Arandur Ecthelion
Ecthelion, Steward to King Tarondor
In officeSince December, 1666
Preceded byArandur Dior
Succeeded by?
SpouseElwyn Malréd († 1636)
IssueMaratar
Meluriel († 1636)
HouseHouse of Húrin
FatherDior Húrinion
MotherGalenil Serni

Arandur


Arandur ("Steward, King's servant, minister") is the traditional title of a chief councellor in Gondor. The office arose early in the Third Age during the reign of King Rómendacil I. Although initially largely a honorary position, over time it grew in importance until its holder became one of the most powerful men in the kingdom. Later Kings came to rely on them increasingly as a kind of Chief Minister.

The Steward presides over the King's Government. He acts as a chairman of the King's Small Cabinet and oversees the Ministry, which appoints civil officials, controls magistracies and deals with matters of internal security. In King's absence, the Steward will administer law and day-to-day proceedings of the State in King's name. He commands his own unit of guards, second in prestige only to the Company of the White Tree.

King Tarondor let his Stewards rule much as they saw fit, writing decrees in King's name and using the Royal Seal. His decision to choose his Stewards exclusively from the family of his father's Steward, Húrin of Emyn Arnen, was met first with suspicion and then with hostility by the noble classes.

Dior


Dior Húrinion was made Steward by late King Telemnar (1634–1636) during the Plague, after the demise of his esteemed father, Steward Húrin. It was intended as a stopgap measure, but Steward Dior became instrumental in arranging the ascension of King Tarondor – an unlikely candidate – and his further education into Kingship. He was a former Keeper of the Dead at Fen Hollen and head of the Belguinarite Order which tended the Hallows. In his youth he was known as an eloquent orator and proficient singer. He was married to lady Galenil Serni, younger sister of Lord Restimar Serni – a long-time chairman of the Lebennin State Diet and the most powerful man in Southern Gondor.

Arandur Dior appeared to be an extremely capable minister, who was hailed by many as the saviour of Gondor from the dire straits of Plague and war with Umbar. As Tarondor was unwilling or uncapable of ruling, Dior was left with governing the Kingdom. Stern measures needed to secure Gondor from her tribulations made him very unpopular with the masses. His rule became associated with adulteration of coin, harsh taxation and increasing criminal prosecution against perceived enemies of the State. It was Dior, for instance, who warranted the minting of debased Silver Royals and "light-weight" Gold Crowns, saving substantial sums of precious metals in the process. During the Fifteen Years' War he repeatedly negotiated successfully with Umbar and procured a cease fire in 1660, when Gondor's fortune was failing. During his three decades of Stewardship Dior kept a low profile and had a marked disdain of public displays and trappings of power. He gave a substantial portion of his wealth to charity and became a patron of arts. Among his many protégés was Lord Rúthion, swordmaster, polymath and childhood friend of King Tarondor.

Steward Dior died of cardiac arrest during winter solstice, 1666. He was 131 years old. His estate was divided between his four children: Ecthelion, Egalmoth, Eirien and Emelin.

Ecthelion


Ecthelion inherited his father's position by an official decree which bore the signature and seal of King Tarondor, but it was unclear who had written it. He is certainly a controversial character, and his name has became a byword for libertinism and nepotism, which are considered as characterizing his ministry. However, his reputation is largely drawn from his enemies, the Order of the Red Hand, and Gondorian nobles whose power he tried to subvert. Shady details pertaining to his appointment fueled much opposition among the Council of Gondor, which saw his ascension as an illegal attempt to create a parallel dynasty to the Line of Elendil, barring other exalted families from the power and prestige of the Stewardship.

Ecthelion was born on 1 Narwain 1578 in the small town of Cirith Ninniach in the Hills of Arnen, north of Rian. He studied law in Minas Anor and graduated, not simply as Doctor of Law, but as "the most eminent and judicious jurisprudent". He held many successive magistracies in Minas Anor, acquiring not only considerable administrative experience but also influence and wealth due to his marriage to Elwyn of House Malréd. Elwyn Malréd bore him a son, Maratar, and a daughter, Meluriel, who died soon after her birth. Ecthelion was not above keeping mistresses, however. One for whom his passion lasted longest was a certain Catarina Curimardin, born in 1601, and wife of three successive husbands.

Four years after his father was made Steward to the King, Ecthelion was appointed as Vice-Secretary at the Office of Decrees, which was responsible for drawing up decrees and laws agreed upon at Great Courts by the Council of Gondor, or issued by the King. At the same time he was in some capacity connected to the intelligence agency, Tirith Dolen, and started his formal training in Palantír use: scrying, shrouding and communicating with a Seeing-Stone. In 1665 he was appointed as the Argonhir or Chief minister of the Anor Stone after former argonhir Calimon Ascarnil was prosecuted for high treason and condemned to exile.

His rise to the Stewardship was a murky affair and happened after the Small Cabinet had retired to participate in the midwinter festivities. It is known that he had a strained relationship with his father, and was not expected to follow him to the highest office in the realm. Dior's death was sudden and unexpected, and it is possible that his appointment was made by the King to promote continuity in his government. Whatever the reasons, his choice fundamentally made Stewardship a hereditary possession of the House of Húrin. Among the Great Council of Gondor, from which Stewards had been traditionally elected, it was deeply resented.

Ecthelion adhered initially to strict administration of justice in a manner of his dead father. Before long, however, he began endowing his relatives at the Council's and at his neighbours' expense. Maratar, his son, was made Warden of the Post and head of the new intelligence department. His younger brother Elagost became Minister of Works, which was an equally important step in his consolidation of power as it included wardenship of the royal demesnes, forests and chases, and all roads outside the purview of local lords. Several disputes of inheritance were dubiously resolved in favour of his extended family, transmitting large estates in Southern Ithilien in his trust.

Almost immediately after his ascension there was a possibility of a popular revolt against Ecthelion and his government, propagated by the Order of the Red Hand. Its charismatic leader Meldin Lebennivet, Lord Daldor, appealed directly to the people and the King of Gondor to renounce "those who aspired to become Kings in all but name" so that the "King would Rule again, without intermediaries." A possible coup d'état was averted by the timely arrival of Prince Ereinion, the heir apparent, with two thousand men. Ereinion spoke to the masses and affirmed in public his father's continuing trust in Steward Ecthelion and his policies.



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