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Kingdom of Gondor

Gondor's changing boundaries during the Third Age

Political organisation in Gondor

See also: Titles and Offices, Council of Gondor, Heren Requain, Great Families, Government

The political dynamics of Gondor are complex and many-layered. This complexity is due to the fact that Elendil's sons did not - indeed, could not - abolish pre-existing Númenórean leagues of independent colonies, which had entrenched itself in the hearts and minds of the Faithful for nearly a thousand years by the time that the Realms-in-Exile was founded. Even at the height of royal power under the Ship-kings, the sadow of the old confederacy still clung tenaciously to its ancient moorings. The Númenórean aristocracy that controlled the Pelargirean League forged its ultimate basis of power in lineage and the continuity of blood, and the enduring forms of its power underwent fundamental change only as aresult of the failure of lineage to survive the tribulations of the age.

THE SACRED ORDER

See also: Political parties of Westernesse

The Dúnedain become a people through the divine grace of the Valar, who gave to them a land to dwell in and a king to rule over them. The isle of Númenor was later taken away as punishment for their father's rebellion, but its royal line survived, and they continued to serve as an essential basis for the heirs of Númenórean culture and society. This was especially true for the Faithful; for the kingship was also their priesthood -- their sole link to Eru Ilúvatar. And to reject the rightful king was not therefore simply a breach of tradition or political choice, but a sacrilege against God the Creator.

The kingship, however, was not the only source of political and religious order among the Dúnedain of Gondor. The Covenant of Uinen, which the Lady of the Seas had established with the Guild of Venturers in Númenor, remained in force under the leadership of Imrazôr and his descendants. Though the temporal jurisdiction of that bond was later reduced to the lands and peoples that fell within the domain of Belafas' princes, the Gondoran monarchy recognized the traditions established by the Captains of the Faithful in Pelargir.

The exalted Namnar Númenórëo (Q. "Laws of Númenor") provided additional continuity. Enven the Dúnadan kings were subject to these statutes. The political expression of these laws was the Númenórean citizenship, a sphere of inalienable rights and obligations which all those who fell within the category enjoyed. The actual group of persons for whom these duties and privileges applied changed over time, but the principle was never abandoned; for integral to Laws of Númenor were the stipulations that defined the proper worship of Ilúvatar. However it may have fared in practice, the concept of citizenship was itself indispensable to the Faithful's spiritual adherences.

THE KINGSHIP


Although for much of its history southern Gondor enjoyed varying degrees of autonomy from direct royal rule, it was the authority of the kings which ultimately undergirded that autonomy. The grace of Uinen - essential though it was for forging the Pelargirean League - was no substitute for the priestly rule of the monarch, without whom the Dúnedain would be unable to maintain their special status as the Faithful. It was for this reason that, following the tragedy told in the Akallabêth, the restoration of a legitimate royal lineage was all-important to the League.

The king traditionally fulfilled three roles in Númenórean society. The first and foremost of these was the priestly function: to act as the Valar's chosen mediator between Eru Ilúvatar and the people by presiding over the annual ceremonies upon the hallowed summit of Meneltarma in Númenor. One important facet of this role on such occasions was for the monarch to ensure societal harmony and a good harvest through his prayers. The Covenant of Uinen included a similar prayer, but its scope was limited to Uinen's own sphere of influence.

The king's second traditional role was as Númenor's chief jurist. He served as the upholder, arbitrator, and executor of the Laws of Númenor. While this function extended well beyond the performance of ritual stipulations, it was nevertheless inbued with religious authority; for the monarch possessed the power to bind oaths by the names of Eru Ilúvatar and the Valar, and so to bless those who fulfilled their word and to curse oathbreakers. Finally, in his juridical role, the monarch had the power to enact new laws as need arose.

The third duty of the monarch was the governance of the realm in times of peace, and the leadership of its hosts in times of war. This function was much less rigidly defined than the other two roles, in part because its spesifics depended a great deal upon the contingencies of a particular situation, and in part due to the strength of the traditional aristocracy in relation to the monarch, both in Númenor and Middle-earth. Remember that Manwë did not institute the monarcy for its own sake, but rather to guide the Dúnedain in accordance with the will of the Valar. Since in was not the part of the Valar to determine how Men ought to govern their own affairs, few precepts restricted Elros and his descendants. As a result, the specifically political role of the monarch was subject to greater change over time than its religious and juridical counterparts.

