Thursday, 30 January 2014
Tolkien on Kingship...
In his final days at St James' Palace King Charles bade farewell to his youngest children one by one, turning last to Henry. The boy looked up at the King, who said: "Heed, my child, what I say; they will cut off my head, and perhaps make thee a king. But mark what I say, thou must not be a king so long as thy brothers, Charles and James do live. For they will cut off thy brothers' heads (when they can catch them) and cut off thy head too, at the last: and therefore I charge thee, do not be made a king by them!" Henry sighed and said: "I will be torn in pieces first."
In Tolkien's legendarium the line of the Kings of Gondor came to an end with the disappearance of Eärnur in the year 2050 of the Third Age (about a thousand years before the events of The Lord of the Rings). In the year 1975 Eärnur had defeated the Witch-king of Angmar in the Battle of Fornost and the Witch-king fled south to Mordor and took up his abode in Minas Morgul. In the year 2050 the Witch-king challenged Eärnur to a battle and the King rode with a small band into the foothills of the Mountains of Shadow and was ambushed by the soldiery of the Witch-king, and was never seen again. As the King had no heir, thereafter the rule of Gondor was committed to the hereditary Stewards, until the King should return.
In Book IV of The Lord of the Rings Frodo and Sam were captured in Ithilien by the Rangers of Faramir, son of Denethor (the ruling Steward). In an interesting discussion with Frodo, Faramir narrates how, in his studies of the lore of Gondor and the history of the House of Mardil (the first of the ruling Stewards was Mardil, after whom the house of the stewards is named), it always displeased his brother Boromir that their father was not a king. "How many hundreds of years needs it to make a steward a king, if the king returns not?" he asked. "Few years, maybe, in other places of less royalty," answered Denethor. "In Gondor ten thousand years would not suffice."
This passage is but one among many in The Lord of the Rings that tells us something about what Tolkien thought of Kingship. Compare Boromir's question about being made a king or usurping the Kingship to St Charles' admonition to his son Henry about the necessity of the hereditary Kingship. And, of course, the words of Ioreth, wise-woman of Gondor: "The hands of the king are the hands of a healer, and so shall the rightful king be known."