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Law of Succession in Númenor

"I shan't call it the end, till we've cleared up the mess." — Sam
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The Law of succession in Númenor was a set of rules meant to legally establish who would be the next heir in the line of kings. The one who shaped it the most was Tar-Aldarion, the sixth ruler of Númenor, who not only gave the law a legal content, but also changed its position regarding male and female heirs. Thus before him there was the Old Law and after him the New Law.


[edit] The Old Law

Being more an inherited custom than an actual law, it stated that the eldest son of the ruler would inherit the Sceptre. In case there was no such son to be made heir, the closest male descendant on the line of Elros Tar-Minyatur would fill the position. A similar principle was used by the High Kings of the Noldorin Elves, with whom the Edain of Númenor had had extensive dealings.

Silmariën, the progenitor of the line of the Lords of Andúnië — from which the Kings of Gondor and Arnor later sprung—was the oldest child of King Tar-Elendil. Under the laws at the time, women were not allowed to rule, so she was passed over in favour of her younger brother, Tar-Meneldur. Nevertheless, Silmariën is one of the most significant of Númenor's royal family, as she presumably inherited both the sword Narsil and the Ring of Barahir from Tar-Elendil, her father, as these were handed down to her descendants, the Lords of Andúnië and later the Kings of Gondor and Arnor. Silmariën also probably commissioned the creation of other precious heirlooms to survive into the Fourth Age: the Sceptre of Andúnië, which after the Downfall became the Sceptre of Annúminas and the Star of Elendil, which likewise became the token of royalty in Arnor.

[edit] The New Law

Due to the fact that he had only one daughter, the sixth ruler, Tar-Aldarion replaced the principle of exclusive male heir with that of eldest progeny, of any gender and Ancalimë became the first of the Ruling Queens of Númenor.[1]

There were, however, additional statements and conditions for this New Law, mostly suggested by the Council of the Sceptre.

  • The eldest daughter would have the right to inherit the throne, but she would not be forced to do so, being given the possibility to refuse the reign. In this case, the heir would have been the nearest kinsman by male or female descent.
  • If the eldest daughter, heir to the throne, would have remained unmarried for a certain period of time, she had to abdicate.
  • If a ruling queen desired to marry, it was mandatory for her husband to be from the Line of Elros.

[edit] Realms in Exile

After the Downfall of Númenor, the surviving Númenóreans (led by descendants of Silmariën) founded the kingdoms of Arnor and Gondor in Middle-earth. At that point, absolute primogeniture seems to have been abandoned; none of the Kings of Arnor or Kings of Gondor were women, and in the case of Anárion's children the youngest child Meneldil received the throne, as his older siblings were women. Berúthiel of Gondor, although certainly formidable, was a Queen-consort, and therefore did not rule, at least officially.

In T.A. 1945, Arvedui of Arthedain—who was married to Fíriel, daughter and only surviving child of King Ondoher—invoked the old Númenórean law to claim that he (not his wife) should be granted the throne. Instead, the Steward Pelendur gave the throne to Eärnil II, a prominent general. Ironically, the Kingship did eventually pass to Fíriel's line, in the person of King Aragorn Elessar.



  1. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), Unfinished Tales, "Aldarion and Erendis: The Mariner's Wife"

[edit] See Also