Literally "meeting of wise men." In medieval England, prior to the Norman conquest of 1066, the highest legislative and judicial body in the land. There were no formal elections; in theory, anyone could attend. Generally towns and villages sent the most respected man among them to be their representative and take the community's most vexing problems before the gathering for discussion and judgement.

The witena gemot advised the King and, upon his death, chose his successor--ideally by as close to a unanimous decision as they could come. Their main guidelines for this were as follows:

  1. The new King should be capable of ruling with strength and justice.
  2. He should be of royal blood.
  3. He should if possible be English. (There were plenty of foreign kings capable of claiming the throne by right of their bloodline.)
  4. They would take into account the desires of the late King if he were respected and made his wishes regarding the succession known.

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