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This excellent answer to the question of who would have been king in Gondor had Aragorn perished in battle raised this question in my mind.

After all, it is seen in Appendix A of Return of the King:

Eärnur was a man like his father in valour, but not in wisdom. He was a man of strong body and hot mood; but he would take no wife, for his only pleasure was in fighting, or in the exercise of arms.

Of course, this is something of a failing in a king, as one must produce an heir. The succession must be clear-cut, lest civil war break out.

So supposing the Witch-King never challenged Eärnur at all, who would have been king after him?

It is a separate question, possibly opinion-based only, as to whether that person should have taking the crown at some point after Eärnur never came back.

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    I’m voting to close this question because it is based on speculation about what would have happened in a fictional world given some premise not actually part of the publication(s) featuring that world. See this recently closed question, for example.
    – Lexible
    Aug 2, 2023 at 18:15
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    @Lexible would you rather I ask something like who was Eärnur's successor? Aug 2, 2023 at 18:21
  • Voting to reopen this, as I think my answer shows that is answerable.
    – ibid
    Aug 2, 2023 at 21:09

1 Answer 1

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There was no one lined up to succeed Eärnur.

The issue wasn't really the manner of Eärnur's death, but the fact that there were was no one around with a strong claim to the throne afterwards, and that Gondor had recently gone through a civil war and did not want to risk another one by accepting someone with a weak claim

Now the descendants of the kings had become few. Their numbers had been greatly diminished in the Kin-strife; whereas since that time the kings had become jealous and watchful of those near akin. Often those on whom suspicion fell had fled to Umbar and there joined the rebels; while others had renounced their lineage and taken wives not of Númenórean blood.
So it was that no claimant to the crown could be found who was of pure blood, or whose claim all would allow; and all feared the memory of the Kin-strife, knowing that if any such dissension arose again, then Gondor would perish. Therefore, though the years lengthened, the Steward continued to rule Gondor, and the crown of Elendil lay in the lap of King Eärnil in the Houses of the Dead, where Eärnur had left it.
The Lord of the Rings - Appendix A I (iv) "Gondor and the heirs of Anárion"

So even if the Witch King didn't kill him, but he died a natural death several years later, the situation would be the same as the situation present in The Lord of the Rings.

However, possibly had Eärnur not been killed by the Witch King, he'd have eventually produced, adopted, or appointed an heir.

He was already 122 at the time of death, which means he probably had another couple of decades to live, judging by the lifespans of the previous couple of Kings.

Possibly his "hot mood" would settled down and/or he'd succumb to pressure from his advisors for the need for an heir.

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  • He was 122 when he went out and never returned. I think he wasn't getting much older, one way or another. Aug 2, 2023 at 18:40
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    @MichaelFoster - Indeed, but the last couple of Kings lived to be 160, 157, and 200, respectively. So he had some time left. (And NoMe says that a typical 234 year lifespaned Numenorean only begins to feel "decline" after 210 years.)
    – ibid
    Aug 2, 2023 at 19:52
  • I think a case (not an ironclad one, mind you) could be made for Aranarth, son of Arvedui and grandson of King Ondoher of Gondor.
    – Spencer
    Aug 2, 2023 at 21:28
  • Earnur might have adopted the closest-related nobleman as his heir. This might have been enough to win over those who would not have supported the man otherwise. With the understanding that This ! guy better have or produce an heir of his own,
    – FlaStorm32
    Aug 2, 2023 at 23:17
  • @Spencer - Arvedui's previous claim "as the direct descendant of Isildur, and as the husband of Fíriel, only surviving child of Ondoher", was rejected by the Council of Gondor because "The crown and royalty of Gondor belongs solely to the heirs of Meneldil, son of Anárion, to whom Isildur relinquished this realm. In Gondor this heritage is reckoned through the sons only; and we have not heard that the law is otherwise in Arnor.". To that end Aranarth's claims would presumably be rejected as well, and more so because Aranarth didn't represent the political advantage that his father did.
    – ibid
    Aug 2, 2023 at 23:52

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