Among the emblems of royalty of the ancient High Kings of the Dúnedain in Middle-earth was a sceptre of silver. This rod had at one time been the symbol of office of the Númenórean Lords of Andúnië, forebears of Elendil, and after the Downfall it was brought to Middle-earth.
In Middle-earth the Sceptre was held by the Kings of Arnor and their descendants through the Third Age, becoming known as the Sceptre of Annúminas. After the fall of Arnor's successor kingdom of Arthedain, Elendil's heirs were no longer Kings, but the Sceptre was held at Rivendell for the Chieftains of the Dúnedain. At the crowning of Aragorn Elessar after the War of the Ring, Elrond brought the Northern Sceptre to Minas Tirith, where it was restored as a symbol of the High Kingship.
As well as referring to the physical rod of royal office, the term 'Northern Sceptre' is also used figuratively, notably in the annals of the early Fourth Age, to represent the restored power of the North-kingdom and its King.
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