After the Eldar split from the Avari and began the Great Journey, they had many kings in many lands. Above all of these was Ingwë of the Vanyar, the High King of the Elves, whose seat was beneath the mansions of Manwë on the White Mountain of Taniquetil. The other main branches of the Eldar - the Noldor and the Teleri - also took kings of their own, but because those branches became split between Aman and Middle-earth, their arrangements were more involved.
The kingship of the Teleri was split between the brothers Olwë and Elwë. Olwë ruled from his pearl-city of Alqualondë on the shores of the Bay of Eldamar, but his brother Elwë had been left behind in Beleriand with many of his people. There, Elwë founded a new realm in the forested heart of that land, and became the King of Doriath and Lord of Beleriand, known as Elu Thingol in the Sindarin tongue.
The Noldor were at one time united in Valinor under their first King, Finwë, but after he was slain by Melkor, many of the Deep-elves set out to return to Middle-earth in pursuit of the Dark Lord. After briefly, and debatably, passing to his eldest son Fëanor, Finwë's title of High King ultimately fell on his second son Fingolfin. Others of the returned Noldor set up lesser kingdoms of their own in Beleriand, notably King Turgon of Gondolin, and King Finrod of Nargothrond. Meanwhile, in Aman, the leadership of the Noldor fell on Finwë's third son Finarfin, who had set out for Middle-earth with the others but turned back on the road.
The wars that followed the Return of the Noldor took their toll on that people and their allies. By the end of the First Age, almost all the Elf-kings had been slain. Gil-galad, a descendant of Fingolfin, still ruled in Lindon through the Second Age, but he too was lost in the War of the Last Alliance. After Gil-galad's time, the lines of the great Elf-kings came to an end, though certain Silvan peoples still maintained lesser kings of their own, even to the end of the Third Age and beyond.
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