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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.


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.


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.


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.


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 ideology, if not their aims: 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 under one winged crown and save their estrayed Ârûwanâi cousins in the south to the righteous path with the grace of Ilúvatar.

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 (Namnar Númenórëo) comprise a sacred corpus of religious law which the Faithful inherited from their forefathers, and which forms the basis of all legal traditions adhered to within the Realms-in-Exile. They form the constitution ordained by the Valar and include all the royal decrees whose memory survived the events recorded in the Akallabêth, excluding those considered to have been enacted against the Will of Valar. Taken together, this body of ancient law serves as the norm and standard against which all other sources of law must be measured and evaluated. A different set of Laws is used in Arnor and Umbar, resulting from different compilations at different times.

According to religious tradition, the original laws were given to the Three Houses of Men by Eönwë, the herald of Manwë. The laws were inscribed upon seven bronze tablets and preserved in Armenelos. They stipulated sacred order - the worship of Ilúvatar, obedience to the Powers, respect for oaths, and observance of ritual prohibitions. The king's primary duty was to see to it that the Dúnedain adhered to their place in this order. As for the ordering of the Númenórean society itself, the Law of Seven Tablets covered little. The Three Houses could decide (in concert with their king) their own internal affairs in the Gathering of Houses. After Númenor became a settled and urban society, the laws of Edain (Namnar Atanion) were collected and codified as non-religious law.

The Laws of the Edain underwent substantial development over the course of Númenor's three thousand year history. The Númenórean colonization of Middle-earth generated a need for laws to regulate relations between the Númenórean citizenry and the native inhabitants. Similarly, the tributary system imposed by Tar-Ciryatan and his successors give birth to a whole body of legislation concerned with defining the king's rights and prerogatives in Middle-earth, and with the governance of colonial domains. None of these matters fell within the competency of the Gathering of Houses. The Seven Tablets made no provision for any future interaction between Dúnedain and Middle-earth; hence, it fell to the kings to enact laws solely upon their own authority and judgement. The Gathering was reduced to the passive formality of confirming the king's will. Thus a third category of law - the royal power of direct decree - was set alongside the two traditional spheres.

The monarch's law-making power was further enhanced by the division of Númenórean people into political and religious factions. The greater faction, called the King's Men (Ârûwanâi), supported the interests of the monarcy, which gradually allowed the King's Men to wield law for their own ends, utilizing royal decrees to legally define and thereby isolate the Faithful minority. The practice actually worked to strengthen the power of the Faithful in Middle-earth by guaranteeing the virtual autonomy of the Pelargirean League.

The codification of Númenórean law

Prior to the destruction of Númenor, its laws had never been assembled and codified into a single, written, accessible corpus. The Laws of the Seven Tablets were already available in their original form in Armenelos. Decrees of the kings were preserved in the royal archives. Colonial law remained fragmented and obtuse. Kings rarely ever enacted colonial decrees of a universal character, since each colony as a rule possessed a discrete and often very specific body of laws. Some colonies were a collection of federated cities (like League of Pelargir, League of Bellakar and original Seven Dominions), others were ruled by royal governors (Umbar) or viceroys (Ciryatandor/Anbalukkhôr).

The Downfall wiped out the vast majority of written records in Númenor. As former royal havens, Umbar and Pelargir suddenly became the greatest surviving sources of Númenorean law in all of Arda. Still, neither repository was satisfactorily complete, and the Umbarean archives remained remote and periodically unaccessable to the Faithful. So, Elendil commanded that his sons undertake to compile an exhaustive codex of Númenórean law. This compilation sprang from its extant surviving fragments, which would serve as the foundation for all future law-making and jurisprudence in Gondor and Arnor. It was, in part, by virtue of the long-standing expansion of the Númenórean monarch's legislative power that Elendil felt duly authorized. Besides the necessity for such a recodification, he felt it to be within his own royal authority to enact such innovations to the ancient laws, according to the needs of the Dúnedain in exile. In fact, the very expression "in Exile" originated as a legal concept (defining Elendil and his heirs as the legal Númenórean government in exile), crafted to justify and ground these innovations. The task of compiling and ordering the Laws of Númenor took sixty years and was carried out in the Halls of the Faithful in Pelargir. The resulting codex - Etya Namnar Númenóreo (The Laws of Númenor in Exile) - became the sacred corpus of law in Arnor and Gondor. A different compilation was in use in Umbar, which was slowly merged with the Faithful corpus when Umbar was annexed as inalienable part of Gondor.

The making and execution of law in Gondor

Once codified the Laws of Númenor were neither altered nor augmented. Instead, they remained a fixed corpus, intended to serve as canon for the development of future laws, but never to be expanded or changed. The cause for this unwillingness to tamper with these laws lay in their peculiar and irreproducible authority. Númenor was lost forever, and whatever had survived that loss was now considered sacred and hallowed. Hence, no law created under the authority of the exile could ever equal or surpass the authority of the original. Nevertheless, a great deal of new law did come into use in Gondor over the two millenia following the Downfall, and rarely did its authority suffer for the fact of its being derivative.

As in Númenor, the process by which laws were made in the the South-kingdom was handled by the king in concert with a legislative body. This assembly, known as the Council of Gondor, convened annually at the summer court of Minas Anor and biannually at the Halls of the Faithful in Pelargir or Dome of the Stars in Osgiliath. They counselled the king in matters affecting the realm as a whole, assisted him in the adjudication of important cases, and confirmed new laws formulated under the king's supervision. It also had the highest authority in determining the royal succession, and joined the king in the three great annual supplications at mount Mindolluin.

An important feature of Gondor's own legal system was the relationship between the governmental and judicial hierarchies. Because the king was responsible for upholding the Laws of the Seven Tablets, any breach of those (primarily, though not exclusively, religious) laws had to be judged by the king himself or by one of his appointed officers. Thus, political and military leaders frequently assumed a juridical role. The laws of the Edain and their derivatives, including royal decrees, remained the jurisdiction of the regular court system - parallel to but separate from the political chain of command. In order to avoid conflicts over jurisdiction, in therefore became imperative to determine from the outset under which hierarchy of judgement a given case should fall. This potential overlap in jurisdiction became a frequent source of conflict in Gondor.



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