For his second foray into electioneering in AFFC, George R.R Martin clearly decided to go with a simpler model that would (among other things) require less math than the repeated ballots of the Night’s Watch, one that harkens back to the elections and democratic processes of the (early) Middle Ages.
As I talked about in Part I, the Althing of Iceland dates back to the 10th century as an example of medieval popular assemblies, but the althing was but one of a number of assemblies that existed across a wide swathe of Europe, from the British Isles (both by way of the Anglo-Saxons who brought the folkmoots over from Saxony in the 5th century, becoming the Witenaġemots of the 7th through 11th centuries, and by way of the Danes who brought the thing to Scotland, the Danelaw, and even the Isle of Man) to the veches of Novgorod.
But by whatever name they were called, these assemblies had certain features in common. First, emerging out of their initial purpose as a common venue for addressing inter- and intra-tribal feuds that would otherwise lead to blood feuds, they were judicial bodies. Second, they had the authority to “ceosan to cynige” (choose the king) and depose them, as happened to Sigeberht of Wessex and Alhred of Northumbria, for example. Third, the assemblies acted as the assembled political class who were there to advise the monarch and lend their blessings to his decrees.
And most importantly for the subject of this essay, at least in the beginning – before the rise of feudalism gave more authority to the leading thanes, earls, and ealdormen, and the coming of Christianity meant that the bishops, archbishops, and abbots joined the assemblies – they consisted of the entire free population of the hundred, province, or kingdom, who were (at least in Scandinavia) advised by the lawspeakers, the wise men who memorized and recited the previous laws decided by the things of ages past.
So how does the Kingsmoot stack up to these real-world moots?