, and this creature was the first to fall at her hands.
Around 1970, Gertrude began actively working against the Cult of the Lightless Flame, who was using Agnes Montague for the first attempt at a Ritual that she had encountered. She began researching a way to stop them and at some point during or after 1974, she found a tin box containing some of Agnes's hair in the ashes of the house on Hill Top Road. The Web manipulated Gertrude into performing what she believed to be a counter-ritual. She constructed a ritual circle in the Scottish Highlands, but when performed, the ritual allowed The Web to bind Gertrude and Agnes Montague to each other on a metaphysical level. Gertrude maintained the ritual site for years, adding Desolation symbology to ward off negative side effects against herself until it was broken in MAG 37: Burnt Offering. Ultimately, this binding prevented The Desolation’s ritual, as Agnes could not fulfil her destiny while bound to Gertrude. The Cult of the Lightless Flame feared that outright killing Gertrude would be catastrophic for Agnes. Therefore, more often than not, the cult ended up protecting Gertrude from agents of other entities as they waited for her to die of old age.
Of her assistants, Gertrude trusted Emma Harvey in particular, unaware of the fact that she was experimenting on Fiona Law's survivability. Her experiments ultimately went too far and Fiona was consumed by the Coffin. Gertrude still did not suspect Emma and hired Michael Shelley to replace Fiona. Eric Delano eventually went missing two years after the birth of Gerard Keay and Gertrude hired Sarah Carpenter to replace him.
Gertrude spent several decades studying the Entities and their servants, preventing any rituals that were attempted. In 1997, she began to track servants of The Flesh, and in 2007, she successfully disrupted their ritual by blowing up their ritual site in Istanbul.
Some time after Elias Bouchard's promotion in 1997, Gertrude became aware of the true secrets of the Magnus Institute: that Jonah Magnus's body was stored in the Panopticon and that Jonah has continued to watch over his Institute by transferring his eyes into different host bodies and acting as Head of the Institute. She hid her knowledge from Elias while working to undermine his plans, with her own plans to eventually remove Jonah Magnus. This involved resisting the use of her Archivist powers (allowing her to remain more human) and letting the Archives fall into disarray through her intentionally chaotic filing system. It took her a decade to learn of the Panopticon's location in Millbank Prison.
Agnes Montague's death in 2006 is not noted to have affected Gertrude.
In 2008, Gertrude and Jan Kilbride travelled to the site of The Buried’s ritual in Bucoda, Washington. Gertrude killed and dismembered Jan, throwing his Vast-touched body into the Buried’s pit in order to disrupt the ritual.
In July of the same year, Mary Keay visited the Institute to make a statement and to gift Gertrude with Eric Delano’s page from the Catalogue of the Trapped Dead. Two weeks later, Gertrude took a statement from the bound Eric and he revealed how to free one's self from the Institute’s influence.
When she returned to the Institute, Gertrude began to suspect Emma Harvey was responsible for the death of Sarah Carpenter and she contacted Agnes Montague to verify her suspicions. The two met briefly for the first and only time. Angered by the truth and with her suspicions confirmed, Gertrude set fire to Emma's home while she slept, with the consent of Elias.
At some point in or after June 2013, Gertrude Robinson visited The Trophy Room to kill Daniel Rawlings and steal the gorilla skin in order to delay the Unknowing, the ritual of The Stranger. She destroyed the skin by burning it and hid the remains in her secret storage unit. The storage unit also contains some of her encrypted notes, such as research on the Everchase, the ritual of The Hunt.
In 2014, Gertrude travelled to France, Beijing, and New Zealand to research The Unknowing. Gerard Keay accompanied her on some of these trips and they eventually headed to the United States together. While in Pittsburgh, Gerard passed away from a brain tumour and Gertrude broke into the morgue to bind him to the Catalogue of the Trapped Dead.
In 2015, Gertrude had discovered the location of the Panopticon and planned to remove Jonah Magnus. She planned to survive attacking her own entity by destroying her own eyes to sever her connection. Before she carried out her attempt, she recorded a statement in case of her death, informing whomever would replace her about the powers and their place. She hoped that Sasha James would be the one to replace her.
She planned to distract Elias Bouchard from her action by setting fire to the Magnus Institute, concurrently with The Dark's attempted ritual in March 2015. She was also was testing the theory that it was actually impossible for a ritual to succeed, regardless of her interference. The ritual of the Dark failed, but Elias was not distracted and he confronted Gertrude as she was preparing the fire. After they confirmed to each other that Gertrude knew the truth about Jonah Magnus and was working against him, Elias shot her in the chest, killing her moments before she could set the fire.
Elias reported her as missing on March 15, 2015 and she was presumed dead, with Jonathan Sims becoming the new Head Archivist. Gertrude's body is discovered in the tunnels beneath the Institute during the Prentiss attack on July 29, 2016 by Martin Blackwood.
The exact date of Gertrude Robinson's death is unclear as there are several conflicting accounts:
- In MAG 11, Oliver Banks details his March 12, 2015 dream in which her death is foretold, suggesting she would die shortly after this date.
- In MAG 25, Jonathan Sims says, “according to the official file, May 15, 2015 was the day Gertrude Robinson, my predecessor, passed away.” Notably, MAG 25 takes place before Gertrude’s body is found.
- MAG 87 is recorded by Gertrude on April 4, 2015, and she sounds recently wounded as she says, “I had hoped I’d have a chance to recover. I can still barely stand.” Jonathan Sims remarks that it was recorded “only a year or so before she died”, meaning her death would have occurred in 2016.
- In MAG 158, Elias shot her during the Dark’s ritual which, according to MAG 143, took place March 13–20, 2015.
As the Archivist, Gertrude has a similar capacity for powers as Jonathan Sims, but she is more concerned with stopping rituals than fulfilling her role as Archivist and seemed to have been more successful in retaining her humanity.
- Compulsion - The Archivist is able to compel others to answer a question or give a statement. Gerard Keay thinks Gertrude did not like compelling people and did not do it very often.
- Knowing - The Archivist is able to know certain things without having prior knowledge of them. However, Gertrude preferred to conduct her own investigations instead of using this power.
Gertrude's body is found in a room containing all of the statements that she personally recorded. These tapes are impounded by the police as evidence, but Jonathan Sims convinces Basira Hussain to let him listen to a few of them. When Basira resignes from the police force, she takes the tapes with her and gives them to John. Shortly thereafter, Elias brings the tapes into his office. The statements recorded by Gertrude Robinson and listened to by Jonathan Sims are as follows:
- Gertrude is voiced by Jonny Sims's mother.
- Gertrude's eBay username was grbookworm1818.
- Most Avatars are afraid of her. Elias never dared to look into her mind.
- In contrast to John, Gertrude never referred to herself as the Archivist or even mentioned her affiliation to the Magnus Institute.
- Gertrude claimed that the reason she was so motivated to stop Rituals is that The Desolation killed her cat. This may or may not be a joke.