A term apparently equivalent to 'High King', a reference to the joint ruler of both Arnor and Gondor, and thus to Elendil and his Heirs. When the last King of Gondor was lost in III 2050, the line of the Ruling Stewards was established, but the authority of the Stewards was recognised only 'until the Great King returns' (Unfinished Tales III 2 (iv), The Tradition of Isildur).
In the time of the first Stewards, this wording must have seemed no more than legal convention; the line of Kings in Gondor was known to be at an end, and the claim of the Northern Line had recently been rejected. Nonetheless, nearly a thousand years later, during the War of the Ring, a descendant of the Northern Line came to the aid of Gondor. This was Aragorn, and after Sauron's defeat he was acknowledged as the Great King, so bringing the rule of the Stewards to its end.
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