Council of Thrones
The Council of Thrones was the branch of House Illistim that was responsible for selecting and grooming the Argent Mirror in the post-Lanenreat era. While only formally becoming an institution at the time of the Undead War, their precursors were the royal advisors, whose distinct influence on history dates back potentially as far as the reigns of the daughters of Ainlinnima. The Council of Thrones is now constituted solely of former Argent Mirrors. Councillors often serve as judges, especially in high-profile cases.
In principle, the Council of Thrones are the advisors of the Argent Mirror, supporting them after they have been established. However, they are also the ones who select the monarch, which gives them considerable power. There have been Argent Mirrors, such as Segeir, who even the Illistim regard as mere figure heads. Shifts in policy consequently are usually not the product of arbitrary whims by accidental rulers, but rather dominant ideologies that happen to be held by the existing Council members. These reigns are kept short, only two or three hundred years.
The conventional wisdom is that the Elves, being ever so wise, decided that the tradition of dynastic rule was an impediment to progress. While conceding the dynastic era was a golden age, it was recognized that talent was more diverse than members of any given family. The rulers of the Elven Empire chose to break their own bloodlines, allowing their successors to be chosen by bodies akin to the Council of Thrones. The bloodlines of antiquity would be "honored", but only symbolically, with power belonging to successors chosen by merit and ideology.
Traditionally, there were two reasons for regarding this as necessary, while only being to the detriment of certain distant cousins who would be heirs:
(1) The Undead War led to sweeping changes and advancements, with unparalleled leadership and bravery by many, making the old way of doing things seem antiquated and stunted.
(2) The Elves had suffered under the dynastic rule of the Faendryl, whose bloody family politics had burdened everyone for millennia. Thus, the best and brightest would be allowed to ascend, dispensing with an archaic system which had forced the Faendryl people to commit unforgivable atrocities.
Neither of these arguments would be remotely convincing to the Faendryl, who would likely regard them as utterly solipsistic or otherwise divorced from reality. They would argue that more Argent Mirrors had met untimely deaths since the time of Yshryth than Faendryl Patriarchs, for example, and that these typically involved members of the royal court or the Council of Thrones itself. Korvath Dardanus himself has called Illistim language regarding the demonic "propaganda", and virtually no Faendryl would agree that the actions of their ancestors at Maelshyve were an "atrocity."
Rather than consisting initially of "members of the Illistim line and prominent figures in the city", in the words of Haethera Illuvassas Illistim, the critics would argue Lanenreat was essentially usurped by her advisors in the middle of a war when there were no heirs of Linsandrych. Similarly, the Faendryl regard themselves as not only meritocratic, but rather as extreme meritocracy. They would sooner say that the Age of Chaos gives proof to the failure of this method, and that any given ruler is weak, with most of the monarchs at any given time being badly inexperienced.
The Council of Thrones gathers its own pool of candidates for potentially replacing the Argent Mirror. These would never include themselves, as they are all former monarchs. While they consult with the sitting monarch on who may replace her, and she may even name her own successor, this is in no way binding. The Council of Thrones may name whomever it wants. They sometimes invite high-ranking representatives of other branches of state to confer or even vote on the next ruler. Traditionally, they name someone of the same gender as the founder, but it is not a requirement. Whether they pressure sitting monarchs to abdicate in accordance with conventional reigns is somewhat unspoken.
When the Argent Mirror has been selected and ascends to the Peacock Throne, they give up their family name, taking only the surname of the founder Linsandrych Illistim. They will take on a new given name as well, usually suggested by the Council. Sometimes they choose to reclaim their family names after abdicating, such as the case of Ardtin Illistim, who was a member of the Greyvael family. Some may even revert to their given names.
The family status increases slightly when a member ascends, but they are not regarded as "the royal family." The royal family consists of the immediate spouse and children of the Argent Mirror, who retain their "royal" status later, except they no longer are so properly or with the associated privileges. Councillors continue to be protected by the Arch Magi. They consist almost solely of former monarchs of House Illistim, except for uncommon outsiders, such as high-ranking politicians or state officials being invited to aid in day-to-day tasks.
The Council of Thrones has grown considerably in power over the millennia. Some might argue that the precedent of royal advisors "usurping" the role of monarch dates back to the breaking of the immediate bloodline of Linsandrych. The conspiracy theory, though compelling, is that the courtiers of Venteliel grew presumptuous under her manic depression. They would effectively be ruling themselves while she was indisposed, while chaffing under her reckless spending whenever she was elevated.
Venteliel happened to die at an early age, presumably suicide, which would not have been terribly surprising. However, her younger sister died only a year later, under mysterious circumstances. The Council of Thrones refuses to allow magical inquiry into Filostya's death to this day, which is telling, because it would have the potential for removing legitimacy of all rulers who followed her.
It was a "council of august leaders" who rose an illegitimate heir to the throne. Unfortunately, her daughter Cafainiel almost caused a war with House Loenthra over some petty housing expenses, causing a backlash that called for a formal council to keep these children rulers under control. Her son Elmelan and his daughters met untimely deaths as well, with "The Child Argent" holding the high seat while the precursor of the Council of Thrones ruled in regency. Most records from this time period were maliciously destroyed.
While Lilorandrych Illistim was regarded as a kind of high point for House Illistim, temporarily ending these dubious power plays, her daughter and grandchildren proved to be incompetent enough that ultimately the royal advisors grew bold again. Suffering under the profligacy and lack of attention by Nimyaion especially, Lanenreat was essentially forced to resign, after the Illistim mages failed to protect the city from Despana. The Council of Thrones formally acquired power over the Peacock Throne during the Undead War, with similar arrangements becoming the norm after the Faendryl were exiled, possibly due to popular pressure given the chaos and upheaval that had taken place over a few years.
- Ardtin Illistim (Greyvael family, Argent Mirror who allowed gnomes to reside in Ta'Illistim, over 4,000 years old)
The Council of Thrones is not regarded as a sovereign body. They are not given the pomp of their former status as Argent Mirror. However, they have unobstructed access to the monarch, and have individual chairs in the Ta'Illistim Keep Council Round. Each chair is marked by the seal of House Illistim, as well as the individual crest of the Council member. They all possess unique robes that are only worn during coronation ceremonies.
They are addressed in terms of their non-Council affiliations and status, using whatever name they choose, whether their royal name or what was chosen either before or after their rule. Typically, their title is "Lord" or "Lady", but not "Sir" or "Mistress". They address each other as "Lady and Lord Councillor," but only when seated in the Council Round during formal proceedings. They are never addressed as Council members in social situations, which would be considered an affront to Illistim egalitarianism and a sign of poor grace.
Behind the Scenes
The Council Round
- "Illistim Culture - Part II: Branches of the State" - Haethera Illuvassas Illistim (5109 Modern Era)
- Protocol and Etiquette: Behavior Within the Court of the Illistimi Elves - Hiraani Gael Illistim (5109 Modern Era)
- "Linsandrych's Legacy: A Detailed Examination of the Dynastic Argent Mirrors and Their Contributions to Illistimi Society With Notes On Selected Post-Lanenreat Figures" - Hiraani Gael Illistim (5110 Modern Era)