THE MONARCHY IN EXILE


When the Realm-in-Exile were estastablished in Middle-earth in II 3320, Elendil assumed all three of the traditional monarchic functions. While he entrusted the affairs of Gondor to his sons Isildur and Anárion (who carved out fiefdoms for themselves along the traditional territory of the Pelargirean League), Elendil himself ruled as high king of the Dúnedain. Isildur and Anárion conjointly represented the authority of their father in Gondor. In fact, because the Council of Pelargir had sworn allegiance to Elendil, its members considered his sons to be their equals rather than their lords.

Not seeking to intrude upon the internal affairs of the league, Isildur and Anárion formed a second, royal council (Govadan Gondorim), whose purpose was to debate matters of common concern to the Dúnedain of the South-kingdom. The first action of the Council of Gondor was to establish a new hallow at which the worship of the One might be carried out according to the ancient laws. This site, whose location was indicated by and oracle from Elendil's seer, rested upon the untrodden heights of Mount Mindolluin. It stood at the dividing point between northern and southern Gondor. Although this hallow lay within Anárion's fief, it was Isildur who officiated the first offerings in II 3321, because he was the elder brother and chosen heir of their father.

After the deaths of Elendil and Anárion in the War of the Last Alliance, Isildur claimed the high kingship of his father, entrusting the rule of Gondor to Anárion's only surviving son Meneldil as his steward. When it was learned that Isildur himself had perished in route to Arnor, Meneldil proclaimed himself the highest authority in Gondor, and not subject Isildur's descendants in the north. The Council of Gondor assented to this claim, acknowledging his religious, juridical, and political supremacy over the South-kingdom. By supporting Meneldil, the noblemen of the Pelargirean League believed that they would further safeguard their own independence.

In the uncertain peace that followed the victory of the Last Alliance, Isildur altered the law concerning royal succession, ruling that only sons could become royal heirs, whereas in Númenor both sons and daughters enjoyed equal claim to the throne. In addition it was decreed that the crown could pass only through male lines. This purblind change in the law of succession was the prime cause in series of crises involving the transmission of kingly powers.

DÚNADAN CITIZENSHIP

See also: Religion and religious thought

The rights and duties of citizenship form the third pillas in the sacred order that undergrids political life and the pursuit of power in Gondor. Unlike the kingship and the Covenant of Uinen, each of which are focused on the preservation of an exclusive and unique lineage, the principle of citizenship encompasses the whole of the Númenórean community. Indeed, it amounts to nothing less than the public recognition of a given individual's Númenórean heritage. To be sure, the definition of citizenship has changed many times over the course of Gondor's age-long history, but its importance remained central so long as the Realm-in-Exile was conceived of as an extension of Númenor.

As a juridical concept, the citizenship had its origins in the ancient Laws of Númenor. The Namnar Númenórëo established the terms on which the Dúnedain would relate to Eru Ilúvatar, to their kings, and to one another. At that time, citizenship was not a formally-defined concept. It merely expressed the common gift of longevity which all Dúnedain took part in. Later on in the Second Age, as contact with the Men of Middle-earth increased and permanent colonies were founded upon its shores, citizenship became an indispensable tool for distinguishing between colonists and the colonized. This was especially true under the tributary system, when it became critical for the kings to determine from whom they would exact payment.

But the real dilemma of Dúnadan citizenship lay in its equation of political status. Membership in their community was not purely subject to human control. It incorporated a quality, longevity, associated as a divine gift. This grew to be a problem only after the Downfall, when the divine gifts began to be withdrawn. So long as the Dúnedain enjoyed the grace of the Powers, longevity as a marker of inclusion into the community never became source of political turmoil. Once that grace was removed, longevity suddenly became a finite, non-replenishable virtue, which was slowly but inexorably diminishing. From that point onward, the number of individuals possessing the requisite purity of blood - and, hence, who enjoyed the political privileges that went with it - would always be on the decline.

The diminishing pool of those enjoying the divine gift became increasingly isolated from the common man. More and more of their countrymen became excluded from equality before the Laws of Númenor and from power within Gondor. It would be difficult to find a more potent recipe for social and political chaos. The same development engulfed all other Númenorean colonies as well, and was addressed differently in Arnor, Umbar, Bellakar and southern dominions.

