The general term for one of the Men of the Dúnedain who ruled over Gondor from its foundation in II 3320 to the restoration after the War of the Ring and beyond. Broadly the term 'Ruler' includes two classes: the Kings who ruled until III 2050, and the Ruling Stewards who led the realm from that point until III 3019, when the Kingship was restored.
The first Rulers of Gondor were not independent Kings in their own right: Isildur and Anárion ruled the kingdom jointly under the authority of their father and High King, Elendil. After the War of the Last Alliance and the loss of Elendil, this system quickly broke down. His direct heir Isildur was slain soon afterwards, and Meneldil son of Anárion became the first King to rule an independent Gondor.
Thereafter the heirs and descendants of Meneldil were Rulers of Gondor for the next two thousand years or more. There were several breaks in the line of descent, but a successor was always found until the time of Eärnur, who was lured into Minas Morgul by the Witch-king, and whose fate was unknown. Eärnur's Steward, Mardil took on the role and responsibility of the King, and from that time the Rulers of Gondor were the Ruling Stewards. From Mardil rose a line of twenty-six Rulers of whom the last, Denethor II, was lost during the War of the Ring.
During the War, Aragorn, leader of the Rangers of the North, was revealed to be a direct Heir of Isildur and thus rightful successor to the throne of Elendil the High King. After the victory against Sauron, he was crowned in Minas Tirith and a new line of High Kings was begun that continued into the Fourth Age.
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