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Similar to the question "How did Faramir know that Aragorn was the King in the Houses of Healing?". How was it verified that Aragorn was indeed the rightful king of Gondor and not an impostor. I.e., anybody could've walked into Gondor and claim they're the rightful king and here to claim their ancestral throne.

I assume that, contrary to the question I linked, it didn't suffice for a hobbit or even Gandalf to say "he's the king". Even ancestral records or a family tree, specially without e.g. DNA proof, should not be sufficient as anybody could say "Here are the records, I am Aragorn, I am the king".

So, how was it ensured that Aragorn was indeed who he claimed to be?

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    "Denethor II declared that he would not bow to a descendant of Isildur (years before, he had seen "Thorongil" as a rival to his father's favor). Aragorn healed Faramir, Denethor's last heir, winning him the immediate recognition of Faramir as rightful heir to the throne; his humility and self-sacrifice gained him the hearts of the inhabitants of Gondor's capital city. Aragorn's healing abilities...were a sign to the people of Gondor of the identity of their true king; "The hands of the King are the hands of a healer, and so shall the rightful king be known."" tinyurl.com/7pp8w6mw
    – Valorum
    Dec 5, 2022 at 10:51
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    I think by the time of the Return of the King it was virtually irrelevant if he was actually an imposter or not, because by that point no one wanted to try and contest his claim. He looked the part, he won several major military victories (something the Gondorians loved), he had all the backing of anyone who really mattered. Dec 5, 2022 at 17:02
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    You can’t expect to wield supreme executive power just ’cause some watery tart threw a sword at you!
    – jeguyer
    Dec 5, 2022 at 18:07
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    In a world where there are witnesses alive for thousands of years, the issue is very different from the real world.
    – lvella
    Dec 6, 2022 at 14:06
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    Faramir mentioned the Star of the North, the Sword Reforged in his welcome, and of course the victory and healing hands: "Here is Aragorn son of Arathorn, chieftain of the Dúnedain of Arnor, Captain of the Host of the West, bearer of the Star of the North, wielder of the Sword Reforged, victorious in battle, whose hands bring healing, the Elfstone, Elessar of the line of Valandil, Isildur's son, Elendil's son of Númenor. Shall he be king and enter into the City and dwell there?" - and the fact that Aragorn led the Dúnedain of the north.
    – Eugene
    Dec 7, 2022 at 0:57

2 Answers 2

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Pretty much everything points to Aragorn being the legitimate heir to Isildur and the thrones of Gondor and Arnor:

  • He has the ring of Barahir, passed down since the First Age and through the Kings of Arnor and Arthedain.
  • He has the reforged Narsil, the shards of which were passed down through the same Kings.
  • Elrond, a widely trusted and respected loremaster, who knew Isildur personally, can confirm the above, as well as Aragorn's direct lineage.
  • He can heal wounds effectively using athelas. "The hands of a King are the hands of a healer".
  • He found a sapling of the White Tree, as the King was prophesied to do.
  • He released the ghosts from their oath, as only a King of Gondor could do.
  • He commands the Rangers of the North as their chieftain, known to be the remnants of Arnor.
  • The Steward of Gondor (Faramir) and the Prince of Dol Amroth (Imrahil), the two primary Lords of the Kingdom, both declared him the rightful King.

That's about as watertight as you can be for the situation, and Elrond's records alone should have been enough.

Tolkien didn't write anything about any specific legal proceedings. Presumably in the law of Gondor at the time it is sufficient for the Steward (or a council including the aforementioned Steward and Prince) to be satisfied that the King had returned.

For discussion of how a "legitimate claim" actually relates to getting to be King, see this answer. It's above all a political matter, rather than a legal one.

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    "It's above all a political matter, rather than a legal one." -- Excellent point! Too many people dive into the minutia of legality and forget that this is, in the end, a real-world problem with real people having real lives. All the powers of Gondor accepted Aragorn -- including the people of Minias Tirath " 'Shall he be king and enter into the City and dwell there?' And all the host and all the people cried yea with one voice."
    – Mark Olson
    Dec 5, 2022 at 14:41
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    All good points, but realistically I suspect the strongest point in Aragorn's favour is that he turned up with a rock hard army and defeated the foes of Gondor in their hour of need. Kingship is about might before anything else. Dec 5, 2022 at 19:03
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    @JackAidley I think the people of Gondor are going to be a little more concerned with actual legitimacy than is average for people of their time. Having endured centuries without a king, and been proud of never changing the title of "Steward" to "king" in that time, they are unlikely to accept someone on purely pragmatic grounds no matter how grateful. Boromir: "How many hundreds of years needs it to make a steward a king, if the king returns not?" Denethor: "Few years, maybe, in other places of less royalty. In Gondor ten thousand years would not suffice." Dec 5, 2022 at 20:13
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    I would add - fulfilled the prophecy of Malbeth the Seer: Whose shall the horn be? Who shall call them from the grey twilight, the forgotten people? The heir of him to whom the oath they swore.
    – richardb
    Dec 5, 2022 at 22:05
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    How could you tell the Sword Reforged from any other sword? A fancy hilt could be put on any blade. Aragorn asked Frodo to draw Sting to see if there were Orcs near, instead of drawing Anduril.
    – FlaStorm32
    Dec 6, 2022 at 1:40
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Before the Ring was destroyed, he didn't need to prove his identity, because he made a point of not laying claim to the throne while Sauron was at large.

‘.. this City and realm has rested in the charge of the Stewards for many long years, and I fear that if I enter it unbidden, then doubt and debate may arise, which should not be while this war is fought. I will not enter in, nor make any claim, until it be seen whether we or Mordor shall prevail. Men shall pitch my tents upon the field, and here I will await the welcome of the Lord of the City.’

He did of course enter the Houses of Healing, but he did not claim the throne before Sauron's defeat.

After Sauron's defeat, it is easy. A lot of powerful elves can confirm his identity, and everything about him checks out as explained by OrangeDog's answer.

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  • To quote CGP Grey, "Bigger-army diplomacy" Dec 9, 2022 at 0:12

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