Citizenship under the Pelargirean League


Traditionally, citizenship in the Pelargirean League was reserved for those of pure Númenórean blood. For a long time this did not become a matter of contention because the numbers of the Faithful were steadily being replenished by new arrivals from Númenor. Moreover, because the community of the Faithful was not subject to royal tribute (with the single exception of Ar-Pharazôn's reign), even the lack of citizenship did not incur any disadvantages severe enough to become a source of conflict. In lieu of the imposition of royal taxation, the financial burden of sustaining the colonies of the league was assumed by the citizens of the leading houses. This differed from direct taxation because munificence and patronage reaped a more than satisfactory returns in form of prestige and influence.

This situation began to change after the destruction of Númenor, and especially after the War of the Last Alliance, as the number of lineages were sharply diminished. Even then, however, the Covenant of Uinen (which embraced all members of the Faithful community, including its Danan Lin subjects) softened the social cleavages that were beginning to divide the populace, since the enjoyment of Uinen's grace did not depend on blood.

Nevertheless, the elite citizenry began to take advantage of their exclusive status, monopolizing power at the expense of their countrymen. As the number of eligible citizens decreased during the first five centuries, the citizenry found themselves increasingly less able to shoulder the burden of public finance and government. In order to maintain the communities under these circumstances, the Pelargirean League passed new laws authorizing the citizen-leadership to extract taxes and other forms of tribute from its non-citizen members.

This innovation, along with other new laws which continually narrowed the definition of citizenship, provoked a violent reaction from the commoners, especially those who had lost their political rights as a result of these constrictions. Within the span of a few short years, the whole of the league was in turmoil. Pure-blooded Dúnedain, feeling increasingly isolated from both commoners and their non-citizen brethren, began to look over Gondor's borders for new allies. The aristocracy soon found out that they had more things common with their foreign cousins than their own kin, and many began to espouse a pan-Númenorean movement of union between all the estranged children of Westernesse. Númenórean aristocracies of Arnor, Gondor, Umbar and Bellakar leaned on each other to maintain their hold on their subjects. The common men and disenfranchised Dúnedain of Gondor, however, turned to their spiritual and juridical arbitrator to find a suitable solution to their plight: the King.

Citizenship under the Ship-kings


To remedy the strife which was then tearing apart the Pelargirean League, king Siriondil and his successors enacted new laws which re-enfranchised all who had lost their citizenship due to the old Namnar Númenórëo by expanding the boundaries of eligibility for citizen status to anyone possessing more than an eight part Númenórean blood. His son Tarannon Falastur called upon the common men to create a Royal Army independent of the old League and thus made his power independent from the aristocracy. The old confederate structure of the League was replaced by provincial and territorial systems after Tarannon's victory over the League forces in Anfalas and Lebennin. To finance all this, the royal house abolished the laws directing taxation only towards non-citizens. They replaced these statutes with a universal land and poll tax based on residence within a provincial or military jurisdiction.

As a result of these reforms, the mere possession of citizenship ceased to be an object of conflict. The basis of power and privilege now shifted towards office-holding in the new political hierarchy. Of course, citizenship remained a prerequisite for the highest of the new offices. To placate the unionist leanings of the old League aristocracy, the Ship-kings embraced their aims if not their ideals: To be Númenor reborn became the new cry. With the unswerving support of common people and their new model army, the Ship-kings embarked on a war of conquest to unite all the sundered colonies of Westernesse and save their estrayed Ârûwanâi cousins in the south by the grace of Ilúvatar and the one winged crown.

Despite the Ship-kings' timely extension of citizenship as a means of resolving the crisis of their realm, there were limits to its usefulness as a tool of integration. The political principle was never really separable from its roots in the purity of lineage. As centuries passed, the statutes of Tarannon Falastur began to appear more like a legal fiction. After the Great Plague decimated more than one third of Gondor's population, the royal goverment was strained to find enough willing and eligible candidates to all offices. King Tarondor resolved this problem along with his financial troubles by selling certificates of lineage, making military appointments available for the highest bidder, and turning several old offices into hereditary positions, initiating the slow feudalisation of the realm. Hereditary principle of local rule started to replace more and more of Gondor's former provincial and military domains, although this new development was very slow at first and only gained momentum during the destructive Wainrider Wars, which uprooted the whole Gondorian society and led to the demise of their royal house.

THE LAWS OF NÚMENOR


The codification of Númenórean law


The making and execution of law in Gondor


FORMS OF GOVERNMENT


FEUDALISATION OF THE REALM





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